Cold War Warrior ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher Dies at 87

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, affectionately dubbed the Iron Lady for her crusade against encroaching communism during the Cold War, has died at age 87 from a stroke.

“It was with great sadness that I learned of Lady Thatcher’s death. We have lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister, and a great Briton,” said current British Prime Minister David Cameron. “Lady Thatcher didn’t just lead our country, she saved our country.”

Leaders the world over have issued similar statements, affirming the Iron Lady’s transformative effect on history. She holds the dubious distinction of being Britain’s first – and only – female prime minister. A grocer’s daughter, she rose to the top of Britain’s snobbish hierarchy the hard way and envisioned a classless society that rewarded hard work and determination. Like her close friend and political ally U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Thatcher seemed motivated by an unshakable belief that free markets would build a better country than reliance on a strong, central government. Another thing she shared with the American president: a tendency to reduce problems to their basics, choose a path, and follow it to the end, no matter what the opposition.

She was born October 13, 1925, to parents who ran a grocery, and while at Oxford became president of the Conservative Association. She worked as a chemical researcher after graduation. Her career as a chemist was short, as she immediately became involved in politics and earned national notice as a candidate where she challenged for opposition seats that were thought to be secure. It was in 1985 during a fight with coal miners that she reshaped British political and economic outlooks by taking a hard line during that strike. Opponents demonized her as a union buster but her leadership led to a boom in the nation’s economy, and even left-wing leaders adopted some of her principles. She first won election to parliament in 1959 and was made education secretary in 1970. She ascended through the ranks, being elected prime minister in 1979 and holding that position until her resignation in 1990.

For admirers, Thatcher was a savior who rescued Britain from unimaginable ruin and laid the groundwork for an extraordinary economic renaissance. She led an incredible conservative revolution by lowering tax rates, privatizing many areas of government, reining in government spending, and fighting inflation. Due to these tenacious efforts, she spearheaded an unprecedented recovery in a Britain that was severely crippled and turned it into a dominant world force. Thatcher’s most notable accolades are accorded for her tireless fight against communism, working with President Reagan and Blessed John Paul II to bring an end to the tyranny and oppression of the communist system.

But for her opponents, Thatcher was the personification of an uncaring new political philosophy known by both sides as Thatcherism. Critics painted her as a heartless tyrant who allowed the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor.

British PM Cameron acknowledged the divisive legacy left behind by Thatcher, but emphasized “if there is one thing that cuts through all of this – one thing that runs through everything she did – it was her lion-hearted love for this country. She was the patriot Prime Minister and she fought for Britain’s interests every single step of the way.”

Regardless of public opinion, history will almost certainly proclaim her as one of the greatest British peacetime leaders. She ruled for 11 years, turning a fading nation into a new leader in world political and economic affairs.

An excerpt from President Barack Obama’s tribute to the Iron Lady reads, “With the passing of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the world has lost one of the great champions of freedom and liberty, and America has lost a true friend….she stands as an example to our daughters that there is no glass ceiling that can’t be shattered.”

Although she is remembered most for her political achievements and her steely resolve in bringing down the hated Iron Curtain, she was also know for her flair for rhetoric and her razor-sharp wit, so it is only appropriate to end with some of her greatest Thatcherisms:

“If you want something said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”

“I’m extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.”

“If my critics saw me walking over the Thames they would say it was because I couldn’t swim.”

“If you want to cut your own throat, don’t come to me for a bandage.”

“The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

“…The larger the slice taken by government, the smaller the cake available for everyone.”

“Constitutions have to be written on hearts, not just paper.”

“Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.”

May you rest in peace, Baroness Thatcher.

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