"The truth is, if you have access to Oprah, you respect it."
Non-royal women in positions of power are almost always portrayed as very stoic
and no-nonsense, at least publicly. Rarely will you find a woman president, prime minister, governor, legislator, judge, business executive, or military leader who is presented as indecisive, incompetent, or otherwise "weak." She's also usually not portrayed as corrupt, either, although if she's directing things from behind the scenes
, that tends to change.
The reason usually given for this is that women seeking positions of power (as opposed to those who inherit them), both in reality and in fiction, are faced with two unfortunate truths: (1) that they need to give the appearance
of toughness, ruthlessness, and coldness in order to get past other people's masculine-tinted expectations of leadership, and (2) that in the circles such women travel in, they actually need to be
tough, ruthless, and cold. The ones who weren't were left by the wayside. Thus women leaders are generally portrayed as trying to demonstrate their iron will at all times. Indeed, they have to
lest they lose all credibility.
Mind you, it's not that she's all iron. In private, she can be quite warm, even loving. Seeing as the camera can take us anywhere, we often get to see it. However, her public does not.
The model for this in the contemporary world is Margaret Thatcher
, who was beyond iron to somewhere around titanium towards her (entirely-male) cabinet, and defines the "presidential Premiership" in British politics
even more than Tony Blair
. The nickname was applied to her in an insulting manner by the Soviet military
newspaper Red Star
in 1976, when she was still Leader of the Opposition, but soon became affectionate.
(No mental fatigue, only metal fatigue.)
In certain media, they often have British accents, heaven knows why
. In most media, she is likely to have Power Hair
. In anime, it is more often long hair, in whatever color. See Integra
, the four most prominent Iron Ladies of anime.
Such characters are prone to discover a well-hidden maternal instinct towards their subordinates, making this a Distaff Counterpart
to A Father to His Men
(although usually not military). Compare with Proper Lady
, which provides the Iron Lady
some foundation. Compare Silk Hiding Steel
, where her iron disposition is hidden beneath smiles and Passive-Aggressive Kombat
Compare/contrast Evil Matriarch
and Grande Dame
. Also contrast her possible opposites Stepford Smiler
, Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher
, and Cute and Psycho
, all of whom are more prone to using
emotion to get what they want rather than setting it aside as the Iron Lady
If she is
royal, see The High Queen
, God Save Us from the Queen!
, and/or The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask
. For her typical Evil Counterpart
, see The Baroness
. May well have been a Go-Getter Girl
when younger. The Lady of War
is a comparable action-ready variant (and can overlap each other if she's active both in the field of battle and politics simultaneously) as well.
Not to be confused with Iron Maiden
For the 2011 movie about Margaret Thatcher starring Meryl Streep, see The Iron Lady
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Anime & Manga
- Mobile Suit Gundam Wing's Lady Une, who's actually called "Iron Une". Manga Frozen Teardrop has Dorothy T. Catalonia referred to as the "Neo-Titanium Lady".
- From Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ, we have Haman Karn, advisor to Princess Mineva and de facto ruler of Neo-Zeon, because said princess is only seven years old. We also see businesswoman Stephanie Luio of Hong Kong in Zeta, in a more benevolent version.
- In Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, Mineva herself has picked up some of these traits, likely following Haman's example. It's enough that she's able to put on a commanding presence in front of very powerful people despite being only 16 years old at this point.
- Hellsing: When she was just a child, Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing was almost killed by her Evil Uncle for the right to control the family business. After that she has been the head of the Hellsing family and master of Alucard. Integra is definitely more stoic and masculine than the other female lead, Seras, and even in the Convention of Twelve—a gathering of all sorts of important people from military, Parliament and the like—she is by far the most calm and collected.
- General Olivier Armstrong from Fullmetal Alchemist is held to be scary by her soldiers, her family, and The Protagonist. She, a Social Darwinist, ruthlessly and literally cuts the current military government down to size so that she can become Fuhrer, and she, despite her extremism, is still considered a protagonist.
