Margaret Thatcher: 8 Major Achievements
Major Facts: Margaret Thatcher
Born: Margaret Hilda Roberts
Date of Birth: October 13, 1925
Place of Birth: Grantham, Lincolnshire, England
Date of Death: April 8, 2013
Parents: Alfred Roberts and Beatrice Ethel
Education: Somerville College (graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1947), Grantham Girls’ High School
Husband: Denis Thatcher (married in 1951)
Children: Carol and Mark
Political Party: Conservative
Offices held: Prime Minister of Britain (1979-1990); Leader of the Conservative Party (1975-1990); Education Secretary (1970-1974); Member of Parliament for Finchley (1959-1992)
Most known for: being the first female prime minister of Britain; conservative ideology and anti-labor union; Thatcherism
Nickname: “Iron Lady”
Title: Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven
Riding on very conservative ideologies, Margaret Thatcher – a Conservative Party member of the British Parliament – was elected prime minister of Britain in 1979. This feat of hers meant that she had the distinguished honor of being the first woman to occupy 10 Downing Street.
Although, her three terms in office was characterized by reduced social welfare expenditures, conflicts with trade unions, and massive privatization and deregulations, Prime Minister Thatcher successfully brought the UK out of the economic recession of the 1980s. What other feats of accomplishments were Margaret Thatcher known for?
Accomplishments of Margaret Thatcher
World History Edu presents 8 major achievements in the life and premiership of Margaret Thatcher, the three-term prime minister of Britain who was nicknamed “Iron Lady”.
President of her University’s Conservative Association
Margaret was born to parents – Alfred Roberts and Beatrice Ethel – on October 13, 1925. Her father, Alfred Roberts, was a local alderman and a preacher in Grantham, England. After attending Huntingtower Road Primary School, she won a scholarship to study at Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School. With a lot of hard work and determination, she was able to get into Somerville College, Oxford to study chemistry.
While at Somerville, she was elected president of Oxford University Conservative Association. Aside from being active in school politics, she was also interested in piano, poetry, field hockey, and swimming.
In her last year at college, her dissertation on the structure of antibiotic gramicidin was supervised by future-Nobel Prize laureate Dorothy Hodgkin. Margaret graduated in 1947 with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry (Second-Class Honours).
Did you know: Margaret Thatcher took immense pride in the fact that she was the first British prime minister with a science degree?
Youngest female candidate for the seat of Dartford
While working as a research chemist in Colchester, Margaret’s interest in politics and local conservative groups (like the Vermin Club) heightened. She was nominated as a Conservative candidate for a Dartford parliamentary seat in 1949.
Although she lost both the 1950 and 1951 elections (to Norman Dodds), she left a memorable impression in the hearts and minds of the local Conservative Party with her well-thought out and prepared speeches and answers. Being that young and woman, the press were quick to run several stories on her.
Represented Finchley in the House of Commons from 1959 to 1992
Following her meteoric rise in the Conservative Party, Margaret took a break from politics for a few years in order to raise her twin children – Mark and Carol. However, once the kids reached a reasonable age, she bounced back with an energy never seen before and found a safe Conservative seat.
In April 1958, Conservatives in Finchley nominated her as their candidate for the 1959 election. She came out tops in the election, narrowly defeating Ian Montagu Fraser. As a member of parliament for Finchley, she was not afraid to sometimes go against her Conservative Party on some matters. This headstrong trait of hers bode well for her future political career. Many of her colleagues came to admire her for strong-willed character, with some even tipping her as a future prime minister.
Did you know: Margaret Thatcher drew a lot from the political writings of Austria-Hungarian economist and philosopher Friedrich August von Hayek?
Parliamentary undersecretary for pensions and national insurance
At the age of 36, Margaret Thatcher’s works in the House of Commons was beginning to bear fruits, as she was appointed Parliamentary Undersecretary for Pensions and National Insurance. Her appointment was made by then-Conservative British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. Margaret Thatcher thus became the youngest woman in the nation’s history to hold that office.
