Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, one of the most formidable leaders of the 20th century, died Monday morning from a stroke, reports The Telegraph. She was 87.
“It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning. A further statement will be made later,” confirmed Thatcher’s spokesman.
As the first female British prime minister and a member of the Conservative Party, Thatcher was a polarizing figure in British politics, serving from 1979-1990. On one hand, she was lauded for her bold condemnation against Communism—it was the Soviets themselves who coined her “The Iron Lady”; on the other hand, her approach to the economy by privatizing aspects of Britain’s government and for reducing social services and restricting labor unions unleashed a fury of accusations that she was destroying the country’s safety net.
One of the key turning points in Thatcher’s political career was when she helped Britain achieve victory over Argentina in the Falklands War in 1982. Although sovereignty of the islands was not settled, her popularity soared, helping assure her re-election in 1983.
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As one of only a handful of female world leaders, Thatcher cultivated close relationships with politicians, including U.S. President Ronald Reagan; the two are considered pivotal “architects of the West’s victory in the Cold War.” Thatcher also became a fan of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and his policies of “perestroika,” which was a movement to reform Communism.
Thatcher left office in November 1990 after serving three terms as prime minister. She was given the title “Baroness,” and she was welcomed into the highest order of knighthood in England, the order of the garter. She also established the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, an organization dedicated to encouraging free trade, free enterprise, and democracy throughout the world.
Thatcher’s health started to suffer through a series of strokes starting in 2001, and in 2008, her daughter Carol announced she had been diagnosed with dementia.
Thatcher is survived by her son and daughter. Her husband of almost 52 years, Sir Denis, died in 2003.