She was dubbed the ‘Iron Lady’ for her strength of will and unwavering commitment to conservative government. Love her or loathe her – as many did – she was the dominant force in English politics for the better part of two decades, serving as Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. Margaret Thatcher died today at the age of 87, the result of a stroke.
Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, is credited with ushering Britain out of an economic malaise, and along with her good friend, Ronald Reagan, re-igniting political conservatism in the west. She was beloved and reviled by many. Conservatives viewed her as a hero and a warrior who faced the hard truths and acted accordingly. Her opponents saw her as cold-hearted, willing to let others suffer for her ideological or political gains.
Thatcher was born Margaret Hilda Roberts in 1925, in Lincolnshire. She married Denis Thatcher in 1951 and had two children. She was first elected to Parliament in 1959, quickly becoming a force in the Tory party. She would become prime minister in 1979 and serve until 1990. Her initial steps once in office was to re-invitorate an economy that had stagnated. Her policies did not include rescuing dying industries, thus letting England’s crumbling industrial infrastructure die. The fight was bitter, with a coal minors strike lasting a full year. But she triumphed in the end, defeating the standard bearers of old English working society. The costs were brutal, with entire industries collapsing – along with the communities that lived off them. Many would never forgive her.
Thatcher would score a victory at home by retaking the Falklands Islands after a dispute with Argentina.
Internationally, she would find a soulmate in U.S. President Ronald Reagan, taking on communism and watching it collapse by the decade’s end. But by 1990, with the Cold War coming to a close, the world showed Thatcher the door. Her brand of leadership – along with a rise by Britain’s Labour party – was outdated to many.
She would retire from Parliament in 1992. In 2002, she suffered several small strokes. On the advice of doctors, she stopped most of her public speaking events, effectively going into a retirement for the last decade.