Powerful Ladies of the 80's: Margaret Thatcher

18th September 2017

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher born as Margaret Hilda Robert was born on October 13, 1925, in Grantham, England. She was Great Britain’s first female prime minister, serving three consecutive terms in office 1979–1990. Her economic and social policies evolved into a political philosophy known as Thatcherism, similar to Reaganomics in the United States, and part of a world-wide neoliberal movement in the 1980s. She was dubbed the Iron Lady by a Soviet newspaper following a speech she gave in 1976—a nickname that she proudly claimed.


Thatcher graduated with Second-Class Honours in the four-year Chemistry Bachelor of Science degree on 1947. She was married to Denis Thatcher on December 1951, which on the same year she gave birth to their twins named Carol and Mark.


Thatcher ushered in a decade of painful reform, privatization, deregulation and tax cutting. At first inflation and unemployment rocketed, some businesses crumbled. But—“the lady’s not for turning”—the prime minister brazened it out over three historic terms of office, wrenching the economy back on its knees. At least one widely popular measure was the sale of council houses, allowing by 1982 a half-million people to become homeowners for the first time. Paradigmatic of Thatcher’s ruthless resolve—and crucial to the success of monetarism—was her defeat of the National Union of Mine Workers, which, in March 1984, called a strike over plans to close unprofitable pits. The threat to the national fuel supply raised the specter of an ungovernable country. The strike lasted a year and saw police and miners in ugly pitched battles. But Thatcher had stockpiled coal reserves, ready to defend democracy against socialist, militant trade unions. She won. Whole mining communities suffered badly, yet the greater community of democratic Britain survived. Tough legislation was later introduced to curb future union power. The general mood of the country, fed up with disruptive strikes, was with Thatcher on the need for change.


The prime minister was equally tough in 1984 when an Irish Republican Army bomb meant for her exploded in the Brighton hotel where Tory Party members were staying overnight for their annual conference. Having hardly slept, she appeared the next morning, defiant and undeterred from continuing with the conference. In 1985, she signed the Anglo-Irish Agreement with Irish Prime Minister Garret FitzGerald. The treaty established the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, which gave the Irish government an advisory role in Northern Ireland’s government and confirmed Northern Ireland’s constitutional position. Although the agreement did not immediately end violence in Northern Ireland, it was crucial to the peace process by improving cooperation between the British and Irish governments.


Her legacy, like her life, is one of paradox. A force for change, she saved her country from the economic mire and made it governable again, but threw the Conservative Party into turmoil. She altered national attitudes: After monetarism there has been no return to Keynesian economics, and Britain is no longer the sick country of Europe. She consolidated the Atlantic Alliance and helped create the dynamics of the post–Cold War world, but left the Tory Party—and the country—deeply divided on Europe and integration into its union. However these legacies play out, Margaret Thatcher will be seen as an icon of the 20th century and one of Britain’s outstanding peacetime prime ministers due to her fearless commitment to 'getting it done'.