Inspiring Women Series: Margaret Thatcher

October 4, 2020

"If you want something said ask a man. If you want something done as a woman." ~ Margaret Thatcher 

Inspiring Women Series: Margaret Thatcher 

Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, born October 13, 1925 was a British stateswoman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom  from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century and the first woman to hold that office. A Soviet journalist dubbed her the "Iron Lady", a nickname that became associated with her uncompromising politics and leadership style.

Thatcher spent her childhood in Grantham, where her father owned a grocery shop.  In 1938, prior to the Second World War, the Roberts family briefly gave sanctuary to a teenage Jewish girl who had escaped Nazi Germany. Margaret, with her elder sister Muriel, saved pocket money to help pay for the teenager's journey.

Thatcher studied chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford, and worked briefly as a research chemist, before becoming a barrister.  In 1975, she defeated Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election to become Leader of the Opposition, the first woman to lead a major political party in the United Kingdom. On becoming Prime Minister after winning the 1979 general election, Thatcher introduced a series of economic policies intended to reverse high unemployment and Britain's struggles and an ongoing recession. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasized deregulation  (particularly of the financial sector), flexible labor markets, the privatization of state-owned companies, and reducing the power and influence of trade unions. Her popularity in her first years in office waned amid recession and rising unemployment, until victory in the 1982 Falklands War and the recovering economy brought a resurgence of support, resulting in her landslide re-election in 1983. She survived an assassination attempt by the Provisional IRA in the 1984 Brighton hotel bombing  and achieved a political victory against the National Union of Mineworkers in the 1984-85 miners' strike. 

Thatcher was re-elected for a third term with another landslide in 1987,  but her subsequent support for the Community Charge, a poll tax was widely unpopular. She resigned as head of government and party leader in November 1990. After retiring in 1992, she was given a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher which entitled her to sit in the House of Lords.  In 2013, she died of a stroke at  the Ritz Hotel in London, at the age of 87.

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