And not even the Conservatives’ disastrous showing in the 1964 election could dampen her commitment in the House of Commons. Thatcher continued to make huge waves by serving as the spokesperson on Housing and Land. She called on House members to allow tenants buy council houses.
While serving as the spokeswoman for the Shadow Treasury, she was against what she perceived as the governing Labour Party’s attempt to exercise too much control over the economy.
Member of the Shadow Cabinet
During her visit to the United States in 1967 (under the auspices of the International Visitor Leadership Program), she was heralded by the U.S. State Department as a future prime minister in making. The visit also allowed her to interact with top-notch American businessmen and politicians, increasing her standing both in the UK and abroad.
The leader of the Conservatives, Edward Heath, had no option than to appoint her to the Shadow Cabinet team as the spokeswoman for Fuel and Power. A year before the 1970 general election, she was elevated to the spokeswoman for Transport and then later to Education.
As UK’s Shadow Transport minister, Thatcher supported moves to invest significantly in British Rail. She reasoned that a better rail system would minimize the pressures and congestions in the roads.
Margaret Thatcher was an advocate for abortion and gay rights
She vehemently opposed Labour Party’s tax policies, calling it a route towards Socialism and Communism. Thatcher held the view that people’s incentive to work harder was fueled by lower taxes.
She supported a bill to decriminalize male homosexuality. She lent her support to legalize abortion. That bill was sponsored by the Liberal Party politician David Steel.
First woman leader of the Conservative Party
After a somewhat controversial four-year stay as the Secretary of Education and Science – a time which saw her implement a number of government cuts – Margaret Thatcher became the leader of the Conservative Party. Her party – which was led by incumbent Prime Minister Edward Heath – had lost the February 1974 general election. The nation was grappling with several economic and political problems, including the oil embargoes, labor union strife and rising unemployment.
Owing to those issues, cracks started appearing in the ranks of the Conservative Party. Thatcher and Prime Minister Heath began to move apart. She positioned herself properly and mounted a strong challenged to Heath’s leadership, vowing to give the Conservative Party a fresh start.
In 1975, she defeated Heath and his chosen successor William Whitelaw. By so doing, Margaret Thatcher made history as she became the first woman to lead the Conservative Party. She was also the first woman to be elected Leader of the Opposition in the UK.
First Female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Labour government under leadership of Prime Minister Callaghan did not fare so very well in steering the country, as it had to contend with series of labor strikes (commonly called the “Winter of Discontent”) and economic decline in the late 1970s. Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative Party capitalized on the situation and campaigned strongly to wrestle power from the Labour Party in the 1979 general election.
Following the Conservatives win, Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on May 4, 1979. As the occupant of 10 Downing Street, she went straight into removing the country from recession. She raised interest rates in order to reduce inflation in the country. Historians generally describe her economic policy as one largely influenced by monetarist ideas.
She combined brilliantly with Chancellor Geoffrey Howe and brought down direct income taxes in a bid to stimulate the economy. She was able to bring down inflation from a double digit to a single digit by 1982. However, unemployment in the country continued to tarnish her government throughout the early 1980s. With the economy getting back on track, Thatcher was elected two more times, in 1983 and 1987.
Other notable accomplishments of Margaret Thatcher are:
- She chaired the War Cabinet which led Britain to victory over the military junta in Argentina during the Falkland Islands conflict in 1982.
- Thatcher diplomatically handled (with the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984) the Hong Kong sovereignty issue with China, allowing for the continued stability and prosperity of Hong Kong.
- She mediated the crisis in Rhodesia (currently Zimbabwe) to end the Rhodesian Bush War in 1979. The peace deal helped bring an end to white-minority rule in the country.
- She was instrumental in leading a coalition against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
- Her 11 years 209 days at 10 Downing Street makes her the longest serving British prime minister of the 20th century. She is the second longest-serving Conservative British prime minister (behind Lord Salisbury, The Marquess of Salisbury)
- Her exploits and successes in politics paved the way for many women to make a career in politics.
- Margaret Thatcher authored books such as The Downing Street Years (1993), The Path to Power (1995), and Statecraft (2002).
- She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 from U.S. President Bush Sr.
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