Feminism Under Duress: Was the Thatcher Government Bad for the Women’s Movement in the U.K.?

Katie Weaver

Abstract


In 1979, the election of Margaret Thatcher as Britain’s first woman Prime Minister constituted a significant achievement for the political prominence of women. Did this rise in prominence, however, correlate with enhanced success of the feminist movement? This case explores this question by analyzing statistics regarding pro-feminist legislation, the rhetoric of both Thatcher and her opponents in the Labour party, and the political consequences of Thatcher’s tenure as Prime Minister. By demonstrating a distinction between policy and perception, this case explores the issue of whether strides made in one can be negated by limitations of the other. Finally, this case examines Thatcher’s classically liberal economic predilections, and the way in which these tendencies affected her desire to abolish the Greater London Council (GLC), a generally progressive governing body, as well as the reasoning used by the Thatcher Government for the abolition. Conclusions suggest that the GLC’s abolition, in combination with other centralizing, anti-progressive policies and initiatives, constitutes a setback not only for progressivism, but perhaps feminism, as well.

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