In reviewing The Iron Lady I made the offhand comment that Margaret Thatcher had been the Greatest Woman of the Twentieth Century. The debate over the greatest man had taken place at the end of 1999 and the choices, at least in the English speaking world, were narrowed down to Sir Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Although there was some debate over which may have been the greater of the two, there did seem to be a distance between them and whoever might have been third.
Oddly, however, there was no one chosen as the Greatest Woman, and I suspect it is because there was no one who stood out to the same extent as Margaret Thatcher. She was clearly so far ahead of the rest that even to raise the question shows how much she stood out from all other possible choices. Whether you loved her, hated her or were merely indifferent, she along with Ronald Reagan, dominated the events of her time. But because she is a woman of the right, a classical liberal in the conservative tradition, those who typically hand out such laurels refused to raise the subject so that they could avoid even having to acknowledge how significant her role had been.
Margaret Thatcher inherited a Britain devastated by industrial mayhem following the Winter of Discontent and within half a decade returned sound governance to the UK. She endured the full impact of the miners’s strikes and restored industrial relations sanity by sheer force of will. She took on and prevailed against Argentina in the War in the Falklands. She strode like a colossus during the Cold War which she, along with Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, were instrumental in bringing to a peaceful end through an unbending moral crusade against political evil. She demanded fiscal and monetary disciplines that ended the economic chaos of the 1970s. She drove privatisation and defended our entrepreneurially-driven system of free enterprise. She was a model for others to follow as many have done. She remains to this day the gold standard of a conviction politician on the right side of history. If being a force for good is what matters, Margaret Thatcher was undoubtedly the greatest woman of the twentieth century.
Originally posted January 20, 2012 and re-posted as a reminder what greatness in politics looks like.
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