British Prime Minister. Great Britain's first female Prime Minister, she served three consecutive terms in office and was one of the dominant political figures of the 20th century. Born Margaret Hilda Roberts, the daughter of a grocer, she went to Oxford University and became a research chemist. In 1951, she married Denis Thatcher, a wealthy businessman, with whom she had two children and went on to become a lawyer in 1954. She became a Conservative Party member of parliament for Finchley in North London in 1959. Her first parliamentary post was junior minister for pensions in Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's government, then served in a number of positions in Edward Heath's shadow cabinet from 1964 to 1970. When he became Prime Minister in 1970, Margaret Thatcher was appointed Secretary for Education. After the Conservatives were defeated in 1974, Thatcher challenged Heath for the leadership of the party and, to the surprise of many, won. In the 1979 general election, the Conservatives came to power and she was elected Prime Minister. She was an advocate of privatizing state-owned industries and utilities, reforming trade unions, lowering taxes and reducing social expenditure across the board. Her policies succeeded in reducing inflation, but unemployment dramatically increased during her years in power. In 1982, victory in the Falklands War and a divided opposition helped Thatcher win a landslide victory in the 1983 general election. The following year she narrowly escaped death when the Irish Republican Army planted an explosive at the Conservative Party conference in Brighton. In foreign affairs, she cultivated a close political and personal relationship with then United States President Ronald Reagan. Thatcher was nicknamed the 'Iron Lady' by the Soviets and welcomed the rise of reformist Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev. In the 1987 general election, she won an unprecedented third term in office, but controversial policies, including the poll tax and her opposition to any closer integration with Europe, produced divisions within her party which led to a leadership challenge. In November 1990, she agreed to resign and was succeeded as party leader and Prime Minister by John Major and two years later, she left the House of Commons. She was appointed a peeress in the House of Lords with the title of Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven and continued giving speeches and lectures across the world. She also founded the Thatcher Foundation, which aimed to advance the cause of political and economic freedom, particularly in the newly liberated countries of central and eastern Europe. In 1995 she became a member of the Order of the Garter, the highest order of knighthood in England. Thatcher, who retired from public speaking in 2002 after suffering a series of minor strokes, died at London's Ritz Hotel. She had been in poor health for months and had suffered from dementia.
Bio by: Louis du Mort
1915–2003 (m. 1951)