Behind the Iron Lady: 5 Forgotten Facts About Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first ever female Prime Minister and the country’s longest tenured of the twentieth century, passed away this morning at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke. Known as the “Iron Lady,” Thatcher’s run at Britain’s helm helped rejuvenate the country’s struggling economy, though her less than cuddly leadership style divided her supporters and dissenters. Whether a fan or critic, though, there is no denying that Margaret Thatcher led quite an interesting life.

5 Handbagger

Margaret Thatcher, who always had a large handbag at her side, was actually the source of the term “handbagging,” which now appears in the Oxford English dictionary. A member of British Parliament once said that Thatcher couldn’t “look at a British institution without hitting it with her handbag,” and the expression stuck. Today, it is defined as the “verbal and psychological beating of one’s opponents,” and it is formally recognized as having been named after Margaret Thatcher.

4 Bomb-proof

In 1984, Margaret Thatcher was the target of an IRA bombing assassination attempt, from which she narrowly escaped her hotel with her life. Thatcher and her cabinet were the targets of IRA operative Patrick Magee who had planted a homemade bomb under one of the hotel bathtubs and detonated the device at 2:54 a.m. on October 12. Thatcher’s room was badly damaged but she was somehow unscathed and still managed to make it to the Conservative Party conference she was scheduled to attend the next morning.

3 Lactose Intolerant

Back in the early 1970s, while serving as Britain’s Education Secretary, Thatcher employed a controversial method of cutting expenses; she took away children’s milk. Not literally, it’s not like she went around the country snatching milk out of the tiny hands of children, but she did abolish free milk for schoolchildren age 7 to 11, and earned herself the nickname “Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher.”

2 Secret Genius

Margaret Thatcher was smarter than you long before she was appointed Prime Minister. Thatcher graduated from the prestigious Oxford University in 1947 with a Bachelors of Science in Chemistry and specialized in X-Ray crystallography (which is either a method for determining the molecular structure of a crystal, or a super power). Thatcher worked as a research chemist for years before entering politics and is even credited with helping to develop methods for preserving ice cream!

1 Ronald + Margaret = BFF

Many of you might be too young to remember, but Britain’s “Iron Lady” had a legitimate, albeit unlikely, friendship with America’s “Cowboy President.” Margaret Thatcher combated communism alongside Ronald Reagan throughout the 1980s, and the two formed a close bond, with Thatcher once referring to him as “the second most important man in my life.” Reagan said Thatcher was “the best man in England” (which was presumably meant to be much less insulting than it reads).