Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, DStJ, PC, FRS, HonFRSC née Roberts; 13 October 1925–8 April 2013), also known as “Thatcher,” served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and as Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990.
She held the office longer than any other British prime minister in the twentieth century and made history as the first woman to do so.
Thatcherism refers to the measures she enacted while prime minister. She was given the moniker “Iron Lady” by a Soviet journalist, which came to be linked with her tough stance on political issues and her authoritative leadership.
Early Life and Education
Margaret Thatcher, whose birth name was Margaret Roberts, was born to Beatrice and Alfred Thatcher on October 13, 1925, in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England.
Her father was a Methodist minister, and she was taught the strict tenets of the faith by his example. As a child, Thatcher attended Huntingtower Road Primary School, and later, she received a full scholarship at Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School.
While there, she was active in the school’s poetry and field hockey clubs, in addition to playing the piano. Thatcher enlisted in the local Air Raid Precautions organization to serve as a fire watcher during WWII.
During her time at university, Thatcher majored in chemistry at Oxford’s Somerville College. She received her bachelor’s degree in 1947 and her master’s degree in 1950. Thatcher led the Oxford University Conservative Association during her time there.
A Controversial Political Legacy
If you look at it via a feminist lens, Thatcher’s legacy is “difficult,” as Purvis put it when asked if women look forward to her as a role model.
“Feminists do not like her because she did not propose women-friendly policies. She had a very combative style of leadership. She wanted conflict. She didn’t like agreement in any way,” she said.
She wasn’t a leader who rallied support from the female half of the population, as I’ve always imagined her to be: “a queen bee, who likes to be surrounded by males and likes to discuss and argue with them.”
Thatcher’s legacy in politics as a whole is just as divisive.
According to Purvis, the privatization of the country’s state-owned utilities, including electricity and gas, was her primary priority at the commencement of her tenure as prime minister.
Some Britons liked Thatcher because she made it possible for those living in council housing to own their homes, while many in the working class hated her because she wanted to dominate the country’s labor organizations.
According to Purvis, “we had photographs of policemen with helmets on and batons attacking miners in their own villages who were attempting to save not only their employees but also a way of life,” and this still shocks people today.
She went on to say, “I think the controlling of the unions and the closure of coal mines—where unions were very, very effective—was really the key things that most people found particularly abhorrent about her.” This led to an increase in unemployment, which eventually reached over three million people.
Shortly after implementing what Purvis called “a poll tax whereby every member in a family would be charged rather than the house itself,” Thatcher’s rule came to an end in 1990.
That’s what got her into trouble in the first place, sparking protests and ultimately leading to her removal from office at the hands of her own cabinet.
After finishing college, Thatcher accepted a position as a research chemist at BX Plastics in Colchester, Essex. Following this, she relocated to Dartford and began working as a research chemist for J. “Lyons & Co.”
In 1950, Thatcher made her debut in politics when she ran as a Conservative for the Labour seat of Dartford. She ran again in 1951.
She was defeated twice by Norman Dodds. Later, in 1953, Thatcher became a barrister after taking and passing the bar exam.
In 1979, Thatcher made history when she became the first woman to serve as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She implemented a number of conservative policies while prime minister, including measures to reduce inflation and forestall a recession in the United Kingdom.
She hiked indirect taxes and interest rates, reduced social service funding, and imposed monetary constraints on government spending.
Thatcher also attempted to reduce the influence of labor unions and managed the deregulation of the banking sector and the privatization of state-owned firms. Thatcher’s popularity plummeted as the UK’s economic crisis worsened and unemployment soared.
When the United Kingdom won the Falklands War in 1982 and the economy started to improve, Thatcher’s popularity soared once more. Later, in 1983, she was re-elected with a huge majority. The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) attempted to assassinate her and other members of the British government in the Brighton hotel bombing the following year.
Several strikes occurred at this time, the most notable being the one led by the National Union of Mineworkers in response to Thatcher’s relentless attacks on trade unions.
She was re-elected in 1987 with another landslide victory, despite the many scandals that had dogged her in the previous years.
However, she was challenged for her position as a leader when she was widely criticized for her backing of the poll tax and her growing skepticism of the European Union. As a result, in 1990, Thatcher stepped down from her position as prime minister and party leader.
Personal Life and Death
Thatcher first met businessman and divorcee Denis Thatcher in 1949. They tied the knot in 1951 and stayed together until Denis’s death in 2003. The Thatchers’ offspring, Mark and Carol, were identical twins.
In the early 2000s, Thatcher experienced a series of mini-strokes. The truth about her dementia only came out later.
As a result of hypotension, she fainted at a meal at the House of Lords in early 2008. After injuring her arm in a fall the previous year, Thatcher was admitted to the hospital once more the following year. She suffered a stroke in April 2013 and died in London at age 87.
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