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Margaret Thatcher was called the Iron Lady for her style of strong leadership and firm political beliefs. (Terry O'Neill / Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

Britain’s “Iron Lady” Dies

Margaret Thatcher, 87, transformed the United Kingdom as its Prime Minister

By Zach Jones | April 8 , 2013
<p>PHOTO: Thatcher on a visit to British troops overseas in 1986 (Jockel Fink / AP Images) </p><p> MAP: The United Kingdom is governed by Parliament and a Prime Minister. (Jim McMahon) </p>

PHOTO: Thatcher on a visit to British troops overseas in 1986 (Jockel Fink / AP Images)

MAP: The United Kingdom is governed by Parliament and a Prime Minister. (Jim McMahon)

British politician Margaret Thatcher died on Monday at age 87. She was one of the United Kingdom’s most famous Prime Ministers. She served as that country’s Prime Minister for more than 11 years—longer than any other British politician in the 20th century.

Thatcher was Britain’s first—and so far only—female Prime Minister. She was nicknamed the Iron Lady for her style of strong leadership and firm political beliefs. The policies that her government put in place from 1979 to 1990 have become known as Thatcherism.

CHANGING A COUNTRY

Before becoming a politician, Thatcher worked as a chemist and as a lawyer. Her career in politics began when she was elected to the British Parliament in 1959.

Parliament, which consists of an elected House of Commons and an appointed House of Lords, makes the United Kingdom’s laws. This is much like Congress in the United States, which also has two chambers—the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Prime Minister leads the British government and serves in a role similar to that of the U.S. President.

Thatcher became Prime Minister at a time when the British government had economic problems. (A nation’s economy is the way a country runs its industry, trade, and finance.) Before Thatcher came into power, Britain did not have enough money to pay its bills.

The Conservative Party, which Thatcher led, believed that spending less money was essential to fixing the country’s economy. These policies made Thatcher a controversial politician. They inspired both strong support and disagreement. During her time in office, Britain’s economy recovered and began to grow. British businesses once again became important in the world economy.

Thatcher led the British government during the Falklands War in 1982, when Argentina and the United Kingdom fought for control of a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean to the east of Argentina. She also became an important figure in the Cold War, a political conflict largely between the United States and the Soviet Union, and helped both sides get closer to a truce, or peaceful agreement.

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