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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Margaret Thatcher Leaves Behind An Iron Legacy

Britain's first female prime minister died Monday from a stroke.  She was 87.

Margaret Thatcher, the only woman to have ever held the position of British prime minister, passed away in London Monday from a stroke.  She was 87 years old. 

Thatcher studied at Oxford University and later made history as Britain's first female prime minister from 1979 to 1990, the longest premiership of the 20th century.  She had earned the nickname, "The Iron Lady," for her tough convictions and policies.

"This country has just lost its greatest prime minister since Winston Churchill," said Boris Johsnon, Mayor of London.  "Yes, sometimes the things she said were tough, but I think if you look back, she was overwhelmingly right in her judgement."

Thatcher became Prime Minister during a tumultuous time for Britain, with the economy suffering from strikes and inflation, but her policies on trade union reforms, privatization, and deregulation helped bolster England's finances and international political standing.

In 1982, Argentenia militia invaded the British-owned Falkland islands.  Many considered Thatcher's handling of the invasion and subsequent crisis as a defining moment of her premiership.  

Neil Fletcher, Managing Editor for the U.S.-based British Weekly magazine, recalled Thatcher's time as British P.M. and how she handled the Falklands War. 

"She grew into the role fantastically," Fletcher said, "and really the defining moment for me and for many Britons of my generation would be her steadfastness and determination to regain the Falkland Islands after the Argentine invasion of 1982.  That really defined her and defined her premiership.  After that, she never looked back."

Meryl Streep, who won an Academy Award for portraying Thatcher in the film "The Iron Lady," said Thatcher was groundbreaking and led the way for many female politicians after her.

"Margaret Thatcher was a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics," Streep said.  "To me, she was a figure of awe for her personal strength and grit.  I see that as evidence of some kind of greatness."

Thatcher is also remembered for standing beside the United States as the West won the Cold War over the Soviet Union.

Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan were very close.  Nancy Reagan called the two "political soul mates" for their similar conservative opinions. 

President Obama spoke about Margaret Thatcher today, saying Americans, ". . . will never foget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history.  We can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage, and iron will.”

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