Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, was cautious about which media outlets she spoke to. But throughout her career, she gave in-depth interviews to mass-market women’s magazines, many of whose readers came from backgrounds like hers and who provided her with a bedrock of support. This paper examines how Thatcher crafted her image in print both to downplay the role of “Iron Lady” and to domesticize her image and widen her appeal to traditional female voters who could have felt alienated by her credentials as a career woman. This paper is based on a larger study of women’s magazines in England and Wales between 1975 and 1997, marked by the Equal Pay Act at one end and by the election of a record number of female members of Parliament at the other as a result of the adoption of all-women short lists within the Labour Party. Thatcher and her advisors’ manipulation of the magazine medium to reinforce Thatcher’s appeal to women voters is particularly revealing in the context of how later female politicians handled the change in women’s roles and how female voters felt about it. The study is based on a mixture of content analysis, contextual analysis, and interviews with magazine editors of the time.
- Margaret Thatcher