- Trinity Blood has a couple. Despite being called Iron Lady, Caterina Sforza seems more like this in the Anime version, while tough and willful, she's not stoic in the manga and the novels, she grows increasingly emotional. Mary Spencer and Queen Esther Blanchett (who becomes a war leader) are better examples.
- Lady Eboshi, leader of Irontown in Princess Mononoke.
- In Appleseed, Athena is the supreme executive leader of the city/nation of Olympus. There's a council of elders and a super-computer who make all the big long term decisions but how she runs Olympus is entirely her own choice. It helps that she is an artificially created human genetically manipulated to do exactly that, and she does it extremely well. For large parts of the manga and some of the animes, it's not clear if she's a particularly tough High Queen or actually the Big Bad. It turns out to be the former.
- Balalaika from Black Lagoon, The Leader of a gang of Russian commandos-turned-hitmen and the scariest member of their outfit by far.
- Frances Middleford from Black Butler is an example of this trope. She makes Sebastian break out in a cold sweat.
- Cornelia from Code Geass is a ruthless military version complete with hidden soft side. A rare royal example.
- Asuka Langley Soryu from Neon Genesis Evangelion desperately wants to be one of these, and indeed she starts out fitting the mold. Unfortunately, she tragically underestimates the cost of keeping her emotions inside and focusing only on success.
- In Macross (Or Robotech), Misa Hayes is this initially, but over time her cold and professional appearance begins to fade away and she grows more emotional.
- Barajou no Kiss: Yamamoto Anis will not take any of these dimension warping shenanigans sitting down, thank you very much! She may have just been informed that her father intends to sacrifice her to a seal of unknown demonic origin and otherwise make her life hell, but she is not going to just sit around and mope. No. She is going to kick her Knights' collective asses into gear. You will obey or you will get the rose thorns of doom.
- In Gaiking: Legend of Daiku Maryu, the West General of Darius, Vestaanu, is the cold, calculating, ineffable military commander of the Iron Beast Corps.
- Najenda, the coolly effective leader of the assassin group Night Raid in Akame ga Kiru!.
- Amanda Waller from The DCU, though her actions here (and in other incarnations) often drift into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory. Batman avoids pissing her off if he can help it.
- Judge Dredd:
- Chief Judge McGruder; since she was based on Margaret Thatcher, this is appropriate.
- Hershey also showed elements of this during her tenure as chief judge.
Films — Animated
- The Grand Councilwoman of the Intergalactic Federation in Lilo & Stitch.
Films — Live-Action
- Judi Dench as M in all of her James Bond appearances. Her softer side is shown in Quantum of Solace and Skyfall
- Dr. Grace Augustine from Avatar is a more benign version (being a scientist in a group of soldiers and corp executives) of this but you gotta admit that she's as tough as they come.
- Meryl Streep won an Oscar playing the original Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, in a biopic called... The Iron Lady.
- Barbara Stanwyck as Jessica Drummond in Forty Guns. In Real Life too; when her stunt double refused to be dragged along by a horse because it was too dangerous, she did the stunt herself. She was nearly 50 years old at the time.
- Col. Jessup had this to say in A Few Good Men: 'There is nothing on this earth sexier, believe me, gentlemen, than a woman you have to salute in the morning. Promote 'em all, I say.' Of course, he then went on to sing the praises of blowjobs performed by female officers, suggesting a few holes in the Colonel's progressivism.
- Secretary of Defense Jessica Delacourt from Elysium.
- Professor Minerva McGonagall of the Harry Potter series is demonstrably an Iron Lady (even if she does get a bit worked up over Gryffindor Quidditch), and is especially fierce when fighting Death Eaters.
- Nasuada of Inheritance Cycle. She's strong-willed from day one, but learns to manipulate people and stand up to mages with incredible magical powers.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Lady Maege Mormont and her daughters, who are war leaders as well.
