Born In: Grantham, Lincolnshire, England
Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s first female prime minister who held the office from 1979 to 1990. She was also a leader of the British ‘Conservative Party.’ She won three consecutive terms of office in two decades and became the only British prime minister in the twentieth century to do so. One of the most influential prime ministers of Britain, Thatcher was also the most debated stateswoman of the century, earning both respect and hatred from the public, particularly for her treatment of trade unions. She transformed the ‘Conservative Party’ into one of the most successful political parties in Britain. She earned the nickname ‘Iron Lady’ because of her leadership style and radical ideologies, which came to be known as ‘Thatcherism.’ Her journey from being a humble grocer’s daughter to winning the position of secretary of state for education and science is an inspiring one. Following her appointment as the prime minister, she introduced a new wave of economic initiatives. Margaret Thatcher was a woman of staunch values who brought about radical changes, even though her ideas were constantly under siege. She strode British politics with great astuteness and had the knack of making the most of opportunities, a trait which made her the most admired, yet controversial leader of the UK.
Nick Name: Iron Lady
Also Known As: Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher
Died At Age: 87
Spouse/Ex-: Denis Thatcher (m.1951–2003)
father: Alfred Roberts
mother: Beatrice Ethel
siblings: Muriel, Muriel Roberts
children: Carol Thatcher, Mark Thatcher
Born Country: England
political ideology: Conservative
place of death: Westminster, London, England
education: Kesteven and Grantham Girls' School, Somerville College, Oxford Inns of Court School of Law
awards: 1991 - Presidential Medal of Freedom
Margaret Thatcher was born Margaret Hilda Roberts on 13 October 1925, in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, to Alfred Roberts, a grocer, preacher, and local mayor, and Beatrice Ethel. She, along with her sister Muriel, spent most of her childhood in Grantham and helped her father with the grocery business.
Her father was active in local politics at the Methodist church and brought up both his daughters as strict Methodists. He became the mayor of Grantham in 1945 but lost his position as an alderman in 1952 when the ‘Labor Party’ came into power.
She won a scholarship to ‘Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School,’ where she was the head girl for the academic year 1942-1943. According to her school report, Thatcher showed good academic consistency and excelled in a number of extra-curricular activities.
In 1943, she attended ‘Oxford College,’ and became the president of the ‘Oxford University Conservative Association’ in 1946. While attending college, she was inspired by the political works of Friedrich von Hayek; an influence that was evident in all her reforms and policies.
She graduated with second-class honors and earned her bachelor of science in chemistry in 1947. Subsequently, she moved to Essex to work as a chemist for ‘BX Plastics.’
Thatcher first stood for Parliament in 1950 and became a Conservative contender for the ‘Dartford Labor Party’ seat. She managed to grab the attention of the media as she was the youngest representative and the only female candidate at the time.
She knew from the start that it would be nearly impossible to defeat the ‘Liberal Labor Party.’ However, she continued to work hard and gathered a fan following with her speeches. Though defeated, she remained undaunted and tried her luck as a Conservative candidate, only to be defeated again. She then married Denis Thatcher, who helped her rise to prominence.
In 1952, funded by her husband, she studied law and qualified as a barrister in 1953. Due to the birth of her twins, she could not contest for the 1955 ‘General Election,’ but soon returned to the political arena.
She won her first election campaign in 1959, winning the seat of Finchley in London, a position she held until her retirement in 1992.
She rapidly rose within the ranks of the ‘Conservative Party,’ holding a variety of positions before entering the ‘Shadow Cabinet’ in 1967.
In 1970, as the Minister for Education, Margaret Thatcher advocated a hike in the education budget, and the creation of more schools. However, her tryst with infamy began when she earned the title ‘Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher’ when she abolished a scheme providing free milk to primary school children during school hours.
She attracted a lot of negative publicity for her impulsive actions. Frustrated with the then Prime Minister Edward Heath and his contrasting ideas, she ironically declared, “I don’t think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime” in 1973.
On October 12, 1984, the Irish Republican Army planted a bomb in the hotel where Thatcher was staying in an attempt to assassinate her. The explosion killed 5 people, including a Conservative MP, and injured 31 others. However, Thatcher managed to escape the assassination attempt.
