Margaret Thatcher's Handbag Is A Powerful Thing


Margaret Thatcher’s black Asprey handbag is not fancy. It is, in fact, quite plain. Simple. Minimalist. Rigidly structured. Square. Devoid of decoration. But, as the Daily Mail reports, Margaret Thatcher’s handbag holds an important place in political history. Thatcher used the handbag to carry important documents and state papers, and the paper notes:

The word “handbagging” was a reference to Mrs Thatcher’s abrasive style when dealing with those who incurred her displeasure, and is often attributed to the late Tory MP Sir Julian Critchley.
It first appeared in print in 1982 when a Conservative backbencher commented: “She can’t look at a British institution without hitting it with her handbag.”
The late Nicholas Ridley reportedly quipped during one meeting when she had briefly left the room, leaving her bag on the table: “Why don’t we start? The handbag is here.” The term “handbagging” was so widely used in reference to Mrs Thatcher that it entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

It’s interesting that this gender-specific item — something male politicians would not be seen carrying — is seen as a mark of power and not of frivolity or weakness. A woman’s purse is many things: secret keeper, status symbol, first aid kit, file cabinet. But rarely does it play a role in government, international affairs and global goings-on. So when Margaret Thatcher’s handbag is auctioned off on June 27, it may command bids as high as £100,000. The handbag is not just a handbag, according to the Mail:

John Whittingdale, her political secretary from 1989 to 1992, said: “It was a prop. She would produce it very visibly at big meetings to show she meant business.”

The Handbag That Terrorised Ministers: Margaret Thatcher’s Famous Black Asprey Bag Up For Auction With A £100,000 Price Tag [Daily Mail]

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