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Born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, she studied Chemistry at Somerville University, Oxford before qualifying as a barrister. In the 1959 election she became MP for Finchley. Edward Heath appointed Thatcher Secretary of State for Education and Science in his 1970 government. In 1975 she became leader of the Conservative party, the first women to head a major UK political party. Following the 1979 general election she became Britain's first female Prime Minister.
She entered 10 Downing Street determined to reverse what she perceived as a precipitous national decline. Her political philosophy and economic policies emphasised deregulation, particularly of the financial sector, flexible labour markets, and the sale or closure of state-owned companies and withdrawal of subsidies of others. Thatcher's popularity sank amid recession and high unemployment, although economic recovery and the 1982 Falklands War brought a resurgence of support and was re-elected in 1983.
She survived an assassination attempt in 1984, and her hard line against trade unions and rhetoric opposition to the Soviet Union earned her the nickname of the 'Iron Lady'. Thatcher was again re-elected in 1987 and 1992 due to the popularity on her stance towards the European Union and the introduction of the new, more equal, Community Charge. She resigned as Prime Minister, Party Leader and Member of Parliament just before the 2001 election due to ill health and old age. The consequence of her resignation was the downfall of the Conservative government and establishment of a Labour government headed by leader Tony Blair.