The ‘Conservative Party’ lost power in 1974, and she soon became a dominant force in the political arena.
She got elected as leader of the ‘Conservative Party’ in 1975, beating Edward Heath and becoming the first woman to serve as the opposition leader in the ‘House of Commons.’
She was finally appointed as the prime minister on May 4, 1979, defeating the opposition party which was unpopular and divided.
Britain’s economy in 1979 was in dire financial crisis and Thatcher’s first term in office saw her adopting a new economic theory known as ‘Monetarism.’
During this time, she also changed government regulations on business and subsidies, resulting in business failures, higher unemployment, and mounting inflation. She countered this problem with a change in taxation policies and money circulation, which reduced inflation levels, silencing public and economic opposition.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the Thatcher government slowly began to gain popularity after its success in the ‘Falklands War.’ Argentina invaded Falkland, a British island in the southern hemisphere, in April 1982. Thatcher directed the British island to victory, which boosted her government’s popularity.
The success of the ‘Falklands War’ led to a victory for the Conservatives. They won by a large majority during the 1982 ‘General Elections.’
After the re-election in 1983, the Conservative majority grew, and she continued to enact her economic policies. This time, she welcomed the period of ‘popular capitalism’ and introduced a sweeping drive of denationalizing state monopolies related to telephones, airports, steel, and oil.
Margaret Thatcher and her government were best identified with a set of policies, practices, and ideals known as ‘Thatcherism.’ This belief system was founded on the basis of competition, privatization, and self-reliance, and clamps down on trade unions.
In 1984, the miners protested the closure of ‘uneconomic pits,’ and refused to work. While handling the problem, which came to be known as ‘The Miners’ Strike,’ Thatcher forced the miners back to work with no allowances. During this period, she also reduced social service expenses and expressed her dislike towards the growing ‘European Union Federalism,’ which closely became associated with ‘Thatcherism.’
During her second term as prime minister (1983 to 1987), Thatcher handled a number of conflicts and crises, the most important one being the assassination attempt against her in 1984. Fearless and unharmed, she went ahead with a ‘Conservative Conference’ that was due to be held on the same day and delivered her speech.
In 1984, she signed a treaty with the Chinese government regarding the future of Hong Kong.
In 1986, she voiced her support for Ronald Reagan’s air raids on Libya and allowed the U.S. military to use British bases to launch their attacks. It is believed that during this time, America and Britain became very close allies and that Thatcher was largely instrumental in forging an important relationship with the USA.
Elected for a third term in 1987, she sought to implement a standard scholastic curriculum across the country and tried to initiate a socialized medical system. However, she lost a lot of political support in the process.
During her tenure as the prime minister for the third term, she introduced a series of new policies and changes in the revenue system. She also replaced the local government taxes with ‘Poll Tax’ and replaced residential tax policies with ‘head tax,’ leading to an economic imbalance and dissension within her party.
As a result of these extensive policies, the prime minister’s popularity declined in 1989, and economic unrest started to mount. However, she remained unfazed by the negative publicity and the widespread opposition that she received due to her decisions. She continued implementing her ideas and refused to compromise on tax and labor laws. Several protests were held at ‘Trafalgar Square’ and a number of riots ensued.
Thatcher narrowly escaped the ‘IRA’ bombing in Brighton. The bombing was part of a campaign led by the ‘IRA’ for a united and independent Ireland. The incident generated a lot of sympathy from the public, which eventually helped her win the 1989 ‘General Elections.’
On November 1, 1990, Deputy Prime Minister Geoffrey Howe resigned from his position in the Cabinet as Thatcher refused to let Britain join the ‘European Exchange Rate Mechanism.’ His resignation proved to be a fatal blow to Thatcher’s political premiership and public image.
With the economic condition worsening, the Cabinet persuaded her to resign, despite her winning four more votes than Michael Heseltine. Nevertheless, she was four votes short of absolute victory, and she finally resigned on November 28, 1990, sensing a conspiracy against her.
She was replaced by her Chancellor John Major after the 1992 ‘General Elections.’
