Thatcher, Margaret (1925–)
Thatcher, Margaret (1925–)
British prime minister. Name variations: Margaret Roberts; Mrs. Thatcher; Lady Thatcher. Born Margaret Roberts in Grantham, England, Oct 13, 1925; dau. of Alfred Roberts (shopkeeper and mayor of Grantham) and Beatrice Roberts; attended Somerville College, Oxford, 1943–47; m. Denis Thatcher (London businessman), Dec 1951; children: (twins) Carol and Mark (b. 1953).
First female Conservative Party leader and prime minister (1979–90), who made as strong a mark on British politics as any 20th-century prime minister; while attending Somerville College, became president of the University's Conservative Association—the 1st woman to hold that office; worked as a research chemist (1947–51); ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Parliament (1950), in the pro-Labour constituency of Dartford, Kent; passed the bar (1954); practiced law, concentrating on tax cases (1954–59); after several more unsuccessful bids for a parliamentary seat, won position of MP for Finchley (part of north London, 1959), when Conservatives were in power; appointed junior minister in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (1961), where she was soon a dominant presence; when the Conservatives lost the General Election of 1964, served as parliamentary opposition speaker 1st on Pensions, then on Housing, Finance, Transport, and finally Education (1964–70); served as secretary of state for Education and Science (1970–74); elected Conservative Party leader (1975); gained international prominence as an outspoken leader of the opposition (1975–79); elected prime minister, the 1st woman to hold Britain's highest political office (1979); in following decade, known as "The Iron Lady," carried out a conservative revolution even more dramatic than that of her friend and counterpart Ronald Reagan, denationalizing primary industries, curbing union power, and selling public-housing units to their occupants; won the war in the Falkland Islands (1982); reelected prime minister (1983 and 1987), thereby winning 3 consecutive general elections, which no British premier had done since early 19th century, and dominating her party more completely than any other politician of the century; introduced a ruinously unpopular "poll tax," changing the local taxation structure and imposing the burden less progressively than hitherto; also remained suspicious of Britain's role in European Economic Community; losing support of her party, resigned as prime minister (1990); elevated to a life peerage as Lady Thatcher (1992), became one of the elder chiefs of state of the Western world.
See also memoirs The Downing Street Years (HarperCollins, 1993) and The Path to Power (HarperCollins, 1995); E. Bruce Geelhoed, Margaret Thatcher: In Victory and Downfall (Prager, 1992); Penny Junor, Margaret Thatcher: Wife, Mother, Politician (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1983); Dennis Kavanagh, Thatcherism and British Politics (Oxford U. Press, 1990); Alan Watkins, A Conservative Coup: The Fall of Margaret Thatcher (Duckworth, 1991); Leo Abse, Margaret, Daughter of Beatrice (Cape, 1989); and Women in World History.