- Olenna Redwyne, known as "The Queen of Thorns", is another example. Her son Mace Tyrell rules house Tyrell and she has no real power aside from being the old lord's widow, but no-one doubts that the Lady Olenna is the one who is ultimately in control.
- Scheherazade in Arabian Nights seems a toned-down version of this. She was restricted by her culture to the context of harem intrigue, of course, but she plays this trope as far as it can go within the context. She was intelligent, brave, and knew her own mind.
- The Bible has a a few interesting examples:
- From The Silmarillion, the Human chieftainess Haleth who led her people out of Morgoth's country into Beleriand.
- The Duchessa Silvia in Stravaganza: City of Masks - and throughout the series, her successor, Ariana, is learning the way of the Iron Lady too.
- Karrin Murphy, in her days as the chief of SI police department, from The Dresden Files.
- Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. Although she's the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, she fits this trope perfectly.
- Ma Joad from The Grapes of Wrath is an example of this trope. She exemplifies all the traits but, most importantly, manages to hold the family together through sheer force of will alone.
- Lucia Nesbitt from First Contact Is Bad for You is rather stern and business oriented, and almost always referred to by her last name by anyone but her family. She holds no official title; instead she works through her husband Tiberius, who is a governor.
- Song at Dawn: For Emerganda and Alienor a 'take charge' mindset is required for them to have any influence at all. Both of them daily battle against men who try to undercut their authority.
- Emerganda is the duchess of a region of France and keeps a sharp eye on its finances and potential civil unrest.
- Alienor, a duchess and a queen, laments that being pregnant makes her more emotional.
- President Eloise Pritchart from the Honor Harrington series is a no-nonsense President Iron with a spine of steel who survived two revolutions and a bloody regime and came out on top, who takes crap from no one, and who makes brutal but necessary decisions as she tries to govern a star nation fighting a war. Then she decides she's had enough of being manipulated and heads off to Manticore with no warning to kickstart the Grand Alliance, which puts an end to the Manticore-Haven war in a hurry.
- In the McAuslan story The Gordon Women, this trope is dominated by MacNeill's aunt Allison, who quickly and neatly manages to defuse a conflict between a retired Admiral and the locals who poach his grouse without raising her voice or getting out of her chair, leaving poor MacNeill to wonder when exactly the woman who tucked him into bed and read him stories as a child became the bastard daughter of Ellie Ewing and Vito Corleone.
- The Wheel of Time has several examples (Robert Jordan really liked having powerful women in his supporting cast), but none as notable as Sorilea and Cadsuane, two elder women of extreme authority and confidence. Sorilea is brash and aggressive in a Screw Politeness Im A Senior manner, knowing her social status will have everyone jumping at her commands, while Cadsuane has spent several hundred years making herself a Living Legend, and plays a mixture of her reputation and her utter refusal to let anyone sway her course to get her way.
- Adele Dewitt in Dollhouse.
- Laura Roslin of Battlestar Galactica is this to a T.
- Mary McDonnell seems to have a liking for these, as she played one as Captain Sharon Raydor (first as Force Investigation Division head in The Closer, then as Major Crimes division head in Major Crimes).
- Her predecessor at Major Crimes, Brenda Leigh Johnson in The Closer, is like this, but closer to Silk Hiding Steel.
- Harriet Jones as a Prime Minister in Doctor Who, sometimes too much (it helps she's something of an Expy of Thatcher).
- Allison Taylor of 24 exhibits this, to everybody's surprise (in-universe).
- The hilarious thing about Allison Taylor is that she can almost literally will anybody to do just about anything they don't want to do, and then she can make you feel glad you did it afterwards.
- Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. (Depending on the Writer, but then Voyager had problems like that.)
- Veronica Palmer, Ted's boss in Better Off Ted.
- Mrs. Frederic (C.C.H. Pounder) on Warehouse 13.
- Captain Gates on Castle. She even is nicknamed Iron Gates.
