Margaret Thatcher once said, “If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” While the former British prime minister, who died Monday at the age of 87, was, indeed, a woman of action, she will be remembered both for the extraordinary things she did as well as the poignant things she said. In honor of the trailblazing politician’s life, we take a look back at some of her most memorable quotes.
“No woman, in my time, will be prime minister or foreign secretary—not the top jobs,” Thatcher said in 1969. “Anyway, I wouldn’t want to be prime minister. You have to give yourself 100 percent to the job.”
Ten years after writing off any desire—let alone the possibility—to lead the country she loved, Thatcher was elected prime minister. That same year she said, “Any woman who understands the problems of running a home will be nearer to understanding the problems of running a country.”
On her election in 1979, Thatcher declared: “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.”
Thatcher’s election may have inspired flowery aspirations for the future of Britain, but at her core she was all business. Many of her most notable quotes illustrate the brash and fierce attitude that earned her the nickname the “Iron Lady.”
At the Conservative Party’s annual conference in October 1980, Thatcher stood up to critics of her economic policies. “To those waiting with bated breath for that favorite media catchphrase, the U-turn, I have only one thing to say. You turn if you want to,” she said. “The lady’s not for turning.”
“Nobody would remember the Good Samaritan if he only had good intentions. He had money as well,” Thatcher said during a 1980 television interview in London. The prime minister was promoting the benefits of an unequal society.
She was not afraid to make her authority known, saying once, “I don’t mind how much my ministers talk, as long as they do what I say.”
Perhaps she should have been more concerned with what her ministers were saying, as her time in office ultimately ended when her cabinet refused to back her for reelection in 1990. Of this dissension, she said: “It was treachery with a smile on its face. Perhaps that was the worst thing of all.”
One of Margaret Thatcher’s defining missions upon election as prime minister was to reduce government subsidies to industries and combat the power of the trade unions. From 1984 to 1985, Britain’s miners union went on strike, defying one of several laws that made striking or organizing mass pickets without a ballot illegal. Of the strike, Thatcher said, “We had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands. We always have to be aware of the enemy within, which is much more difficult to fight and more dangerous to liberty.”
“I like Mr. Gorbachev. We can do business together,” Thatcher famously remarked in December 1984, three months before the Communist reformer became the leader of the former Soviet Union.
Eleven years after becoming Britain’s first female prime minister, Thatcher gave in to pressure from her colleagues to step down. At her final cabinet meeting in November of 1990, Thatcher observed, “It’s a funny old world.”