Margaret Thatcher

The Iron Lady as Margaret Thatcher often referred to is widely considered one of the most influential women in both Britain’s and world’s politics. She is renowned for her strong leadership, while her politics is often referred to as Thatcherism. The term, however, is sometimes also used to describe the British government as a whole during Thatcher’s leadership from the late 1970s to 1990.

Early Life

Margaret Thatcher was born as Margaret Roberts in Grantham in 1925 as the second child to Alfred Roberts and his wife Beatrice Ethel. Her father was an active politician and served as an alderman as well as a Methodist local preacher. From 1945 to 1946, he was also Mayor of Grantham. Margaret entered politics after she graduated from Oxford in 1947 although she was involved in student politics and was elected the President of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1946. After graduating, she moved to Colchester where she worked as a research chemist. In Colchester, she also joined the local Conservative Association. She was soon encouraged to run as Conservative candidate for Dartford. She was adopted as the party’s candidate at a formal dinner in 1951 where she also met her future husband Denis Thatcher.

Political Career

As the youngest and only female candidate in the 1951 general election, Margaret attracted a lot of attention but she lost to the Labour candidate. She once again ran for the seat in the Parliament for Finchley in 1959 and won. As MP, Thatcher soon began to rise on the political scene. Under Edward Heath, she served as Secretary of State for Education and Science and in 1975, she won against Heath in the Conservative Party leadership election. Thatcher became the Leader of the Opposition but she also became the first female leader of a major political party in the UK.

Prime Minister of the UK

After winning the 1979 general election, Margaret Thatcher became the Prime Minister of the UK and the only woman to date to have held the post. She introduced a series of political and economic reforms but she wasn’t particularly popular during her first years as Prime Minister, mainly due to recession and high unemployment rates. This changed after the country economically recovered, while her ratings also grew due to the Falklands War in 1982. One year later, she was re-elected.

In 1987, Thatcher was re-elected for a third term but she began to lose popularity due to the so-called “poll tax” as her Community Charge was popularly referred to, while her policy towards the European Community was opposed by some of the members of her Cabinet. Faced with a challenge for leadership by Michael Heseltine, Thatcher resigned both as Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party in 1990. She then returned to the Parliament as MP for Finchley but she permanently withdrew from politics two years later. Her life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire, however, entitles her to a seat in the House of Lords.