Margaret Thatcher’s handbag was a power symbol, and whenever she turned up with one at state meetings, it served as a clear indication that she meant business.
The handbag was said to carry highly important State documents such that it became synonymous with the power inherent in being the occupant of Number 10, Downing Street. As a result, the term ‘ handbagging’ was coined and consequently added to the Oxford dictionary, referring to Margaret Thatcher’s brusque style while dealing with those who annoyed her.
Handbagging made its maiden entry in print in 1982 when a Conservative backbencher commented: ‘She can’t look at a British institution without hitting it with her handbag.’
Reports further state that this prime handbag (pun intended) wielded so much power that at one time, a senior British government official reportedly quipped in her absence, “Why don’t we start? The handbag is here!”
In 1988, Mrs Thatcher received a handbag as a gift from George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State. He told her: “You are the first and only recipient of the Grand Order of the Handbag!”
The political novelist Michael Dobbs, former Tory Chief of Staff, said Thatcher’s handbag was ‘in part a portable filing cabinet, but was also used to remind people of her power’.
Even decades after she left power, Thatcher’s handbags are still making news as one of them is being auctioned for an estimated £100,000 (Sh13.4 million) for charity. According to The Guardian, that is the handbag she carried when she met US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhael Gorbachev.
Back home, every young woman has a big bag, otherwise known as the ‘weekend bag’. The bag, which can literally hold a whole house, surfaces mostly on Fridays, when young women know they will not go back home till Sunday evening, or Monday morning for some, after a wild weekend out.
Such bags carry one or two knickers, a toothbrush, a pair of flat shoes or sandals and, of course, a change of clothes. The change of clothes could be an extra top or pair of jeans, or maybe a tiny dress that can be folded many times without creasing.