- British Prime Minister Maureen Graty on The West Wing, a thinly-veiled reference to Margaret Thatcher, who threatens to start a full-scale war over the terrorist shooting of a British plane and has to be talked down.
- Jenny Shepherd in NCIS. She had a bit of a Captain Ahab complex but she was tough, good at her job, and had a Dying Moment of Awesome.
- Inspector Thatcher on Due South, whose nickname from one of the Rays was the Dragon Lady. (not to be confused with the Dragon Lady trope.) Yes, she was named after the real Thatcher.
- Babylon 5:
- Susan Ivanova, the station's second-in-command.
: "On you way back, I'd like you to practice the Babylon 5 Mantra: Ivanova is always right. I will listen to Ivanova. I will not ignore Ivanova's recommendations. Ivanova is God. And if this ever happens again, Ivanova will personally rip your lungs out! Babylon Control out. [to herself] Civilians. [glances upward] Just kidding about the God thing. No offense
- Delenn can also be described as such, if you cross her or (especially) her sense of what's right. Her breaking the Grey Council when they wouldn't act against the Shadows epitomized that, and it's a safe bet that Sheridan was grateful most of his days that she had his back when it counted.
- Though she doesn't get as much screentime as the others, President Susanna Luchenko, President Clark's successor, comes across this way as well. She comes into office in the aftermath of a civil war and is faced with the tough decision of what to do with Sheridan, the hero of the hour who committed borderline treason to depose Clark. She gives him a Morton's Fork choice then warns him not to mistake this for a conversation.
- Madeline on La Femme Nikita may be the coldest Iron Lady in TV history.
- And Amanda in the newest incarnation (Nikita) isn't far behind her.
- Miranda in Sex and the City is a ball-busting Manhattan lawyer who is constantly trying to find a man who doesn't feel castrated by her presence.
- Lynne Thigpen as Da Chief on Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?. Although, around Greg she was the Only Sane Employee.
- Patty Hughes, the ruthless -- if highly effective -- lawyer from Damages.
- Section Chief Erin Strauss in Criminal Minds.
- Samantha in the 2008 version of Survivors
- Chuck brings us Brigadier General Diane Beckman. Later seasons show she does have some warmth beneath her cold-as-steel facade, with these moments usually being the rare times in which Beckman is used for outright comedy. However throughout the series run it's been made very clear that this is a woman that can intimidate Casey! Not to say that her steely persona isn't the source of occasional gags as well.
- Detective Carter from Person of Interest surely qualifies.
- Dr. Elizabeth Weir in her time as leader of the Atlantis expedition certainly qualifies. She makes the tough decisions with a firm hand and very, VERY rarely shows weakness (and then, only to Sheppard, her second-in-command and best friend.)
- Elaine Barrish Hammond from Political Animals. Given that she was an expy of Hillary Rodham Clinton (and was played by Sigourney Weaver), this probably shouldn't be too surprising.
- Chief Vicks from Psych is tough enough that even Shawn Spencer knows better than to cross her... usually.
- Spoofed in a The Goodies episode where Bill and Tim both run for Prime Minister...as women.
- The American House of Cards:
- Margaret Tilden, owner of The Washington Herald (a thinly-veiled version of The Washington Post) is a solid woman firmly devoted to her paper willing to do whatever it takes to keep it in the black. On the flipside, she is perfectly comfortable firing her Editor-in-Chief for business reasons one minute and going out for friendly drinks with him the next.
- Also fitting the trope—but vastly differently—is Claire Underwood. She runs her nonprofit with an iron fist, and is one of the few people capable of manipulating her husband—who starts the series House Majority Whip and by the end of Season 2 is President of the United States—for her own ends. In her capacity as head of the nonprofit, she merely exhibits the hardheaded and ruthless side of the trope; but as the Woman Behind the Man for Frank, she exhibits some distinctly sinister characteristics.
