Subject Material

The Iron Lady

Published: 07.02.2012, Updated: 04.03.2017
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Margaret Thatcher

The Iron Lady is a film that portrays Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female prime minister. She was controversial, both as Leader of the Conservative Party and as Prime Minister, an office that she held for 11 years. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the film, where Thatcher (Meryl Streep) as an old woman suffering from dementia looks back on her eventful life, has been met with both acclamation and fury.

Margaret Thatcher (1925 - 2013) was 86 years old when the film was released. To a large extent the film renders a pitiful picture of a lonely, hallucinating old woman. Critics thought that its release could have waited. What do you think; was it disrespectful to present Britain's most powerful person for an entire decade in this way, while she still was alive? How do you think her family felt about it? Lady Thatcher died from a stroke two years later.

Film Trailer

To get an impression of the career of one of the most influential women in the 20th century, you should take a look at the film trailer, The Iron Lady .

After watching it, reflect on:

  • What prejudice did Margaret Thatcher have to fight?
  • In which sense was Margaret Thatcher an outsider?
  • What did she have to sacrifice? How did her family respond to this, do you think?
  • Judging from the trailer, how did she earn the nick-name "The Iron Lady"?
  • What made her controversial?
  • Do you recognise any political events that she had to handle as a Prime Minister?

Interview with Meryl Streep

Watch a clip from the interview  with Meryl Streep about how she prepared for the role. BBC interview with Meryl Streep 

  • What was Meryl Streep's perception of Margaret Thatcher before she started playing the role?
  • How did she prepare for the role?


Before you watch the film, it is a good idea to revise these terms and expressions:

The Conservative Party
The Tories
The Labour Party
parliamentary system
The House of Commons
The House of Lords
general election

trade unions

Find Out

  1. To complement the picture of Margaret Thatcher as one of the most admired, and at the same time, one of the most hated leaders of all time, read a few of these entries from people who experienced what is commonly known as the Thatcher era.  BBC on the Thatcher era
    What are some of the reasons given for:
    • praising her?
    • critcising her?
  2. Study this timeline, Margaret Thatcher timeline.
    • What was there in Margaret Roberts' (later Thatcher) family background that made it very unlikely that she should become the leader of the Conservative Party?
    • When did the Falklands War occur? What did she accomplish by this war?
    • How was her relationship to the US president, Ronald Reagan?
    • What was her characterisation of the Soviet Union leader, Mikail Gorbachev, when they met in Moscow in 1987?


  1. Why was it sensational that the UK should get a female prime minister in 1979?
  2. There is a joke which goes like this: "Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good." Did this apply to Margaret Thatcher do you think? Do you think she adopted the tough appearance, which earned her the "Iron Lady" label, because of this?
  3. If you watch the film, discuss how Margaret Roberts (Thatcher) is met by men before she takes office as Prime Minister.
  4. Check out recent news regarding the Falklands. How does the current official British policy regarding these islands compare with Mrs. Thatcher's policy?


Norwegian female politicians have recently come forward with experiences of sexually offensive and patrionising words from male party colleagues."My little girl" and "young miss" being some of the less offensive examples. Does this correspond to what Margaret Roberts (Thatcher) experienced? Why are women treated like this?

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