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Who is Margaret Thatcher?

Margaret Thatcher was a British prime minister.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
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  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2014
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Sometimes referred to as the Iron Lady of Great Britain, Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on 15 October 1925 in Grantham in Linconshire, England. Entering the world of British politics at a time when women were not expected to be interested in political matters, Thatcher created a stir by not only entering politics but also maintaining a long and successful marriage. To date, Margaret Thatcher remains the only woman in the history of the UK to serve as both the leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Many people today are unaware that Thatcher earned her title as the Iron Lady before becoming the British Prime Minister. Within a year of becoming leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, Thatcher made a speech in the Kensington Town Hall that was highly critical of the motives of the Soviet Union, along with some of their internal social and political policies. Delivered on 19 January 1976, the speech was presented in a direct and no-nonsense approach, which came to be a hallmark of the way Margaret Thatcher conducted business. While the designation of Thatcher as an "Iron Lady" originated with a newspaper in the Soviet Union, Margaret Thatcher enthusiastically embraced the nickname, and remained with her throughout the remainder of her career.

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Dedicated to economic reforms that would help to life Great Britain out of a period of inflation, Margaret Thatcher became PM for the country on 4 May 1979. Given the familiar nickname of Maggie by devotees, Thatcher immediately set about making reforms that would help to stimulate cash flow in the country while slowing the rate of inflation. Thatcher also sought to enhance the reputation of the United Kingdom on the international front, and established close ties with a number of countries. Her strong political connection to and support of United States president Ronald Reagan created a degree of cordial relations between the two countries that had rarely existed in the past.

Throughout her years as Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher supported the limitation of government involvement in business, a free market system, and the encouragement of entrepreneurial endeavors within the country. Many of her measures won a great deal of support among citizens, while earning Thatcher a great deal of animosity from sectors that had formally benefited from government subsidies and intervention. Her willingness to join with allies to engage in combat in the Middle East and elsewhere were often sources of controversy among many sections of British society.

By 1990, a growing opposition to Margaret Thatcher’s tax policies and foreign policy created a situation where her popularity within the Conservative Party was challenged. The end result was that Thatcher made a decision to not pursue another term as Prime Minister, delivering a statement on 22 November 1990 that indicated she would step aside as both PM and as the leader of the party. Her departure from the office of Prime Minister marked the end of the longest continuous tenure in office since that of Lord Liverpool in the early 19th century.

Margaret Thatcher was raised to the House of Lords and granted a peerage as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven in Lincolnshire in 1992. Thatcher also has been honored with the Order of Merit, which was conferred shortly after the end of her term as Prime Minister. Margaret Thatcher was also raised to the Order of the Garter, considered to be one of the highest honors bestowed in Great Britain, in 1995.

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