Margaret Thatcher

British stateswoman and prime minister (1979–1990)

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher LG OM DStJ PC FRS (13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013) was a British stateswoman. She served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) from 1979 to 1990,[1] longer than any other British prime minister in the 20th century. She led the UK's Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. Thatcher was the first female British prime minister and was often known by the nickname "The Iron Lady", given to her by a journalist from the Soviet Union.[2] Her birth name was Margaret Hilda Roberts.


The Baroness Thatcher

headshot of Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher (1983)
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
4 May 1979 – 28 November 1990
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputySir Geoffrey Howe (1989–90)
Preceded byJames Callaghan
Succeeded byJohn Major
Leader of the Opposition
In office
11 February 1975 – 4 May 1979
MonarchElizabeth II
Prime Minister
Preceded byEdward Heath
Succeeded byJames Callaghan
Leader of the Conservative Party
In office
11 February 1975 – 28 November 1990
DeputyThe Viscount Whitelaw
Preceded byEdward Heath
Succeeded byJohn Major
Ministerial offices
Secretary of State
for Education and Science
In office
20 June 1970 – 4 March 1974
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Preceded byEdward Short
Succeeded byReg Prentice
Parliamentary Secretary
to the Minister for Pensions
In office
9 October 1961 – 16 October 1964
Prime Minister
Preceded byPatricia Hornsby-Smith
Succeeded byNorman Pentland
Shadow Secretary of State
for the Environment
In office
5 March 1974 – 11 February 1975
LeaderEdward Heath
ShadowingAnthony Crosland
Preceded byAnthony Crosland
Succeeded byTimothy Raison
Shadow Secretary of State
for Education and Science
In office
10 January 1967 – 20 June 1970
LeaderEdward Heath
Shadowing
Preceded byRichard Crossman
Succeeded byEdward Short
Parliamentary offices
Member of the House of Lords
Life peerage
30 June 1992 – 8 April 2013
Member of Parliament
for Finchley
In office
8 October 1959 – 16 March 1992
Preceded bySir John Crowder
Succeeded byHartley Booth
Personal details
Born
Margaret Hilda Roberts

(1925-10-13)13 October 1925
Grantham, Lincolnshire, England
Died8 April 2013(2013-04-08) (aged 87)
Westminster, London, England
Resting placeRoyal Hospital Chelsea
51°29′15″N 0°09′30″W / 51.4874°N 0.1582°W / 51.4874; -0.1582
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)
Denis Thatcher
(m. 1951; died 2003)
Children
ParentsAlfred Roberts (father)
Education
Kesteven and Grantham Girls' School
Alma mater
Occupation
WebsiteFoundation

Thatcher studied chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford, and worked briefly as a research chemist, before becoming a barrister. She was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Finchley in 1959. Edward Heath made her a Secretary of State in his government of 1970 to 1974. In 1975, she beat Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become Leader of the Opposition and the first woman to lead a major British political party. In 1979, she was elected Prime Minister, and won a landslide re-election in 1983 after victory in the 1982 Falklands War and the recovering economy brought a revival of support.

Thatcher was re-elected for a third term with another landslide in 1987, but her following support for the Community Charge ("poll tax") was very unpopular, and her more Eurosceptic views on the European Community were not shared by others in her Cabinet. She resigned as Prime Minister and party leader in November 1990, after a challenge was made by Michael Heseltine to her leadership. After retiring from the House of Commons in 1992, she was given a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, which gave her the right to sit in the House of Lords. In 2013, she died of a stroke in London, at the age of 87.

Although a controversial figure in British political culture, Thatcher is still viewed positively in most opinion polls of British prime ministers. The debate over her neoliberal policies and legacy in the UK continues into the 21st century.

Early lifeEdit

Margaret Roberts was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, on 13 October 1925. Her father was Alfred Roberts, a tobacconist originally from Northamptonshire. Her mother was Beatrice Ethel Stephenson, from Lincolnshire.

Thatcher studied chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford. In her final year, she studied X-ray crystallography under Dorothy Hodgkin, who later won the Nobel Prize. She was already interested in politics, and became President of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946.[3] Roberts read political works such as Friedrich von Hayek's The Road to Serfdom (1944), which said economic intervention by government was wrong, because it gave too much power to the state. After graduating, Roberts moved to Colchester in Essex to work as a research chemist for BX Plastics.[3]

She was elected an MP in 1959. She became Education Secretary in 1970.

