Women’s History Month continues!
This week we’re talking about Great Britain’s first female prime minister and Conservative Party leader, Margaret Thatcher.
Her leadership as Great Britain’s prime minister came at a time when few women worked in politics, much less held elected office or served as head of state.
Thatcher, nicknamed the “Iron Lady” for her strong will, is best known for fighting for employee rights and reducing the influence of Great Britain’s unions, her staunch opposition to Soviet communism and her friendship with President Ronald Reagan.
Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on Oct. 13, 1925, in a small town in Lincolnshire, England, to working class parents.
Ambitious and intelligent, she went on to study chemistry at Oxford University in the 1940s, during the height of World War II.
During her time at Oxford, she became interested in politics and eventually became president of the Oxford Union Conservative Association.
She later ran for parliament unsuccessfully in 1950 and 1951 before marrying Denis Thatcher, having two children and passing the bar exam in 1954.
Not one to be discouraged by past failures, Thatcher ran for Parliament again in 1959. This time, she won a seat in the House of Commons. Her very first speech as a member of parliament showcased her fiscal conservative principles, and emphasized the need to cut wasteful government spending.
Thatcher’s no-nonsense style and common sense led her to quickly rise through the ranks of government. She served in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance in 1961, as Secretary of State for Education and Science in the British government 1970 and as leader of Britain’s Conservative Party beginning in 1975.
Iron Lady Rising
After years of failed Labour Party leadership, economic hardship, union strikes and a government on the brink of bankruptcy, Great Britain desperately needed new leadership.
In 1979, Britons decisively elected a Conservative majority in Parliament, making Thatcher Britain’s first female prime minister.
Just as in the United States “Reaganomics” became a popular term to describe President Reagan’s free market economic policies, “Thatcherism” caught on in Great Britain.
Thatcherism can be defined as a political philosophy based in classical liberalism and centers around the firm belief that economic freedom and individual liberty are intertwined.
Thatcherism includes the idea that democratic government espousing free-market economic policies is essential for a free and prosperous people.
Thatcher’s economic influences included F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, and their impact could be seen clearly through her economic policies.
Margaret Thatcher’s legacy includes restoring fiscal stability across Britain, defending the Falkland Islands against Argentinian invasion, standing up for employee rights, and allying with President Ronald Reagan to fight communism.
In total, Thatcher won three national elections and served as prime minister for 11 years, longer than any other British prime minister in the 20th century.
Margaret Thatcher passed away on April 8, 2013, at age 87.
She is remembered as one of the most important figures in modern British history and one of the strongest examples of conservative leadership around the world.
Margaret Thatcher’s passion for common sense, free-market policies, her iron-willed leadership and her legacy of freedom will continue to inspire future generations of liberty-loving people for decades to come.