Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s prime minister (or ‘PM’) for almost 12 years between 1979 and 1990.
She was often called “the Iron Lady”.
She was born “Margaret Hilda Roberts” in Grantham, a small town in eastern England, on 13 October 1925.
When she was born the town was still recovering from the Great War of 1914-18.
The Second World War broke out in 1939 when she was 14 and lasted till 1945 when she was 20.
There was no television when she was small.
She loved films, which were a new thing when she was a child. Most came from America and she watched as many as she could.
She went to state schools and worked hard, winning a place at Oxford University when she was 18 to study chemistry.
But what she really wanted to do was to go into politics.
At university she won her first election, becoming president of the student Conservative Association.
Candidate for parliament & getting married:
After university she got her first job as a chemist and tried to become the Member of Parliament (or MP) for a town called Dartford in Kent, on the edge of London. She tried twice, in 1950 and 1951. She didn’t come close to winning, because most voters in Dartford supported the Labour Party. But she was the youngest woman candidate in the country, and very pretty, so her picture was in lots of newspapers. The photo to the left shows how she looked at this time. She hugely enjoyed fighting the elections.
It was in Dartford that she met and married Denis Thatcher, so becoming “Margaret Thatcher”.
He was older than her and had fought in the war. They were a very close couple.
After years of trying she was chosen to be the Conservative candidate for Finchley, in north London.
Soon she was asked to become a member of the government, responsible for pensions and benefits. She was good at understanding all the complicated rules, and worked hard.
Margaret Thatcher had a bad time as Education Minister, especially in her first year. She was attacked by people who were annoyed that she had abolished free school milk for older children and got the nickname “milk snatcher”.
Leader of the Opposition:
After the election the Conservatives argued about what had gone wrong.
There was another election in October 1974 and they lost that one too.
Because her party wasn’t in power, but was much the largest party opposed to the government, she became “Leader of the Opposition”.
She did that job for four years.
Prime Minister – first term:
Her government felt it had to do some painful things, particularly putting up interest rates to stop prices rising too fast (which is called inflation). As a result lots of people lost their jobs (known as unemployment). The policies were very unpopular at first and there were many protests and criticisms.
But in time things began to improve. Prices stopped rising so fast and the economy began to grow again.
Prime Minister – Second Term:
Margaret Thatcher’s second term as Prime Minister opened with almost as many problems as the first.
In October 1984, when the strike was still going on, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) attempted to murder Margaret Thatcher and many of her colleagues by bombing their hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party annual conference. Although she survived unhurt, some of her closest friends were among the injured and dead. The room next to her bedroom was severely damaged, so the attackers came close to killing her.
She became a very well known international figure, with a particularly close relationship to the US President Ronald Reagan.
Prime Minister – Third Term:
There were huge reforms of education, local government and health care, all of them very controversial.
In these years the Cold War began to come to an end, an event in which Margaret Thatcher played her part.
She resigned as Prime Minister on November 28 1990. John Major succeeded her and held the job until the landslide election of Tony Blair’s Labour Government in May 1997.
She lives in London still. She has not been very well in recent years and is quite forgetful now, but she enjoys life and has many friends and admirers.