Margaret Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, "The Iron Lady" of British Politics during the Second Half of the 20th Century

By Vlad, Calin | Journal of Research in Gender Studies, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Margaret Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, "The Iron Lady" of British Politics during the Second Half of the 20th Century


Vlad, Calin, Journal of Research in Gender Studies


Margaret Thatcher's political career has been one of the most remarkable of modem times. Bom in October 1925 in Gratham, a small market town in Eastern England, she rose to become the first (and for two decades the only) woman to lead a major Western democracy. She won three successive General Elections and served as British Prime Minister for more than eleven years (1979-1990), a record unmatched in the 20th century.

During her term of office, she reshaped almost every aspect of British Politics, reviving the economy, reforming outdated institutions, and invigorating the nation's foreign policy. She challenged and did much to overturn the psychology of decline which had become rooted in Britain since the Second World War, pursuing national recovery with striking energy and determination.

In the process, Margaret Thatcher became one of the founders, together with President Ronald Reagan, of a school of conservative conviction politics, which has had a powerful and enduring impact in Britain and the United States and earned her a higher international profile than any British politician since Sir Winston Churchill.

In this essay, we are going to discuss about the following problems: Margaret Thatcher's early years of life, the beginning of her political career as a Conservative candidate during different campaigns, as an Education Minister during Edward Heath's Government (1970-1974), as an elected Conservative leader since 1975 and as a Head of the Opposition (1975-1979). The emphasis of this essay is especially on her home and foreign policy as a Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland during three terms (1979-1983; 1983-1987; 1987-1990) and on period after her resignation as head of the government.

It is well-known that by shifting British economic and foreign policy to the right, her governments helped to encourage wider international trends. These trends broadened and deepened, during the 1980s and 1990s, when the Cold War came to an end, the spread of democracy and the growth of free markets that strengthened political and economic freedom in every continent.

For the last century, Margaret Thatcher has been one of the world's most influential and respected political leaders, as well as one of the most controversial, dynamic, and plain spoken.1

1. Margaret Thatcher's Early Years at Gratham and Oxford (19251970)

Margaret Thatcher's early life in Gratham played a large part in forming her political convictions. Her parents, Alfred and Beatrice Roberts, were Methodists. The social life of the family was lived largely within the close community of the local congregation, bounded by strong traditions of self-help, charitable work, and personal truthfulness.

The Roberts family ran a grocery business, bringing up their two daughters in a flat over the shop. Margaret Roberts attended a late state school and from there won a place at Oxford, where she studied chemistry at Sommerville College (1943-1947). Her tutor was Dorothy Hodgkin, a pioneer of Xray crystallography who won a Nobel Prize in 1964.

But the Chemistry took second place in Margaret Thatcher's future plans. Conservative politics had always been a feature of her home life; her father was a local councilor in Grantham and talked through with the issues of the day. She was elected president of the student Conservative Association at Oxford and met many prominent politicians, making her known to the leadership of her party at the time of its devastating defeat by Labor at General Election of 1945.

Then, in her mid-twenties, she ran as the Conservative candidate for the strong Labor seat of Dartford at the General Elections of 1950 and 1951, winning national publicity as the youngest woman candidate in the country. She lost both times, but cut the Labor majority sharply and hugely enjoyed the experience of campaigning. Aspects of her mature political style were formed in Dartford, a largely working class constituency which suffered as much as any from post-war rationing and shortages, as well as the rising level of taxation and state regulations. …

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