“The Iron Lady” If you lead a country like Britain, a strong country, a country which has taken a lead in world affairs in good times and in bad, a country that is always reliable, then you have to have a touch of iron about you. Margaret Thatcher, the first woman to lead a major Western democracy, spoke these words. She served as Great Britain’s Prime Minister for more than eleven years (1979-1990), and led with an iron fist bringing down inflation in England, reviving the British economy, reclaiming the Falkland Islands, and never wavering against the Soviets in the Cold War. Born as Margaret Hilda Roberts on October 13, 1925, in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England, she was the youngest daughter of Alfred and Beatrice Roberts. Her father was a local businessman who operated a grocery store where the Robert’s family lived in an apartment above. Thatcher was introduced to politics by her father. He was active in the town council and later became mayor. She was accepted at Oxford University where she studied chemistry, although it took second place to her love of politics. Thus, she became politically active on campus. She was elected president of the student Conservative Association at Oxford which gave way to many political connections for her future. She ran as the Conservative candidate for the Labour seat of Dartford at the General Elections of 1950 and 1951. Although she lost both times, she did win fame for being the youngest woman candidate in the country, since during the elections; she was only in her mid-twenties. Losing never deterred Thatcher. She continued her involvement with the Conservative Party in Kent where she met her future husband, Denis Thatcher. They were married in 1951. He, being a wealthy businessman, funded her studies for the bar, and she became a barrister in 1953. It was that same year she and her husband excitedly welcomed their twins, Mark and Carol into their family. Even though a new mother, Margaret Thatcher did not slow down her political rampage. She kept focus and finally in 1959 she smoothly took the election and claimed her seat in the House of Commons. She was everything from Secretary at the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance to Secretary of State for Education and Science. She gained many supporters, as well as fueling many protesters; specially when she felt forced to make cuts in the Educational budget and tossed out free milk in the schools. This action gained her the nickname, “Maggie Thatcher, milk snatcher. ” Her popularity and fortitude as a leader rebounded quite nicely, and she became the Conservative Leader. On January 19th, 1976 Thatcher made a speech in Kensington Town Hall. During this speech, she boldly attacked the Soviet Union. Her most famous lines were: The Russians are bent on world dominance, and they are rapidly acquiring the means to become the most powerful imperial nation the world has seen. The men in the Soviet Politburo do not have to worry about the ebb and flow of public opinion. They put guns before butter, while we put just about everything before guns. Due to this speech, Thatcher was nicknamed “The Iron Lady” by the Soviet Defense Ministry newspaper, Red Star. Although others may have been offended by this, Thatcher took great pride in gaining that reputation from a government she held little to no admiration for. During the winter of 78/79 an epidemic of strikes broke out across Britain. The trade union was demanding pay increases. The government in place at the time, the Labours, seemed to be losing the confidence of the public, so at the General Election of May 1979, the Conservative party won. Margaret Thatcher was now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The first term of Thatcher’s Ministry was filled with economic pitfalls. She and her government put many long term goals into effect, which slowly proved to be successful. The economy was finally on the rise. Much political support was bestowed upon her because of this success, and re-election looked viable, yet that fate would be sealed by another event: The Falkland Islands. Argentina and Great Britain had been for years at odds with each other over the islands. The English had seized the Islands and remained in control of them since 1833. Yet on April 2, 1982 the Argentine troops invaded the island. They quickly were able to overcome the British marines stationed there. Margaret Thatcher working with the U. S. administration hoped that a more diplomatic means would be possible while attempting to regain the islands, yet when this approach failed, she quickly and assuredly ordered military action. In doing so, Britain regained the Falkland Islands by June of 1982. The electorate was quite impressed and she swiftly won the 1983 election. Mrs. Thatcher was a staunch anti-communist and a supporter of NATO’s decision to deploy U. S. Pershing and cruise missiles in Western Europe during the Cold War. She also took a stand against anti-nuclear demonstrators at Greenam Common. The demonstrators were set on stopping the delivery of the 160 missiles to be placed there. She also set the foundation for and delivered a modernized British Fleet consisting of Trident II nuclear submarines. She made her position quite clear as she stood with Ronald Reagan declaring that the Soviet Union was an evil enemy who deserved no compromise. No compromise, however, did not mean no discussion; Thatcher was not afraid to discuss the massive nuclear problem or the woes of communism with the newly elected Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. She found him to be extremely open-minded. He was willing to debate, argue his point, yet listen to the other side. In an interview with CBS newsman Tom Fenton, she stated that he was the first person to have said: Look, all our hopes of communism are not being realized. It is not producing the standard of living, it is not producing the standard of technology, it is not producing the standard of social services. This total central control will not do, it will not do it, we have got to have more individual personal involvement. She felt that Gorbachev knew an increase of freedom was inevitable for improving his country. Thatcher found that she liked the man and was quoted as saying that she felt they could do business together. And business together, they did do. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were both instrumental in negotiations to end the Cold War and the threat of nuclear disaster. With approximately three years of talks behind them, the Soviets, under the leadership of Gorbachev, returned to the bargaining table to sign the INF Treaty which called for the withdrawal of missiles from both sides. This monumental moment, President Reagan expressed, could not have been accomplished without the endurance and courage of leaders such as Margaret Thatcher. Leading her country with a “touch of iron” served Margaret Thatcher well. Tony Benn, a prominent figure of the Labour Party, noted in his diary of a former Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, that once he (Wilson) left office he was gone. “Nobody thinks of him anymore. ” However, according to Rodney Brazier in his thesis: “The Downfall of Margaret Thatcher:” No one could make a similar assessment of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, who was on several tests an outstanding Prime Minster who has left a considerable political mark. Margaret Thatcher will be remembered for years to come as a force to be reckoned with. She stood on her principals and never wavered. This phenomenal woman served not only her country well but also the free world. -------------------------------------------- [ 1 ]. Margaret Thatcher Quotes. (n. d. ). 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