How much was Margaret Thatcher worth?
|Net Worth:||$10 Million|
|Date of Birth:||October 13, 1925|
Who Is Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher was the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom. She served three consecutive terms (from 1979-1990), the longest of any British prime minister in the 20th century. Known for her steely resolve and determination, Thatcher is also remembered for her conservative social and economic policies. The daughter of a grocer, Margaret Thatcher rose through the ranks to earn the highest political position in the nation. Thatcher, along with U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev, is credited with helping to bring about the end of the Cold War.
- Dates: October 13, 1925 – April 8, 2013
- Also Known As: Margaret Hilda Roberts, “The Iron Lady,” Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven
- Famous Quote: “I am extraordinarily patient, provided I get my own way in the end.”
The Early Years of Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher was born Margaret Hilda Roberts on October 13, 1925 in Grantham, England to Alfred Roberts and Beatrice Stephenson Roberts. Her one sibling, sister Muriel, was four years her elder. The family ran a grocery store and lived in a small apartment above the store that had neither hot water nor an indoor toilet.
Once the girls were old enough, they helped their parents run the store, stocking supplies and waiting on customers. Alfred and Beatrice Roberts were devout Methodists whose daughters were not allowed to participate in frivolous activities such as parties and dances. Alfred served on the town council for 25 years and later became mayor of Grantham.
An avid reader, young Margaret Roberts was also a good student and a competitive player on the field hockey team. In 1936, after performing well on an entrance exam, she earned admission to the Kesteven Grantham Girls’ School and soon rose to the top of her class. The serious-minded Margaret could be rather blunt at times; when congratulated for having had the good luck to win first prize at a poetry reading, she indignantly responded that luck had nothing to do with it.
When World War II began in 1939, the town of Grantham — located on crucial railroad lines and home to a munitions factory — came under frequent fire from the Germans. The Thatchers and their neighbors became accustomed to the sound of air raid sirens. During the war, the Roberts family took in a young Jewish girl from Vienna who was a pen pal of Muriel’s. The Roberts girls were shocked to hear what life was like for Jews under Nazi occupation.
Thatcher Gets Political at Oxford University
In 1943, Margaret Roberts was accepted at the prestigious Oxford University, where she majored in chemistry, planning to later earn a law degree. Shy at first, Margaret soon settled into her new life and enjoyed belonging to various groups, including the choir and the Oxford University Conservative Association (OUCA).
Margaret campaigned actively for the 1945 Oxford candidate for the House of Commons and found she enjoyed doing so, especially when it came to giving speeches. Recognized for her capabilities, she was elected president of the OUCA that year, the first woman to hold that position.
As president of the OUCA, Margaret was in the perfect position to meet prominent conservative politicians who came to visit the university. Many of them would later become her allies and advisers as her career advanced.
Running for Office
After graduating in 1947, Margaret worked as a research chemist for a plastics manufacturer in Essex. Drawn to politics, she volunteered with the local Conservative Party and attracted the attention of party leaders, who recommended that she run for the House of Commons for the town of Dartford.
Margaret Roberts, then 23, became the youngest female candidate in the general elections when she ran for a seat in both 1950 and 1951. Because Dartford was a fierce stronghold of the Labor Party, however, she lost both elections, although by a smaller margin the second time.
During her first campaign, Margaret met divorced businessman and fellow Conservative Party member Denis Thatcher. Margaret and Denis married in December 1951. Denis Thatcher came from a well-to-do family and owned a successful business. His financial security allowed his wife the freedom to quit her job and attend law school.
Margaret Thatcher gave birth to twins Carol and Mark in August 1953 and passed her bar exam when the twins were only four months old.
Because many law firms in the 1950s were reluctant to hire a woman (let alone a married woman with children), Thatcher had a difficult time finding a job, but was eventually hired by a firm of tax attorneys. Her sound knowledge of tax laws and fiscal policies would prove especially valuable assets for an up-and-coming politician.
Elected to Parliament
Determined to become a Member of Parliament (MP), 33-year-old Margaret Thatcher finally found her opportunity in 1959 when a Conservative incumbent announced his retirement. Thatcher, winning the election by a margin of more than 16,000 votes, became the representative for Finchley, a suburb northwest of London. She joined her colleagues in the House of Commons as one of 17 female MPs.