Shortly after leaving office, she was appointed to the ‘House of Lords’ as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven in 1992. During this time, she wrote two books, ‘The Downing Street Years’ and ‘The Path to Power,’ published in 1993 and 1995, respectively. Both her books described her political experiences.
In 2003, her book ‘Statecraft’ was published. In the book, she explained her views on international politics.
For the first few years after resignation, she remained extremely active as a public speaker. However, after the death of her husband, she became a hermit. Her office in the ‘House of Lords’ was permanently closed in July 2011, marking the end of her political and public life.
She pushed through major labor union reforms, suppressed the miners’ showdown, and suppressed the coal miners’ union. She implemented labor union reforms, for which she received a lot of opposition. She replaced the local government taxes with ‘poll tax’ and also reduced income tax rates from 98% to 40%. She also slashed corporate income tax rates from 52% to 35%.
One of Thatcher’s most controversial works was the systematic selling of the government’s business assets through privatization. Thatcher sold large government companies, including airlines, steel, oil, electricity, and telephone businesses. This went on to inspire other nations around the world to do the same. Although her actions resulted in high inflation rates, historians and biographers today argue that this was probably one of Thatcher’s best moves and should have been lauded at the time.
During the Falklands Islands’ crisis, Thatcher declared war on the Argentinians with the help of the U.S. The islands were able to defend themselves, though they lacked sufficient military prowess against the Argentinians. Under the leadership of Thatcher, the Falklands Islands won their independence, and Thatcher rose to prominence again in Britain.
In 1970, Margaret Thatcher was appointed as the privy councilor, after she became the Secretary of State for Education and Science the same year.
She was made an honorary member of the ‘Carlton Club’ after becoming the leader of the ‘Conservative Party’ in 1975. She also became the first woman to enjoy full membership rights in the club.
In 1983, she was elected as a Fellow of the ‘Royal Society.’
She was awarded the highest civilian honor, the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ by the U.S. President, Ronald Reagan, in 1991.
She was appointed as a ‘Member of the Order of Merit,’ which was conferred upon her by the queen. The honor was conferred within two weeks of retiring from the ‘House of Commons’ in 1992.
In 1992, ‘Time’ magazine included her in the list of ‘100 most important people of the 20th century.’
She was appointed to the highest order of chivalry as the ‘Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter’ in 1995.
She became an honorary recipient of the ‘Ronald Reagan Freedom Award’ in 1998.
She married Sir Denis Thatcher in December 1951, and the couple had twins; Carol Thatcher and Mark Thatcher.
Sir Dennis Thatcher passed away due to pancreatic cancer on June 26, 2003, after which Margaret became a recluse, avoiding public appearances.
She suffered a number of strokes during her third term as prime minister; one of the reasons the Cabinet persuaded her to resign.
She was close friends with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and was deeply saddened by his demise on June 11, 2004. She attended his memorial service and delivered her eulogy via videotape.
She suffered from bouts of dementia and had to be repeatedly informed that her husband, Sir Denis Thatcher, had passed away.
On December 21, 2012, she underwent an operation to remove a non-cancerous growth from her bladder.
She passed away on 8 April 2013, at ‘The Ritz Hotel’ after suffering a stroke.
Margaret Thatcher revised Britain’s economy, implemented tax policies, and subdued trade unions by way of ‘Thatcherism,’ her own political philosophy. To date, a number of Conservatives in parts of Western and Southern England and Ireland swear by Thatcher’s ideologies.
This British prime minister was considered a ‘newbie’ prime minister in Japan during her first term and was offered protection by a couple of female karate experts during her visit to Japan.
This prominent political figure had to change the tone of her voice to sound more authoritative, for which she had to work with a vocal coach from the national theatre institute.
During her term as prime minister, she never appointed a cook and cooked dinner for her husband every day.
This British prime minister worked 18 hours a day and would wind up the day with a glass of her favorite scotch.
During her formative years as prime minister, she was given the nickname ‘Iron Lady’ by the USSR.
This famous personality was portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep in the 2011 film, ‘The Iron Lady.’
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