The Iron Lady You Don’t Know: Thirteen Facts about Margaret Thatcher

SSPL/Getty Images
SSPL/Getty Images
Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, died at 87 on Apr. 8. Whether you agreed with her politics or not, you’ll get a kick out of these lesser-known  facts about the Iron Lady.
  • True story: Margaret Thatcher may have helped invent soft-serve ice cream. After she graduated from the University of Oxford with a chemistry degree, she worked as a research chemist at a Hammersmith food manufacturer called J. Lyons and Company, and was part of a team tasked with “whipping more air into ice cream.” They came up with a kind of “soft ice cream” that used fewer ingredients and saved money on production costs.
  • That being said, she was later dubbed the “the milk snatcher” for discontinuing a free milk program for schoolchildren ages 7-11 in the 1970s.
  • Thatcher frequently pulled all-nighters, per a new book The Real Iron Lady: Working With Margaret Thatcher by Gillian Shephard, a conservative politician who served in Thatcher’s cabinet. One night around 1:00 am, Downing Street adviser Hartley Booth asked whether staffers could go home, and the Iron Lady replied — to their chagrin — “I get a new lease on life at this time of the morning.” During another long night, the conservative Prime Minister ran a bath for her speechwriter Elizabeth Cottrell at 3:00 am.
  • According to secret files released in Britain in Dec. 2009, she chose the type of gun that the Northern Ireland police force used: An American-made Ruger.
  • On the subject of her own protection: the files also revealed that she refused a personal security force of 20 “karate ladies” during the Jun. 1979 Tokyo Economic Summit.
  • Turquoise was her favorite color, she told Observer journalist Kenneth Harris in an Oct. 12, 1975, interview.
  • But when it came to clothes, the Prime Minister was more conservative: “I tend to wear the safe colours, black, white, grey and navy,” she said during a Nov. 5, 1987, visit to London’s newly renovated flagship Marks & Spencer store. “But occasionally I strike out with jewel colors like sapphire, emerald or amethyst to brighten something up.”
  • She used to describe her handbag as “the only safe place in Downing Street.” In 2000, a black leather Ferragamo bag that she bought for $450 in the 1980s sold for a whopping $150,000 during an Internet auction organized by the Breast Cancer Care charity.
  • In fact, the origins of the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the verb “to handbag” derives from Thatcher’s abrasive leadership style in cabinet meetings.
  • Grilled Dover sole was one of her favorite foods.
  • Tennis was her favorite sport to watch. In September 1989, she took to the court and rallied in bare feet at the opening of one of former Davis Cup star David Lloyd’s tennis centers in the Finchley district of London.
  • Bach was her favorite choral music composer because she used to sing in the Bach choir at Oxford. She also enjoyed listening to Chopin and Beethoven.
  • Cointreau was her drink of choice at fancy occasions, but for day-to-day imbibing, she opted for whisky — often kicking back with a scotch and soda after work.
Culled from Times

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