Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Prime Minister of the UK (May 4, 1979) - History Key

Margaret Thatcher becomes the first female Prime Minister of the UK (May 4, 1979)

The first woman at the head of a UK government and also the first woman at the head of a political party from UK was Margaret Thatcher. Nicknamed as “The Iron Lady”, she showed strong strength of character because she refused to give up her principles. During her time in office she strongly opposed Soviet Union communism and contributed considerably to the end of the Cold War.

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher © Marion S. Trikosko/ Image Source: Wikipedia
Her path to politics

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on October 13, 1925 in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England and raised with a strict education received from her father. She graduated at Kesteven & Grantham Girls Schools and her extracurricular activities were piano, field hockey, swimming and poetry. Margaret completed her studies on chemistry at Oxford University in 1947.

Her first contact with politics was in 1943 when she joined the Oxford Union Conservative Association. In three years she became the president of the organization. After she graduated she worked as a research chemists, but her main wish was politics. Therefore, in 1950 she ran for parliament using the slogan “Vote Right to Keep What’s Left.” Despite the fact that she lost that year and again in 1951, the “Iron Lady” tried again in 1959 and that time was a real success.

Margaret Hilda Roberts, at that time, married a wealthy businessman named Denis Thatcher in 1951 and two years later she gave birth to twins: Carol and Mark. Meanwhile she spent the next few years studying and practicing law. In 1959 she ran for parliament for the third time and easily won the seat. Her first law project introduced was about the right of the media to cover local government meetings and she often spoke about the need to limit wasteful government expenditures.

Her path as a Prime Minister

Her role in parliament played a significant role in UK and international politics. By 1961 Thatcher was invited to become parliamentary undersecretary in the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and in 1970 she was already secretary of state for education and science. Her rise in politics gave Thatcher another important role: president of the Conservative Party.

Between 1975 and 1979 she was the leader of the opposition, criticizing the high taxes imposed by the Labour Government pointing out that those measures are directing the country towards communism. On May 3, 1979 conservatives won the election and the next day, Margaret Thatcher became the first woman Prime Minister in the history of UK and Europe and the fourth in the world.

Margaret Thatcher salutes the crowds from the door of 10 Downing Street the day after the 1979 general electio
Margaret Thatcher salutes the crowds from the door of 10 Downing Street the day after the 1979 general election © Image Source: PA/EMPICS/

At that time Thatcher was the most powerful women in the world. Her main challenge was to recover the England’s economy. She “punished” the Labour Party at her first conference speech saying:

“A man’s right to work as he will, to spend what he earns, to own property, to have the state as servant and not as master. These are the British inheritance.”

Right after her “attack” against the Labour Party, Thatcher said about the Soviet Union that they are “bent on world dominance.” After this statement she was nicknamed by the Soviets as the “Iron Lady”, a nickname that she embraced it. Another important moment was when she managed to keep the Malvine Falkland Islands under the British guardianship in 1982 when Argentina invaded the islands. At the end of the conflict, Thatcher’s popularity reached high levels which guaranteed her next victory in the next elections.

She resigned in her third consecutive term

In her second term, Thatcher was making significant changes and her way of doing politics almost killed her. She survived a bomb attacked by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during a conference in Brighton that included five deaths. The “Iron Lady” insisted that the Conservative Party Conference should continue which also increased her popularity.

After she was elected to a third term in 1987 she lowered income tax rates, introduced a “community tax”, privatized important state companies such as British Airways and Rolls Royce which led to street protests. On November 28, 1990 she resigned after she assured that John Major will replace her.

Margaret Thatcher, 1990
Margaret Thatcher, 1990 © White House Photo Office/Image Source: Wikipedia

On June 30, 1992 she received a seat in the Chamber of Lords and the title of Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. Starting with 2002 her health began to deteriorate and by 2008, Carol Thatcher revealed that his mother suffered from senile dementia. On April 8, 2013 Margaret Thatcher died at the age of 87.

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