Thatcher gained attention in her early days as an MP when she was called upon to introduce a bill that would give journalists and the public the right to attend government council meetings. Because the topic was important to journalists, Thatcher’s address to Parliament — her first as an MP — received heavy coverage by the press. She impressed everyone (including the opposition) with her well-delivered, articulate speech. The bill was passed into law. Thatcher’s moment in the spotlight had demonstrated to the Conservative leadership her capability and confidence.
In 1961, Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan appointed Margaret Thatcher junior minister of pensions. Her background in tax law served her well in this post. Thatcher was forced to give up her junior ministry in 1964 when the Conservatives lost the election. Yet she received a promotion of sorts when she was moved from the “back bench,” where junior members sit in Parliament, to the front bench, where party leaders and senior members sit. Thatcher enjoyed being part of the lively debates that took place in the front between the two parties.
Rising Through the Ranks
The Conservatives were out of power for the next six years, during which time Thatcher was named to several positions, in areas as diverse as treasury, power, and transportation. In 1969, Thatcher was named “shadow minister” of education. (Shadow ministers are members of the opposition party who hold positions corresponding to those held by the governing party.) With each new appointment, Thatcher earned a reputation as someone who could quickly master a new area of expertise.
In 1970, the Conservatives came back into power with the election of Prime Minister Edward Heath. The same year, Thatcher won re-election as MP with a two-to-one majority of the votes. In June 1970, Heath appointed 45-year-old Margaret Thatcher his minister of education and science. She was the only female in his cabinet.
Thatcher sought to reduce government spending on education. One attempt to save money in the school system was highly unpopular. When Parliament passed a bill that denied free milk to school children over the age of eight, Thatcher found herself demonized as “Mrs. Thatcher, the milk snatcher.”
A Soviet newspaper later bestowed upon Thatcher a nickname that she embraced, dubbing her “the Iron Lady” after a particularly emphatic speech she gave in 1976, criticizing the Soviets for their inferior social and economic policies.
Thatcher’s Rise to Power
By 1974, the conservative policies of the Heath government had become increasingly unpopular in the face of growing inflation and unemployment. In the election held in February 1974, the Labor Party won a narrow majority of seats over the Conservatives. Heath resigned, although he retained his status as leader of the Conservative Party.
Heath came under strong criticism by members of his own party, who called for an election for party leader in February 1975. When Heath’s main rival dropped out of the running, Margaret Thatcher ran in his place. She won the election on the first ballot and Heath resigned in humiliation. Thatcher became the first woman to head a major political party in Britain’s history.
In the winter of 1978-1979 (known as “the winter of discontent”), repeated strikes by public workers led to chaos in Great Britain. Schools and hospitals were forced to close and garbage piled up in the streets. The Labor Party finally gave in to strikers’ demands, granting as high as a 20 percent wage increase. Margaret Thatcher voiced her outrage at both the unions and the Labor Party.
As head of the opposition party, Thatcher brought a “no confidence” motion before the House of Commons in March 1979. Such a motion, if passed, required that a general election be held. Since the no confidence motion is made by the opposition (minority) party, however, it rarely wins. Margaret Thatcher’s motion passed by one vote, forcing an election for a new government to be held May 3, 1979.
Thatcher Becomes Prime Minister
Campaigning for the Conservatives, Thatcher lashed out at the Labor Party, citing its alliance with the unions. Taking advantage of the public’s strong anti-union sentiment and offering a platform of free economy and tax cuts, Thatcher and the Conservatives won a solid majority of 43 seats in the House.
With the Labor Party no longer in power, Prime Minister James Callaghan resigned his position. As leader of the Conservatives, Margaret Thatcher became prime minister, making history once again — as both the first female prime minister of Great Britain and the first female leader of a western nation.
Thatcher was eager to get to work, with the goal of rescuing Great Britain from what she and her party viewed as a descent into socialism as well as the loss of Britain’s status as a world leader. She believed firmly in a free economy with an emphasis on private enterprise over governmental control. After an initial period of instability, during which Britain endured the worst depression since the 1930s, Thatcher’s policies began to pay off by the spring of 1982. Inflation rates had begun to fall and the economy showed signs of recovery.