- On The 100, Lexa fits this trope, believing that Love Is a Weakness, and being renowned even by other Grounders for her ruthlessness. However, Abby is an aversion, being very emotional and soft-hearted even after becoming Chancellor, while Clarke alternates between the two extremes, taking influence from both Abby and Lexa. Their leadership styles are portrayed as being the result of their upbringing, individual personalities, and the situations they find themselves in; gender is treated as a non-factor.
- BattleTech: Many Clans have female Khans as their leader, and nobody bats an eye on them, as the critical qualification for being a Khan is being a real Badass, while being a man doesn't figure high on the list to say the least. The most recent example is Malvina Hazen of Clan Jade Falcon who won her position in a Trial of Possession from the previous Khan Jana Pryde.
- Queen Anora from Dragon Age: Origins is not actually royalty, but a daughter of a minor noble who rose through the ranks using his exceptional guts and brains. She inherited both of those from him and then some.
- In Dragon Age II, there's Knight-Commander Meredith. Before the lyrium idol drives her insane, anyway.
- Also Aveline, who just one year after arriving in the city as a moneyless refuge manages to get a job in the city guard and is promoted to captain of the guard because all the guardmen consider her to be by far the most capable person for the position after exposing the corruption of her predecessor.
- Dragon Age: Inquisition has Vivienne, a high-ranking Circle Mage from Orlais whose court nickname is "Madame de Fer"note . Interestingly, she's an Action Fashionista who might look delicate next to the heavily-armoured Cassandra - but elaborate outfits are all part of the "Grand Game" where she comes from.
- Aria in Mass Effect 2, who rules Wretched Hive Omega through force of personality and also force of...force. The previous ruler was a krogan; she beat him in a straight-up one-on-one biotic battle during which she crushed one of his hearts and made him a broken shell. Then she kept him around as a living trophy. Knowing all that, it hardly needs to be said that the only rule on Omega is "Don't fuck with Aria." (But she says it anyway.)
- Commander Shepard can be played this way if female, especially if she of the "paragade" or "renegon" moralities, which usually involves a relative fairness with a dash of tough love.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Governor Leotyne Saresh of Taris is a no-nonsense leader dedicated to making the Republic's re-colonization of the devastated world a success. Even when the Empire invades and completely undoes everything she's accomplished, she still has enough political capital to be elected Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, after which takes it in a more hard-line direction in regards to the Empire.
- In Gifts Of Wandering Ice both Lara (chief of the hunters' tribe) and her heir Rita are strong, brave women, and are born leaders.
- Project0: Veronica fits most of the description. She's also the only woman among the 6 commanders of the Harvester.
- Lillian Haversham-Zhang. And she lets you know it.
- Last Res0rt has several tough ladies, but none that embodies this trope like Celigo's military leader, First Wing (and Messiah of the Endless) Veled.
- Another possible candidate: the Star Org's Security Chief, Spirit of the Murphy's Law.
- Princess Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender appears to be an adolescent Iron Lady crossed with Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy, and later adds elements of Ax-Crazy.
- The Legend of Korra gives us Lin Beifong, who is a more literal case with actual metal armor. She is the chief of the Metalbending Police Force in Republic City for the power part. And yes, she does bear a striking resemblance to Thatcher.
- Book 4 gives us Kuvira; a minor, unassuming, soldier who rose in power during the three year gap and becomes a military leader known as The Great Uniter.
- Amanda Waller, chief of the Project Cadmus in Justice League, is so iron, she stands up to Superman, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman at the same time upon her first introduction, chews out the Goddamn Batman, and personally confronts Lex Luthor in his lair upon discovering his treachery.
- Waller shows up again in Young Justice, running a penitentiary for super-powered criminals. Even after the crooks take over the prison thanks to a mole on her staff and start threatening her life, she doesn't give them an inch. Sadly, said mole ends up replacing her after she takes the fall for the near-breakout.
- Trope Namer Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister of the UK from 1979-1990, is of course the most famous example.
