"The Iron Lady" was not a nickname chosen by Margaret Thatcher. It was bestowed upon her, by Russian propagandists with a dim view of what an "insult" was supposed to sound like. But it's become a cliche ever since, an easy way of viewing female (mostly) or radical (rarely) politicians. To wit:
America may last week have spotted its political future, and it is female. Dianne Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor who came from nowhere to win the Democratic candidacy for the governorship of California, now stands a good chance of becoming the first woman to occupy the Oval office.
John Cassidy, "America's 'iron lady' sets course for the top," The Sunday Times, June 10, 1990
Madeleine Albright began her maiden voyage around the world as the new United States secretary of state with a stop in Rome, where the press promptly dubbed her "the Iron Lady" - an image which sheds more light on Italian anxieties about females in high office than it does on the character of the most powerful woman in American history.
John Carlin, "Full steam ahead for the Albright express," The Independent (UK), February 18, 1997
[Newt] Gingrich was supposed to be America's Iron Lady, but he has succeeded, as the conservative writer David Brooks pointed out in The Standard in October, as "a superior Bob Dole."
Hanna Rosin, "The Madness of Speaker Newt," The New Republic, March 17, 1997
If anyone can push the two sides to get their act together, it is [Condoleezza] Rice. Israelis and Palestinians both view her as America's "Iron Lady." Their perception is that when she wants to, she gets the job done.
MJ Rosenberg, "From Rabin to Rice," The Jerusalem Post, November 1, 2005
Let us stop for a moment to wonder how on earth Senator Hillary Clinton pulled out a win over Senator Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary that almost certainly saved her candidacy from collapse... I'm sure that the moment, shown again and again on TV in the United States, when the eyes of America's iron lady welled with tears, and her voice choked, had something to do with it. We knew she was tough, and fearsomely competent. But now the woman who never let her emotions show, had proved she was as human as the rest of us.
Rupert Cornwall, "Hillary Reclaims the Limelight," The Independent (UK), January 11, 2008
[Sarah] Palin is the stuff of liberal America's nightmares on several fronts. She s a woman, which means she can be roughed up politically, but personally the gloves must stay on. And the woman she calls to mind among American voters is Margaret Thatcher, another big plus.
"At last, America has its very own iron lady," editorial in The Herald (Glasgow), February 13, 2010
Representative Michele Bachmann, trying to keep her campaign alive in the waning days of the race in Iowa, highlighted a theme she has been using lately, comparing herself to Margaret Thatcher, the conservative British prime minister during the 1980s who was known for her steely toughness.
''We need another Margaret Thatcher, another Iron Lady,'' she said to a crowd of supporters in Legends American Grill in Marshalltown on Thursday afternoon.
Armando Monatano, " A Rebranding: Bachmann and the Iron Lady," The New York Times, December 31, 2011