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The Iron Lady: nicknaming the Eiffel Tower

Monday 22 November 2021

Modified the 22/11/21

Why do we call it the Iron Lady?

The Iron Lady is the most common nickname for the Eiffel Tower. 

But why the Eiffel Tower? 

When the project was put together in 1885, it was called “the 300-Meter Iron Tower”, but that soon became “Mr Eiffel’s Tower”, then “the Eiffel Tower”, after its prestigious creator, Gustave Eiffel. In 1900, Eiffel published the story of designing and building the tower in a very detailed work (with plans and technical drawings) titled “The 300-Meter Tower”. When the book was republished in 1902, the title changed to “The Eiffel Tower in 1900”, making the name official. 

Why is the monument a lady? 

While the name, the “Eiffel Tower”, entered the common language at the time of its inauguration, its female nature appeared more gradually over the 20th century. Of course, it can be traced back to the fact that the noun “tour” or tower in French is feminine. And if we add a bit of anthropomorphism, we can see that the monument’s four pillars, also known as legs or feet, are covered with a lacy “skirt”, from the mesh structure enhanced with fine decorative arches between the pillars. 
As a symbol of the arrival of iron, industry and science, the Eiffel Tower can also be seen to be in an  atypical conversation with another lady of Paris, her Gothic older sister and symbol of religion, Notre-Dame. 
In the 1930s, when the Tower was nearing 50 years old, various nicknames flourished in the press and publications:  “the Tall Lady”, “the Tall Beautiful Lady”, then “the Tall Iron Lady”, sometimes, remarking on her age, it was “the Old Iron Lady”... However, it was simply “the Iron Lady” which stuck and was picked up particularly by the press.

Why iron?

Of course, this is the metal that the Tower’s structure is made out of: more precisely, puddled iron, which has undergone specific processing to make it purer and even more durable, while remaining less rigid than steel and lighter. The Tower has also become a symbol of solidity and resistance to all temperatures and storms, in short, all the weather conditions that Paris has experienced over more than 130 years. If it is maintained according to best practice and repainted every 7 years like Gustave Eiffel advised, its lifespan has no limit.

What about the other Iron Lady?

At the end of the 1970s, another “Iron Lady” appeared on the scene. The British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was given this nickname by a Soviet newspaper, for being unyielding and impervious to criticism and attacks! This nickname was given less affectionately and spread like wildfire. It has survived Thatcher through to present day. 
 

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