Remembering 'Iron Lady' Margaret Thatcher

Apr 09, 2013, 09:14 IST | Agencies

Britain's first and only female prime minister Margaret Thatcher died at the age of 87 following a stroke

Margaret Thatcher, the most dominant British prime minister since Winston Churchill in 1940 and a global champion of the late 20th century free market economic revival, passed away yesterday. Her spokesman, Lord Bell, said: “It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning.”

Election elation: Margaret Thatcher waves from the steps of No 10 Downing Street with Denis after becoming Britain's first female Prime Minister in 1979.

Britain’s first and only woman prime minister, who won three consecutive general elections, has been in fragile health since she suffered a series of minor strokes leading to memory loss more than a decade ago. She spent 11 years in Downing Street, the longest run by any 20th century British prime minister. In 1990, a leadership challenge forced her to leave No 10 and two years later she was made a life peer, as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven.

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Margaret Thatcher’s funeral will take place with full military honours at St Paul’s and won’t be a state funeral. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short a trip to Europe on Monday, where he was lobbying EU leaders about reform, following the death of the former premier. He tweeted, “It was with great sadness that l learned of Lady Thatcher’s death. We’ve lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister and a great Briton.” On his Twitter feed, London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “Very sad to hear of death of Baroness Thatcher. Her memory will live long after the world has forgotten the grey suits of today’s politics.”

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From grocer to PM
A grocer’s daughter with a no-nonsense style of leadership, Thatcher was elected to Parliament at age 34 and climbed the Conservative Party ladder.
She became its leader at age 50 and swept into 10 Downing Street four years later. Behind the bouffant hair, trademark handbag and schoolm’am voice was an uncompromising Conservative who regularly cut her male colleagues with a sharp tongue and even sharper political brain. Thatcher’s ‘iron’ reputation comes in part from her having persisted in liberalisation of the economy despite a wave of strikes and protests. She oversaw a sea change in government policies, industrial relations and the balance of power in the workplace.

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Margaret Thatcher not only promoted the concept of family life throughout her political career, she was also someone for whom the family was an essential part of her own life.She said many times that she could not have achieved what she did without the help and support of her husband Denis, 10 years her senior. He was, she once said, "the golden thread running through my life" - the man “who has made everything possible”. Although she rarely showed emotion in public, behind closed doors she was known occasionally to weep at the end of tumultuous days, especially during the Falklands conflict. A year after her wedding, Margaret became pregnant. And in the August of 1953, seven weeks early, she gave birth to twins Carol and Mark. 

Thatcher and Reagan: Perfect soulmates
Thatcher shattered class and gender barriers to win elections in 1979 as Britain’s first female prime minister, engineer Britain’s victory over Argentina in the 1982 war over the Falkland Islands, and become a critical ally and ideological soul mate of President Ronald Reagan in the West’s Cold War triumph over Soviet communism in Europe. Like her close friend and political ally Ronald Reagan, Thatcher seemed motivated by an unshakable belief that free markets would build a better country than reliance on a strong, central government. Another thing she shared with the American president: a tendency to reduce problems to their basics, choose a path, and follow it to the end, no matter what the opposition. She formed a deep attachment to the man she called “Ronnie” — some spoke of it as a schoolgirl crush. Still, she would not back down when she disagreed with him on important matters, even though the United States was the richer and vastly stronger partner in the so-called “special relationship.”

Thatcher in quotes
The Iron Lady known for her no-nonsense attitude was famous for her remarks. These are a few that are forever etched in history:
If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.
— Speech to National Union of Townswomen’s Guilds Conference on May 20, 1965

You turn if you want to. The lady’s not for turning
— Speech to Conservative Party Conference on October 10, 1980

I am extraordinarily patient – provided I get my own way in the end.
— European Council meeting on March 31, 1982

You know, if you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything, wouldn't you, at any time? And you would achieve nothing!
— On her 10th anniversary as Prime Minister on May 3, 1989

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