- Dame Eugenia Charles, the first female prime minister of the Commonwealth of Dominica in the West Indies. She was even known as the "Iron Lady of The Caribbean" due to her uncompromising stance on her views.
- Indira Gandhi of India, who was even de facto dictator of India for almost two years (the Indian Emergency, 1975-77).
- Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel during the Yom Kippur War and before that Israel's Foreign Minister for ten years. She was often called "The Iron Lady of Israel," and combined it with Jewish Mother in a rather odd fashion: for instance, she would bake a cake for the ministers composing her "kitchen cabinet" (circle of closest advisors, meeting for Shabbat dinner), but also be totally willing to grill them, chew them out, or embarrass them over state business even as they munched on the cake. Bear in mind that the "Kitchen Cabinet" included some of Israel's great badass heroes, including Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon.
- Tzipi Livni was famous for her no-nonsense attitude as Israeli Foreign Minister under Ehud Olmert, and continues to have that iron will as Leader of the Opposition. Given the revolving door that is the Israeli premiership, there's a good chance she'll be PM in a few years yet.
- Subverted by her very feeble opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition between 2009-2013, ending up losing the leadership of her party, Kadima (‘forward’), followed by leaving it shortly before the 2013 elections in favour of founding a new one, HaTnu‘a (‘the movement’). Both parties absolutely crashed in the 2013 elections: while in the prior elections Kadima got 28 seats in the Knesset out of 120, in this election they won only 2, and HaTnu‘a, which had recruited 7 members from among the Members of the Knesset upon foundation, got only 6.
- In something of a running theme, new Labor leader Shelly Yachimovich as a former hard-hitting journalist, is cut from similar cloth. However, her focus on social issues rather than hard security matters softens her image.
- Angela Merkel, current Chancellor of Germany, has gained some reputation for this as she is a pretty tough negotiator in international politics. Within Germany, she is much more known for leaving the spotlight to her ministers and rarely makes any announcements or statements of significance. This makes her almost untouchable since she never says something stupid or controversial or appears responsible for unpopular government programs or changes to existing law. While this is often criticised as being indecisive and not doing her job, she always has very high approval ratings with the public, because nobody ever sees her doing something bad.
- Yulia Timoshenko, former Prime Minister of Ukraine, was famous for being stubborn and getting things done. In a country where smoke bombs, eggs, and fisticuffs are a not-unexpected way to settle things on the floor of Parliament, you have to be stubborn to be effective.
- Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, current President of Liberia, and the first elected female leader in Africa. She has to be tough as nails; there's the threat of a coup.
- Benazir Bhutto, the late Prime Minister of Pakistan. Although democratically-elected, she inherited a nearly-dictatorial manner of politics from her father, former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (an extremely shrewd political operator who earned Badass points after a coup forced him through years of Kangaroo Courts before he was executed in 1979). However, this wasn't enough to prevent her assassination in December 2007.
- Hillary Rodham Clinton has exhibited these tendencies. Remember when that translator screwed up a question to make it sound like the poor Congolese student was asking for Bill's opinion on some subject or other? Hillary was displeased.
- Meg Whitman, former President and CEO of eBay and Carly Fiorina, former CEO at Hewlett-Packard, both of whom ran for statewide office in California (Whitman for Governor, Fiorina for US Senate; both lost), invokes this at every possible opportunity. The degree to which they are this trope varies, although consensus seems that Whitman fits the bill more closely. Accounts of Fiorina's downfall at H-P range from "she was too tough" to "she was not tough enough" to "her actual toughness aside, she spent too much time acting one thing or another and not enough actually running the company."
- Somewhat amusingly, a year after they both lost their political races, Whitman was hired to take Fiorina's old job at H-P. In the meantime, Fiorina has mostly been taking bit roles on corporate and nonprofit boards.
- Clare Boothe Luce: Congresswoman, Intrepid Reporter, Author, Lady of Adventure, and fabled Deadpan Snarker (and inveterate rival of Dorothy Parker).
