- (chiefly Southern US) A woman who exemplifies both traditional femininity and an uncommon fortitude.
1983, Roland Bartel, Metaphors and symbols: Forays into Language, National Council of Teachers of English, ↑ISBN, page 48:
- Reporters called Nancy Reagan an iron butterfly and Rosalind[sic] Carter a steel magnolia.
1998, John Berendt (introduction), The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook, Random House, Inc., ↑ISBN, page xv:
- Ms. Deen is an irresistible example of that extraordinary phenomenon of Southern womanhood, the steel magnolia. She is always appealing and gracious but possessed of an unfailing survival instinct — a necessary character trait for a Southern cook to make it.
- "That's how Candy refers to herself to make the vamps think she's just a little Southern belle."
- "When she's really a steel magnolia?"