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Margaret Thatcher, Iron Lady: UK’s first female prime minister

Margaret Thatcher 1984

One of the most dominant and influential female figures of the 20th century is Baroness Margaret Thatcher “Iron Lady.” She was the leader of the Conservative Party and the first female to hold office as a prime minister in Britain. She is known for her conservative and firm ideology, and Angela Baker guest posts today on this controversial public figure.

Here’s how she went from a chemistry student to the most powerful woman in Great Britain.

Childhood and early Life

Margaret Hilda Roberts was her given name, and she was born on October 13, 1925, in Grantham, England. She spent her childhood in Grantham, where her parents ran a grocery shop.

She first came in touch with politics as a very young girl, since her father, Alfred Roberts, was in the town’s council. He was later the mayor of Grantham. He had a great impact on the young Maggie and is considered one of the reasons why she got into politics.

Margaret attended the Grantham Girls’ High School, a local grammar school.  There, she stood out for her leadership skills and dedication to studying. She was the head of girls, was dedicated to her education and took part in extracurricular activities.

Oxford University

In 1943, at the age of 18, Roberts (aka Margaret Thatcher, Iron Lady) applied for a scholarship and got the opportunity to study chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford.

Oxford University provided quality education and Thatcher graduated in 1947, earning a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry. One of her professors was Dorothy Hodgkin, who won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1964.

During her time at Oxford, she was politically active. For example, Thatcher became the president of the Oxford University Conservative Association.

After graduation, she worked as a research chemist in Essex. Soon, though, her political aspirations took over her focus.

Early political career of Margaret Thatcher, Iron Lady

Margaret Thatcher tested out political waters and got a major step forward in 1950. At the age of 24, she was elected to be the Dartford Conservative Association candidate for the parliamentary seat.

She was the youngest female candidate in this general election. When this news reached the West German Press, they published the following description of young Thatcher:

junge Dame mit Charme (meaning “young lady with charm”)

Perhaps this was her first big impact on the public. She was fearless, well-prepared, and a great spokesman, much like Nellie McClung.

Although she lost both the 1950 and 1951 elections, she still made a change in process. She managed to reduce the Labour majority, for instance, and got the attention of the media as a young female candidate.

Following this event, she then married Denis Thatcher. She spent time studying for the bar and soon became a qualified barrister. She specialized in tax law, something few people know about her education.

Then, in 1953, she became a mother, giving birth to twins, a son and a daughter.

Member of Parliament

After a brief break from politics to raise her children, Thatcher soon got back to it looking for a seat in Parliament. In 1958, she became a candidate for Finchley and was elected Conservative MP in the 1959 election.

“As soon as she became an MP, Thatcher showed just how fearless and confident she was. She gave powerful speeches and acted according to her instincts, without hesitation” says Mila Pearson, an essayist from Grab My Essay.

Margaret Thatcher Iron Lady Quotation

On the rise

Thatcher continued to rise within the Conservative party. It was a slow and steady progression throughout the years.

Although she was rumored to be a potential prime minister candidate while in her 20’s, she still had a long political road ahead of her.

As she advanced, Margaret Thatcher Iron Lady was assigned many different roles:

  • Parliamentary Undersecretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance (1961-64)
  • Chief opposition spokesman on education (1969-70)
  • Secretary of State for Education and Science (1970-74)

In addition, she became a member of the Shadow Cabinet.

When, in 1970, Thatcher took charge of the education and science department. Her controversial moves there gave her the nickname “Thatcher, the milk snatcher” since she abolished free milk for school children.

She became known for being courageous, and always saying what she thought, regardless of what others might think of her.

In 1975, the Conservative Party took a negative turn, looking weak in the public eye and many people started to doubt them. Margaret Thatcher Iron Lady came across as the best replacement as leader at this time.

Her leadership skills got her to become the main challenger and she was elected to be the new head of her party.

She was anti-communism and pro-free capitalism. The Soviet press gave her the nickname “The Iron Lady” after a 1976 speech she gave against communism.

Then, in 1979. the Conservative Party won the general election and she became the first female prime minister of the UK.

Read more about other women who push the glass ceiling of politics

Prime minister Marget Thatcher Iron Lady

During her years as UK’s prime minister, Margaret Thatcher had challenges to face and battles to fight.

She fought against rising unemployment and tried to lower inflation by raising interest rates. She also fought for the independence of the individual from the state and wanted to reduce government interference with the economy as part of her policies.

Still, the tensions were rising during her first term and the inability to fight the statistics and stop the rising unemployment made her very unpopular.

What saved her and helped her to win a second term in 1983 was the war she led against Argentina to free the British territory of the Falkland Islands. She won the war and gained public sympathy again.

Then Thatcher was re-elected for her third term, but she resigned in 1990. The main reason for her stepping down was due to a very unpopular fixed tax that she tried to introduce and the resignation of her Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe.

She left 10 Downing Street in December of 1990.

Margaret Thatcher, Iron Lady: The Legacy she leaves

After her resignation, Thatcher wrote several memoirs and gave public appearances. Her biography was turned into a motion picture in 2011, with Meryl Streep playing the role of the Iron Lady.

She died in 2013, at the age of 87, after suffering a stroke.

Thatcher will forever be remembeed as UK’s first female prime minister and a great leader of Britain during a difficult time.

She is also considered to have been one of the strongest female public figures in the world, and an inspiration to many women.  She’s often mentioned in essays about female power and independence.

About today’s writer

Angela Baker is a self-driven specialist who is currently working as a freelance writer at Studicus writing services and is trying to improve herself and her blogging career. She is always seeking to discover new ways for personal and professional growth and is convinced that it’s always important to broaden horizons.

That’s why Angela develops and improves her skills throughout the writing process to help to inspire people. Also, she writes for LiveInspiredMagazine, rounding out her professional writing career.

 

Top photo: Margaret Thatcher at Camp David, 1984. Courtesy of PawelMM, public domain, via Wikipedia.

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