Many Britons, however, felt great resentment toward Thatcher and her policies. With unemployment rates nearing 34 percent among British youth, riots erupted in several British cities during a ten-day period in April 1981. In a rare instance of capitulation, Thatcher was forced to agree to a government-funded job training program.
The Falklands War
On April 2, 1982, Argentine forces invaded the Falklands, a group of islands off the coast of Argentina that had been in British possession since the nineteenth century. Thatcher refused to stand by and allow Argentina to take by force the islands which were home to approximately 1,800 British citizens. British ships arrived at the Falklands in late April, followed by marines and paratroopers in May. After ten weeks of battle, the Argentines surrendered on June 15.
Thatcher faced criticism for having engaged in battle in the Falklands. Her critics believed she could have intervened sooner and prevented the invasion, but a commission later determined that British intelligence had failed to warn her of the situation. Thatcher was cleared of any wrongdoing, but always felt deep regret for the deaths of 250 British soldiers.
Thatcher’s strong leadership during the Falklands War not only saved a British territory — it also played a big part in saving her political career. Thanks to what became known as “the Falklands factor,” Thatcher found herself leading in popularity polls as she faced another election in 1983. Thatcher easily defeated the Labor Party candidate and the Conservative majority more than tripled to 144 seats.
Margaret Thatcher nearly lost the opportunity to serve out her second term when a bomb exploded on October 12, 1984 at the Brighton hotel where she was staying for a Conservative Party conference. At 2:54 am, the bomb exploded, blasting off a large chunk of the exterior of the hotel. The large explosion just missed Thatcher’s room (her bathroom was damaged), but killed five people and injured 34 others.
The Irish Republican Army (IRA) claimed responsibility for the attack. Their intended target was Thatcher, who had refused to negotiate with them during recent hunger strikes by imprisoned IRA members. Ten of the prisoners died during the hunger strike and the IRA blamed Thatcher for their deaths. (Later, Thatcher did negotiate the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, which provided for cooperation between the British and Irish governments on matters concerning Northern Ireland.)
Despite the bombing, Thatcher insisted that the Conservative Party conference begin on time. During her speech that morning, Thatcher responded to the assassination attempt by saying, “This attack has failed. All attempts to destroy democracy by terrorism will fail.”
Thatcher’s second term was defined by several difficult issues, including striking miners and resistance by the labor unions to government reforms. Thatcher also took criticism for allowing American warplanes headed for Libya to take off from British bases. Yet the economy continued to strengthen under her policy of privatization of public assets.
A Third Term
Thatcher and the Conservatives won a Parliamentary majority again in June 1987. During this third and final term, Thatcher frequently clashed with members of her cabinet. In a disagreement with Thatcher over the future of British currency, Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson resigned his post in October 1989. Thatcher also disagreed with her foreign minister on the subject of Britain’s integration with continental Europe — a concept she vehemently opposed.
Thatcher has been credited with having helped bring an end to the Cold War. She was among the first western leaders to make overtures to reform-minded Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, inviting him to Great Britain in December 1984, before he had even become the general secretary of the Soviet Union. Thatcher also helped to facilitate diplomatic relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, leading to the eventual dissolution of the Soviet Union, beginning in 1989.
By 1990, Thatcher had lost much of the support of members of her own party, and was challenged for the party leadership by Michael Heseltine. Thatcher won on the first ballot, but by an insufficient margin, necessitating a second vote. Upon learning that many in her party had withdrawn their support, and with the realization that she could not win a fourth term, Thatcher resigned on November 28, 1990. John Major succeeded her.
Life After Politics
Thatcher remained in the public eye following her departure from political life. In 1992, she was awarded membership in the House of Lords under the title Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven. Thatcher wrote two memoirs and went on a number of speaking tours. After a series of strokes in 2002, she retired from public speaking. The following year, Thatcher suffered the loss of her beloved husband Denis, who died of pancreatic cancer.
Thatcher reportedly suffered from dementia in the last several years of her life and was rarely seen in public. She died of a stroke on August 8, 2013 at the age of 87 and was given a ceremonial funeral with military honors.