Margaret Thatcher, one of the most significant leaders of the 20th century, died yesterday at age 87. A model of convictional leadership, Margaret Thatcher became almost universally known as Britain’s “Iron Lady.” In May 1979, Margaret Thatcher moved into No. 10 Downing Street and changed the course of British history. Beyond this, Lady Thatcher changed the terms of debate on both sides of the Atlantic and left a legacy of leadership that should inspire generations to come.
Born October 13, 1925 in the village of Grantham, Margaret Roberts was soon recognized as an unusually bright and forceful child. Her father, Alfred, was a grocer who had high hopes for his children. The Roberts household was a place of firm discipline, Christian nurture, and intellectual activity. After graduating from Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, Margaret Roberts entered Oxford University, where she earned a degree in chemistry and became the first woman to serve as President of the Oxford University Conservative Association. Shortly thereafter, she married Denis Thatcher, an executive in the chemical industry. Together, they were to have two children, Mark and Carol. After over a half century of marriage, Denis Thatcher died in 2003.
Margaret Thatcher’s role as President of the Oxford University Conservative Association indicated two factors that would play a large part in the future of Great Britain. First, her political philosophy and worldview were solidly grounded in the conservative tradition. Her leadership in Britain would be considered revolutionary only because that nation had strayed so far from any conservative philosophy of government and economics. Second, Margaret Thatcher’s leadership at Oxford was indicative of her leadership ability as it would be later recognized by her political peers.