Best known for: Being the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Nickname: The Iron Lady
Margaret Thatcher served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. She was the first woman to serve in Britain's highest political office. During her time as Prime Minister she was a staunch conservative. She also was an important leader for democracy in the Cold War against communism and the Soviet Union.
Where did she grow up?
She was born Margaret Roberts in Grantham, England on October 13, 1925. Her father was a local businessman and store owner. She had an older sister, Muriel, and the family lived above her father's grocery store.
Margaret learned early on about politics from her father Alfred who served as both alderman and Mayor of Grantham. Margaret attended Oxford University where she graduated with a degree in Chemistry.
While attending Oxford, Margaret became interested in politics. She became a strong believer in a conservative government where the government has a limited amount of intervention in business. She served as president of the Oxford University Conservative Association. After graduating in 1947 she got a job working as a chemist.
Margaret Thatcher by Marion S. Trikosko
Margaret Enters Politics
A few years later Margaret tried running for office for the first time. She ran for the parliamentary seat in Dartford twice, losing both times. Being a conservative, she had little chance to win, but it was good experience for her. She then went back to school and earned her law degree.
Time in Parliament
In 1959 Thatcher won a seat on the House of Commons representing Finchley. She would serve there in some manner for the next 30 years.
In 1970 Margaret was appointed to the position of Education Secretary. Her position in the Conservative Party continued to rise over the next few years. In 1975 when the Conservative Party lost the majority position, she took over the leadership of the party and was the first woman to become Leader of the Opposition.
Thatcher became Prime Minister on May 4, 1979. She held the top position in the United Kingdom for over 10 years. Here is a list of some of the most noteworthy events and accomplishments during this time:
Falkland War - One of the most important events during Thatcher's term was the Falkland War. On April 2, 1982 Argentina invaded the British Falkland Islands. Thatcher quickly sent British troops to retake the island. Although it was a difficult task, the British armed forces were able to take back the Falklands in a few short months and on June 14, 1982 the Islands were once again under British control.
Cold War - Margaret played an important role in the Cold War. She allied herself with US President Ronald Reagan against the communist state of the Soviet Union. She held a very hard line against communism, but at the same time welcomed the easing of relations with Mikhail Gorbachev. It was during her leadership that the Cold War effectively came to an end.
Union Reform - One of Thatcher's goals was to reduce the power of the trade unions. She managed this for the length of her term, standing her ground in a miner's strike. Eventually strikes and lost worker's days were significantly reduced.
Privatization - Thatcher felt that moving some government run industries such as utilities into private ownership would help the economy. In general, this helped as prices were reduced over time.
Economy - Thatcher implemented a number of changes at the start of her term including privatization, union reform, increased interest rates, and changes in taxes. At first, things did not go well, but after a few years the economy began to improve.
Assassination Attempt - On October 12, 1984 a bomb went off at the Brighton Hotel where Thatcher was staying. While it damaged her hotel room, Margaret was fine. It was an assassination attempt by the Irish Republican Army.
On November 28, 1990 Thatcher resigned from office under pressure from the conservatives that her policies on taxes were going to hurt them in the coming elections.
Life After Being Prime Minister
Margaret continued to serve as a Member of Parliament until 1992 when she retired. She remained active in politics, wrote several books, and gave speeches for the next 10 years. In 2003 her husband Denis died and she suffered a number of small strokes. She died ten years later on April 8, 2013 in London.
Interesting Facts About Margaret Thatcher
She married Denis Thatcher in 1951. She and Denis had two children, twins Mark and Carol.
While Secretary of Education she ended a free milk program in the schools. She was known for a time as "Thatcher, the milk snatcher".
Her brand of conservatism and politics is often referred to as Thatcherism today.
She got her nickname "The Iron Lady" from Soviet Captain Yuri Gavrilov in response to her strong opposition to communism.
She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the United States.
As to why she was in politics she said "I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil, and I believe that in the end good will triumph."