Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died Monday of a stroke. She was 87.
Thatcher is the only woman ever to have held the position of prime minister of the United Kingdom, and also held the post longer than anyone. She was in office from May 1979 until November 1990, serving in that post for more than 11 years.
Thatcher was a chemist, lawyer and more importantly, a political and social trailblazer for most of her life.
Her early tenure as the top political figure in Britain was rife with turmoil as the state was in what was perceived as decline and the world was at the height of the Cold War. Thatcher countered an economic recession and social woes with conservative financial policies, efforts to stabilize race relations and aggressive participation in foreign affairs.
Her amicable meeting with Communist leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1984 helped ease tensions that Western countries held toward the Soviet Union.
In 1989, Thatcher also put pressure on President George H.W. Bush to intervene in Kuwait and drive out invading forces led by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
She staunchly supported the privatization of business and the dissolving of unions and believed in minimal wasted spending – even in her personal life.
Thatcher's position on race was one that equality and variety were not mutually exclusive, however, she held to very strict policies. She encouraged Britain to promote better relations with the Jewish population and made the first-ever trip to Israel by a sitting prime minister. But British foreign policies that she inherited and continued through her tenure conflicted with peacekeeping efforts of Israel.
Thatcher also lauded the multiple benefits that immigration provided her country, but her support of limiting the number of Vietnamese immigrants into the United Kingdom raised eyebrows.
Despite facing waning support and the effects of negative perception, she steadfastly held her course and won enough support for two re-elections.
Thatcher even shook off an assassination attempt by insisting that a conference where the Irish Republic Army planted a car bomb continue the next day. She gave her scheduled speech, despite the death of the wife of one of her cabinet ministers and four other people killed in the blast.
The bombing brought to a head protests in Northern Ireland over the prime minister's refusal to change the treatment of political prisoners in that country.
Thatcher did meet with one political challenge she could not successfully overcome, and it led to her subsequent resignation.
She faced low disapproval ratings for the duration of her premiership and her popularity hit rock bottom when she sought to implement a tax that would have taken away people's right to vote for refusal to pay. Fallout from the tax, the disagreement and eventual resignation of her last original cabinet minister and dissention within the Conservative Party forced Thatcher to tender her resignation on Nov. 13, 1990.
Born Margaret Hilda Roberts on Oct. 13, 1925, in Grantham, she showed a dedication to academics and a strong work ethic early on.
She earned a chemistry degree after studying under Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dorothy Hodgkin. Thatcher worked as a research chemist after college, but soon abandoned that to run for the Labour seat of Dartford in both 1950 and 1951.
Although she lost handily each year, Thatcher's presence narrowed noticeable gaps in the party majority.
She briefly left her pursuit of politics in the early 1950s to earn a law degree, get married and start a family.
Denis Thatcher and Margaret Roberts wed in December 1951, and she gave birth to Mark and Carol Thatcher in 1953.
It wasn't long after she gave birth to twins that she began to display the fiery will that eventually earned her the nickname "Iron Lady."
After suffering another defeat in her next race – this time by a much narrower margin – Thatcher made a successful bid in 1959 to represent Finchley as a member of Parliament.
It was the beginning of a long, distinguished career that took her to the pinnacle of British politics.
She later served as Secretary for Education and Science, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Conservative Party.
Following her time as prime minister, Thatcher was honorary chancellor of two British universities and also worked as a consultant for the Altria Group, formerly known as the Phillip Morris tobacco company.
Thatcher suffered from numerous medical issues and has had multiple strokes since 2002.
In addition to the strokes, she was diagnosed with dementia and her lung collapsed during a House of Lords dinner in 2007. She was unable to attend a 2011 ceremony honoring former President Ronald Reagan because of her poor health, and had undergone bladder surgery to remove a growth in December 2012.
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Wednesday, July 30 2014 5:57 AM EDT2014-07-30 09:57:07 GMT
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