- Jeannette Rankin — the only person to vote against the United States going to war in both World War I and World War II. World War II in particular — she was the only Member of Congress to vote against the US declaration of war against Japan. Whatever one might think of those votes, standing on your principles like that takes big brass ones (whatever those ones might be).
- Nancy Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Second in line to the Presidency for six years, not at all well-liked by the opposition, but admired by many Democrats. She definitely gives off a "strong mother figure" persona (in her home life, she's the emphatically-Catholic mother of five and grandmother of eight, so far), but she has serious political cred.
- Even Rahm Emanuel won't cross Nancy in public.
"Nancy gave me two very important tasks as soon as she became Speaker: Sit down and shut up. I got pretty mad. I said there is only one woman in my life who can order me around like that... Hillary Clinton
- Subverted by Chile's first female president, Michelle Bachelet, who tried (with a moderate amount of success) to play the Team Mom card. In a country which has had 16 years of the same political bloc running it the unashamed corruption and money-grubbing were very strong, and this attitude didn't work in her first term (2006-10). Since Chile forbids presidents from serving consecutive terms, she then went to head up the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (known as UN Women because UNEGEEW sounds like Ban Ki-moon just threw up), but returned to Chile to run for president again, and won. We'll see what happens in her second term (2014-18).
- Played straight by the deceased high-ranked lawyer Monica Madariaga, the Minister of Justice in Pinochet's dictatorship. According to Madariaga's testimony, she had to become an Iron Lady to cope with the misogyny among Pinochet's aides.
- Averted by Australia's first female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who liked to stress her 'consultative approach'. This has earned her a lot of criticism.
- Philippine senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago eats death threats for breakfast, so uncompromising is she.
- There is no Lawyer or Judge who can contest her on the conduct of court, because She wrote the book that the courts follow in the first place.
- Dorit Beinisch, President of the Israeli Supreme Court 2006-2012 (Israeli judges have to retire at 70), has been noted for being extremely tough on the government for human rights violations (following the tradition of her mentor, Aharon Barak). She also took being hit in the face with a flying shoenote fairly calmly.
- Helen Clark, New Zealand Prime Minister from 1999-2008 and leader of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1993 to 2008. Since then she has been appointed to 3rd-in-command at the United Nations. While she did pull back on some issues as PM, she did remain very staunch on others. Generally respected internationally, domestic support has usually been more polarised, though very few would describe her as anything other than extremely competent.
- Red October era Bolshevik commissar Rosalia Zemlyachka. A member of the Bolshevik Party since 1905, one of the leaders of the Moscow Soviet in 1917, oversaw a bloody purge of former Whites, bourgeoisie and generally unlucky guys in Crimea in 1920, was a minor orchestrator of the more known Great Purge of 1937-39 (and not an eventual victim of it, like pretty much everyone else responsible, by virtue of being too dangerous to provoke), died peacefully of old age after World War 2.
- Current Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff. In her youth, was arrested and tortured for being part of a Communist guerrilla. As politician, was Minister of Mines and Energy, then Chief of Staff, then elected President, where she fired at least seven ministers in just one year!
- Joyce Banda, President of Malawi 2012-14, was one of these. Appointed VP in 2009, under Bingu wa Mutharika, she got into serious policy disputes with the President—mostly involving much-needed reforms and his alienation of donor countries—and founded a breakaway political party to support her. When he died in 2012, she called on the military to support her right to succeed to the presidency, which was being contested by Mutharika's loyalists in the Cabinet. Since then, she has proved to be a tough political player and has made several important and often controversial decisions, both at home and abroad. At home, she has announced plans to decriminalize homosexuality, which is a big move in socially-conservative Malawi. In foreign policy, one of her earliest decisions was to refuse to host an African Union summit after the AU declared that Malawi would have to give Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, wanted by the ICC,note assurances that he would not be arrested if he landed in the country; Mutharika had done so on a previous occasion, and the AU has been quite vocal in its rejection of the charges against Bashir.
