Margaret Thatcher

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The Baroness Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher cropped2.png
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
4 May 1979 – 28 November 1990
DeputyWilliam Whitelaw, 1st Viscount Whitelaw (1979 - 1988)
Geoffrey Howe (1988 - 1990)
Preceded byJames Callaghan
Succeeded byJohn Major
Personal details
Born(1925-10-13)13 October 1925
Grantham, Lincolnshire, England
Died8 April 2013(2013-04-08) (aged 87)
London, England
Cause of deathStroke
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Sir Denis Thatcher, Bt.
(m. 1951-2003, his death)
RelationsAlfred Roberts
ChildrenMark Thatcher, Carol Thatcher
OccupationPolitician, lawyer, chemist

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher LG OM PC FRS 13 October 1925 – 8 April 2013) was the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She was prime minister from 1979 to 1990.[1] Her birth name was Margaret Hilda Roberts. She led the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990.

She was often known by the nickname "The Iron Lady", given to her by a Soviet journalist.[2]

Early life[change | change source]

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, on 13 October 1925. Her father was Alfred Roberts. He was a Tobacconist and was originally from Northamptonshire. Her mother was Beatrice Ethel (née 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 to Parliament in 1959. She became Secretary for Education in 1970.

As Prime Minister[change | change source]

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. She married Denis Thatcher; they had twins: son Mark and daughter Carol.[4]

Thatcher with United States President Ronald Reagan in November 1988

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 unelmployed. Unemployment started to decline again only in the 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.

During the near end of the Cold War, Thatcher became close friends with President of the United States, Ronald Reagan.

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 life[change | change source]

Mikhail Gorbachev (left), Brian Mulroney (center), and Thatcher (right) at Ronald Reagan's funeral, June 2004

In February 1949, she met Denis Thatcher. They met at a Paint Trades Federation function in Dartford. They married on 13 December 1951, at Wesley's Chapel in City Road, London: the Robertses were Methodists. They had twin children, Carol and Mark, who were born on 15 August 1953, six weeks prematurely.

Later life[change | change source]

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, D.C. memorial service to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States. She was a guest of Vice President Dick Cheney, and met Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit. She also visited several times to the U.S. for ceremonies that honored Ronald Reagan.

Death[change | change source]

She died from a stroke on 8 April 2013 in London, England.[6] 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.

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "BBC History - Margaret Thatcher". BBC. Retrieved 2013-04-08.
  2. Frei, Matt (2007-10-24). "Washington diary: Best of friends?". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-09-05.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Beckett, Clare 2006. Margaret Thatcher. Haus Publishing, 17/21. ISBN 978-1-904950-71-4
  4. "Essential Margaret Thatcher | Margaret Thatcher Foundation". 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 18 April 2011. Check date values in: |year= (help)
  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.

Other websites[change | change source]

Media related to Margaret Thatcher at Wikimedia Commons