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Margaret Thatcher's politics: the cultural and ideological forces of domestic femininity

PRESTIDGE, JESSICA,DAWN (2017) Margaret Thatcher's politics: the cultural and ideological forces of domestic femininity. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In December 1974 Margaret Thatcher hung up her hat and put on an apron. Despite being a wealthy, professional woman, it was as a lower-middle class ‘housewife’ that she won the Conservative party leadership in 1975 and the general election in 1979. This raises significant historical questions. What was it about a ‘housewife’ identity that was believed to suggest the
necessary qualities of a political leader? It also emphasises the centrality of gender to Thatcher’s
leadership image.

This thesis will explore the cultural, ideological and political significance of Thatcher’s femininity,
with a particular focus on the rich and varied resonances of domestic femininity. Although a considerable body of literature analyses Thatcher’s status as Britain’s first female Prime Minister, the majority of work focuses on her failure to either promote ‘women’s issues’ or to improve women’s political representation. The conservatism of Thatcher’s feminine image is frequently presented as a manifestation of the regressive social attitudes that shaped Thatcherite policy on ‘women’s issues’. Emphasis on Thatcher’s opposition to the feminist movement has discouraged a more nuanced
understanding of the changing role femininity played in the construction of her public personality. As this ‘public personality’ was a product of multiple influences, focus on Thatcher’s public image
facilitates a wide-ranging study that considers diverse cultural and political contexts.

Overemphasis on the prescriptivism of Thatcher’s domestic image risks undermining the extent to which it reflected popular and political values, assumptions and prejudices. It also underestimates the extent to which Thatcher’s feminine authority constituted a political problem. By examining gendered responses to Thatcher’s leadership in political institutions, among her staff and colleagues,
in popular culture, among women and within ‘the women’s movement’ this thesis will consider the ways in which femininity functioned as part of a strategy for managing the presentation of unprecedented female power.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Thatcher, domesticity, femininity, political culture, public image
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:02 Jun 2017 13:48

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