As Prime MinisterEdit

Thatcher directed British troops in 1982 to get back the Falkland Islands from Argentina. Argentina had taken the Falklands for a short time during the Falklands War. She had the second longest single prime ministerial term in history.[source?] She married Denis Thatcher; they had twins: son Mark and daughter Carol.[4]

She suffered from strong opposition during a coal miner's strike in 1984 and 1985. The strike took away political power from the miners' union. There was also controversy when she introduced a poll tax to Britain. This caused rioting across the country.

She was forced to resign by her own party in 1990. She was replaced by John Major. In 1992, she stood down as PM. She then joined the House of Lords. From then on, she was known as "Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven".[1]

During Thatcher's years as prime minister, unemployment rose a lot. It doubled during her first term. In 1982, 3 million people were unemployed. Unemployment started to decline again only in the mid- to late-1980s. Since the mid-1990s, Britain has consistently had lower unemployment than most of continental Europe. Thatcher's supporters claim this is the result of her reform of the labour market. This is disputed by her opponents.

 
Thatcher with President Ronald Reagan in 1985

During the near end of the Cold War, Thatcher became one of the closest friends of Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States.

She is remembered in the UK for reducing the trade union movement's power. Trade unions were much more powerful in the 1970s. Thatcher did much to reduce their influence on British industry.

Thatcher was the first woman to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She was also the first woman to be Conservative Party leader.

Personal lifeEdit

 
Portrait of Lady Thatcher

In February 1949, she met Denis Thatcher. They met at a Paint Trades Federation event in Dartford. They married on 13 December 1951, at a chapel in City Road, London; the Robertses, Margaret's parents, were Methodists. Margaret and Denis had twin children, Carol and Mark, who were born on 15 August 1953, six weeks prematurely by Caesarean section.

Later lifeEdit

Her husband Denis died in 2003 from pancreatic cancer. She attended Ronald Reagan's funeral service in 2004. In the later years of her life, she suffered from dementia and withdrew from public engagements in 2002.[5] In 2006, Thatcher attended the official Washington memorial service to mark the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States (US). She was a guest of Vice President Dick Cheney, and met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit. She would also visit several times for ceremonies that honoured Reagan.[source?]

DeathEdit

Thatcher died from a stroke on 8 April 2013 at her hotel room in London, aged 87.[6] She had bladder cancer and dementia at the time of her death.[7] In line with her wishes she received a ceremonial funeral, including full military honours, with a church service at St Paul's Cathedral on 17 April. Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip attended the funeral, only the second time in the Queen's reign that she had attended the funeral of a former prime minister.

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Margaret Thatcher". BBC History. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  2. Frei, Matt (24 October 2007). "Washington diary: Best of friends?". BBC News. Retrieved 5 September 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Beckett, Clare (2006). Margaret Thatcher. Haus. pp. 17/21. ISBN 978-1-904950-71-4.
  4. "Essential Margaret Thatcher". Margaret Thatcher Foundation. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  5. "Book Recounts Margaret Thatcher's Decline". CBS News. 11 February 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  6. "Ex-Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher dies". BBC News. 8 April 2013. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  7. Mason, Rowena (16 April 2013). "Margaret Thatcher described as 'retired stateswoman' on death certificate". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 June 2017.

Other websitesEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom (1801–present)
Preceded by
John Crowder
Member of Parliament for Finchley
1959–1992
Succeeded by
Hartley Booth
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Short
Secretary of State for Education and Science
1970–1974
Succeeded by
Reg Prentice
Preceded by
Edward Heath
Leader of the Opposition
1975–1979
Succeeded by
James Callaghan
Preceded by
James Callaghan
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1979–1990
Succeeded by
John Major
Party political offices
Preceded by
Edward Heath
Leader of the Conservative Party
1975–1990
Succeeded by
John Major
Awards
Preceded by
Bob Hope
Recipient of the Ronald Reagan Freedom Award
1998
Succeeded by
Billy Graham