‘If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.’ This famous quote by Margaret Hilda Thatcher epitomizes the strong character of a woman destined to lead her country. She was, undoubtedly, one of the most influential political figures of the 20th century. As Prime Minister of Great Britain, she revolutionized the political world through her extraordinary qualities as the first female to lead the Conservative party in Britain and the first female to be elected as head of a government in Europe.
Margaret Thatcher left a considerable impact on the world through her strong political leadership, as particularly shown in her economic policies, success through wars, and development of foreign diplomatic affairs.
As the daughter of middle-class shopkeepers, Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on October 13, 1925, in the flat over her parent’s shop on One North Parade Road in Grantham, England. She was the second daughter and last child of Alfred and Beatrice Roberts, who had welcomed their first child, Muriel, four years before the birth of Margaret (Ogden 33, 36).
Thatcher’s parents were both pragmatic and self-disciplined toilers. They put much thought into everything: their marriage, the purchase of the shop, family planning, and the necessities that would follow thereafter (Ogden 35). Out of the two, Alfred Roberts was the most prominent in the development of Margaret’s character in life as well as politics (Thatcher 107). Described as “a man of firm principles”, Alf was industrious, religious, and most importantly political. He served as town council member for sixteen years, before becoming an alderman, and then was finally elected as mayor of Grantham from 1943 to 1946 (HISTORY.
com Staff para. 2; Thatcher 6). Both Beatrice and Alf were devout Methodists and Conservatives, raising their two daughters under a strict and deeply religious lifestyle. The Conservative and Methodist influences would eventually kindle Margaret’s zeal for politics, while maintaining her strong Christian background (Thatcher 5-6, 21, 25).
As the college years approached, Margaret would transfer her love of politics and science to Somerville College, Oxford. Although pursuing a degree in chemistry, she would begin to build a foundation for herself politically there. Her first breakthrough in politics occurred in 1946 when she was elected president of the Oxford University Conservative Association (Edwards 203). In the end, the event would eventually lead to her become a candidate for the Dartford constituency. While unsuccessfully fighting two elections as a Conservative candidate for a Dartford parliamentary seat, Margaret Roberts would subsequently meet her future husband and prosperous businessman, Denis Thatcher. He would become her stability, sacrificing with love, everything for his wife and her career. In her memoirs, “The Downing Street Years”, Margaret stated “I could never have been Prime Minister for more than eleven years, without Denis by my side” (Thatcher 22). The couple would eventually marry in the December of 1951 and welcome twins, Carol and Mark, in April of 1953 (Bos, 2). As the Thatcher family grew, Margaret now found the time to focus on politics, as a result of the financial security she received from her husband (Gregory para. 29). Margaret had laid aside politics to concentrate on her role as a wife and mother, waiting till the twins were five years old, before being elected in 1959, as the Conservative Member of Parliament in Finchley (Ogden 74). Her arrival in the House of Commons was only the first step in her political rise in Parliament. In 1961, the Conservative party leaders made her parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Pensions and in 1970, after the Conservative general election, she became Secretary of Education (Barbash 20). As Education Secretary, Margaret had to make several spending cuts in education, to help meet the Conservative government’s pledges on tax. Her most notorious cut eliminated the free milk program in schools for students over the age of seven. This spending cut outraged the public prompting the press to give her the cruel sobriquet, “Milk Snatcher”, which would follow her through the years in politics (Schwarcz; “Margaret Thatcher Obituary: Life in the Shadow Cabinet”). This political predicament, though tainting her profile, did not hinder Margaret, but instead prepared her for more trying obstacles she would later face as Prime Minister. She would continue ascending to become the first female Leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, before winning the election seat as the first female Prime Minster of Great Britain in 1979 (BTH Staff para. 7).
As Prime Minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher would carve several of her political accomplishments into history. These indelible achievements marked down her political impact on the world and spread her fame as a major world leader. The first of these accomplishments were her economic attempts to resurrect Britain, who had become know as the “sick man of Europe”. In short, Britain was in a severe economical crisis, with inflation and unemployment soaring. Margaret was able stimulate a gradual healing process with market-based reforms, and through privatization and deregulation, she would ultimately make Britain an economic example to the world. Her introduction and popularizing of privatization would be the most important and enduring element of her economic legacy (Edwards 89). Not only was she successful in setting the British economy as a world example, but also demonstrated its position as a major world power in the liberation of the Falkland Islands. When the Falkland Islands were invaded in 1982 by Argentina, Margaret did not hesitate to take action and immediately assembled a naval Task Force to rescue the islanders. The Falklands War lasted only seventy-four days and ended with the Britain prevailing at the cost of 236 casualties (Coughlin para. 1-10). Margaret’s demonstration of courage and leadership were not only crucial during the Falklands War, but also instrumental in the Cold War’s ending. Margaret despised communism and delivered a speech entitled “Britain Awake”, in which she pledged to resist the “Communist aggression” that endangered the stability of Europe. In retaliation, the Soviets nicknamed her the “Iron Lady” as an insult that would eventually become a complimentary description of Margaret’s unbreakable will and strength as a leader (Blair para. 1). Margaret was not the only one anxious to end the inevitable Cold War; President Ronald Reagan shared the same analysis of the war too. Both believed that the building of the West’s military power would restrain the Soviet Union and forcibly lead the Kremlin into negation. Reagan provided Margaret with the military superpower she lacked, and in return, she gave him irrefutable encouragement as an ally, which was pivotal for the succeeding of the American resolve (Blair para. 12-16). Their shared political views and joint policies were what ultimately help to speed the Cold War’s ending. Their unique and successful political bond would define the strength of the diplomatic relationship that developed between the United States and Britain. Though they had their trivial disagreements in politics, they would always be there to support one another in a famous relationship that would define both of their political administrations (O’Sullivan para. 1-3, 14).
As Prime Minister, Margaret Hilda Thatcher left a considerable impact on the world through her fame and success as a major political leader in the 20th century. She was undoubtedly one of the most greatest and influential politicians in history. She pulled Britain out of the murky depths of recession with her economic and political policies, thus making it a financial example to the world. She modernized, revolutionized, and altered the vision of politics; because of this, present-day Britain bears no resemblance to the way it was in 1979 (“How Margaret Thatcher Changed the World”).