Margaret Thatcher Biography

Read about the life and political career of Margaret Thatcher, the United Kingdom's first woman Prime Minister. Use this information to complete a prime minister profile.
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Margaret ThatcherPolitical Figure

Born: 13 October 1925
Died: 8 April 2013
Birthplace: Grantham, England
Best known as: Prime Minister of Great Britain, 1979-90

Name at birth: Margaret Hilda Roberts

Margaret Thatcher was the United Kingdom's first woman prime minister. She held the office of PM for 11 years -- longer than anyone in the 20th century. Thatcher attended Somerville College, Oxford, where she earned a chemistry degree (1947) and was president of the student Conservative Association. In the 1950s she trained as a lawyer and then was elected to Parliament as the member for Finchley in 1959. Her reputation as a rock-ribbed conservative grew over the next two decades, and she was named prime minister on 4 May 1979. Thatcher shored up a Conservative-led government, favored privatization rather than government expansion, led the country through the Falklands War with Argentina, and did it all with a stern no-nonsense flair that earned her the nickname "The Iron Lady." Although Thatcher was elected to three consecutive terms, political disputes and discontent within her party forced her to resign on 28 November 1990. She was succeeded by fellow Conservative John Major. She published the memoirs The Downing Street Years (1993) and The Path to Power (1995).

Extra credit: Thatcher entered the House of Lords in 1992 as Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven... She has often been compared with her conservative American counterpart, Ronald Reagan... She married Denis Thatcher in 1951. Their twin children, Carol and Mark, were born in 1953. Denis was an oil company executive; he died in 2003... Mark Thatcher was arrested at his South African home in 2004 on a charge of financing an attempted coup in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea; he pleaded guilty to a charge of negligence, saying he thought the money would be used for an air ambulance service... Carol Thatcher announced in 2008 that Margaret Thatcher had been suffering from mental decline since 2000, when she first had a series of small strokes.

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Extension Activities

  • Use the biography above and reference materials to complete a Prime Minister Profile.
  • Compare Margaret Thatcher with Winston Churchill.
  • Writing prompt: How do you think Thatcher felt about taking power in what had been a man's world?
  • Write an essay on Margaret Thatcher's most important accomplishment.

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