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1980 to 1989 

Boom and Bust

"I'll be a Post-Feminist in a Post-Patriarchy is an enthusiastic response to those of us wary of post-feminist triumphalism".  - Christine Hankinson 1986 (

In politics, If you want anything said, ask a man.  If you want anything done, ask a woman.” - Margaret Thatcher

"The Iron Lady" Prime Minister Margret Thatcher

Although Britain had a woman prime minister and a few trail blazing women of note, like Baroness Barbra Young the first woman leader of the House of Lords, Lady Mary Donaldson the first woman Lord Mayor of London and Elizabeth Butler-Sloss the first woman Law Lord when she was appointed an Appeal Court Judge in the 80’s, for the average women in the workplace it became clear that upward mobility was becoming a real issue and the phrase “The Glass Ceiling”* was coined to describe women’s lack of promotion to management and executive positions.

With books like Man Made Language by Dale Spender (1980) patriarchy in language was being debated and partial victories against it being made.


Women did now have a voice and were using it. In 1981 The Women for Life on Earth march reached Greenham Common and the Women’s Peace Camp was born, protesting about nuclear missiles and NATO's decision to site cruise missiles at Greenham Common. “Embrace the base” with over 20,000 women taking part was its most famous protest.

1984 The Equal Pay Act (Equal Value Amendment) addresses equal pay for equal value and is passed in 1985.

Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty in 1987, the first ever pact between the two nations to reduce arms and by 1989 the first cruise missile left Greenham Common. Although the Greenham Common protesters were never openly credited with influencing Reagan and Gorbachev’s decisions, non-violent direct action became a respected tool in the arsenal of protesters. Another amazing thing about the protests at Greenham Common, after over 19 years of living and protesting at the site, the campaigners had not damaged the environment and left the site as they found it clear of any and all rubbish.

Mrs Thatcher’s legacy for women is probably her strength of character and will, being labelled the “Iron Lady” and using famous phrases like “U turn if you want to, the Lady’s not for turning”. Whether she wanted it or not, she was able to show both women and men that her biological sex had no bearing on ability, intelligence or determination. Sadly, she did little else for women and did not show much interest in women's rights.

1988 saw the first woman (Julie Hayward) to win her case under the amended Equal Pay Act.

* Interesting Glass Ceiling paper by Val Singh of Cranford School of Management:

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