Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) was leader of the British Conservative party between 1975 and 1990, and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom between 1979 and 1990. She was Britain's first ever female prime minister.
Margaret Hilda Roberts was born in Grantham in Lincolnshire, where her father kept two grocery shops. She was educated at the local grammar school and Somerville College, Oxford where she obtained a degree in Chemistry. She subsequently worked briefly as a research chemist before qualifying as a barrister in 1953. In the same year she gave birth to twins, Carol and Mark, having married the businessman Dennis Thatcher in 1951. She stood unsuccessfully for parliament as a Conservative candidate in the 1950 and 1951 general elections, but was eventually elected as MP for Finchley in 1959. Having served in Edward Heath's 1970 government as Secretary of State for Education and Science, she moved on within a few years to become party leader and, subsequently, Prime Minister.
Her political philosophy and economic policies (which have come to be known as Thatcherism) favoured individual choice rather than government intervention, deregulation of the financial sector, and the privatisation of state-owned companies. She is famously remembered for having stated that 'there is no such thing as society' (click here to read the relevant interview), and earned the epithet The Iron Lady because of her uncompromising politics and her leadership style. Significant events during her period as Prime Minister include the Falklands War (1982), the Miners' Strike (1984) and the Poll Tax Riots (1990).
She relinquished her role as Prime Minister in 1990, after Michael Heseltine launched a challenge to her leadership. Following her resignation from the House of Commons in 1992, she was awarded a life peerage and became Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven.
As become clear at the time of her death in April 2013, she evoked very mixed reactions in her colleagues and the British public. Many admired her financial policies, her single-minded determination, and the way she had overcome the obstacles facing women in the world of politics; others saw her as a destructive influence who had promoted selfish attitudes and financial greed. Her ceremonial funeral was held on April 17, 2013 at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.