- Frances Perkins, Secretary of Labor under Franklin D. Roosevelt and the first woman to hold a position in the American Cabinet, was noted for two things: being very cold and aloof in her dealings with her associates—even other Cabinet members—and her steely determination to improve the lot of the working American. Without her advocacy, several landmark items of American labor legislation—most notably the Social Security Act (which established Social Security) and the National Labor Relations Act (which severely limited employers' ability to break unions)—would either not have existed or would be substantially different.
- Averted by Isabel Perón, the first female president of Argentina. She was the third wife and vice-president of the aged Juan Perón, and had no political formation at all. Peronism was divided between left-wing and right-wing peronists, Perón sought someone who was "neutral", and thought his wife could be a good idea. Things grew beyond mere heated political discussions: the left-wing peronists, called Montoneros, began a series of terrorist attacks to depose the government and establish a communist dictatorship. Perón appointed a counter-terrorism force, the Triple A, to destroy the Montoneros. And then he died of old age, leaving Isabel as president. She was so useless against the crisis that the people welcomed the subsequent military coup that deposed her.
- The more notable Eva Peron, on the other hand, was a hands-on, tough-as-nails Iron Lady if ever there was one. As Juan Perón's second wife, "Evita" (who inspired the musical and later film of the same name) took a front and center role in politics, and the success of the movement her husband led was due in large part to her. She led the female wing of the Peronist Party, founded several nationally-endorsed charities for everyone from the impoverished "descamisados" to kids with terminal illnesses, and, above all, gave inspiring, bombastic speeches to massive throngs of cheering people. Though her life was cut short by cancer, she remains an important national icon and hero in Argentina.
- Mrs. Peron was, however, known to hide her fierce attitude when necessary or appropriate, and could be very gentle. As mentioned, she built many orphanages, and she used to visit them without warning to make sure all the children were living as happily as possible. She would remember each kid, and if she noticed that one kid wasn't feeling well or was having issues, she would go to their room and give them a cuddle, or let them talk to her about their issues. Many think this came from her inability to get pregnant, and a miscarriage she suffered in her early relationship with Peron.
- On the other hand, definitely played straight by current (as of 2014) President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who has at times been accused of "dictatorial" tendencies (largely unfounded, although she is quite charismatic, and her government has been caught more or less red-handed fudging the inflation figures). If anything, she is a very close analogue to the aforementioned Hillary Clinton; the parallels are striking, as like HRC, her husband—the late Néstor Kirchner—was himself President, and part of his campaign in 2003 was that it would be a two-for-one deal (the main difference was that Cristina by that point was already a Senator and arguably a more prominent politician than him).
- Former Premier of Quebec, Pauline Marois. She was defeated in her party's leadership race, retired, her party suffered its worst defeat in its history, she came out of retirement to win her party leadership by acclamation, pushed through a complete party meltdown in which several prominent members of her party quit citing her leadership as the primary cause... and then became the first female Premier of Quebec. Her nickname in Quebec is "la Dame de béton" - literally, "The Concrete Lady".
- The hatred of Pauline Marois that runs rampant amongst members of her party, as well as the anglophone community in Quebec, comes not from her being "the concrete lady" but more from her tendency to push useless laws, such as the one making the word pasta illegal as it isn't a French word. In the end, her insistence on these sorts of Quebec identity issues were her downfall: just 19 months after she led the PQ in the September 2012 election that made her Premier, she led the PQ to a crushing defeat and lost her own seat to the Liberal candidate, largely because nobody wanted to talk about "Quebec values" or linguistic purity or—shudder—sovereignty again.
- Katherine Graham, owner/publisher of The Washington Post newspaper, most notably during the Watergate Era. It's fairly likely that Margaret Tilden of the US House of Cards (in Live Action TV above) is based in large part on her.