In the early 1990s I presented Margaret Thatcher with an award at a convention in Florida. We both wore navy-and-white polka-dot power suits. I only realized that Britain's former prime minister and I were dressed alike moments before we were supposed to go onstage. I didn't have time to rush back to my room in the massive Disney World hotel and change.
Trying to make the best of it, I said, "Lady Thatcher, I admire you so much that I dressed just like you." Thatcher, who passed away today at age 87, appraised me with icy eyes and murmured, "You have good taste."
Her canned speech so thrilled my boss at the time, an Anglophile, that he was nearly overcome. She talked about herself, about leadership and only a bit about our business, which was publishing. But it was Margaret Thatcher at Disney World talking to us and we were all fairly thrilled.
Afterward a few of us went to lunch with her. She liked the male executives who sat with her and ignored the women. The waiter who served us was so nervous that his hands shook while passing plates and pouring wine. I began to wonder if there was a bomb under the table. But maybe like my boss he was just that awed.
I asked Thatcher what she thought of Hillary Clinton being put in charge of transforming health care in our country. "Unconstitutional!" she almost bellowed and turned back to clinking glasses with the men.
My boss later told me that Thatcher had requested a hairdresser for a wash-and-starch for her bouffant before she went on. A lady wants to look her best. And she was a great lady: a strong leader, a brilliant politician, a grocer's daughter who became the most powerful woman in the world.
Photo: Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Also of Interest
- Betty Friedan: A Pioneer of Modern Feminism
- Style Up: Women Work and Staying in the Game
- Join AARP: Savings, resources and news for your well-being
See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more