ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • Books & Novels»
  • Nonfiction»
  • Biographies & Memoirs

Margaret Thatcher, The Iron Lady

Updated on April 25, 2013

A leader with an unshakable determination

In 2008 the United States elected its first minority president. It was a tremendous accomplishment for a country that had previously only had white male leaders for well over a 100 years. Yet England, almost a half a century earlier, had already had not only their first female leader, but she was one of the longest standing leaders in their history. Margaret Thatcher led her party in office for 15 years, clearly not just a token female leader. An entire generation of citizens could not remember anyone else in office besides Ms. Thatcher and frankly could not picture anyone else leading their country. She is a remarkable woman who led through sheer force of determination and energy who worked incredibly hard for what she received. This is her story.

Image Credit The Famous

We mourn the passing of Margaret Thatcher

On April 8th, Margaret Thatcher who led her country with strength and conviction succumbed to a stroke and passed at the age of 87. I think there is no better way to celebrate her life than for the next generation to learn about who she was and what she stood for.

To women, she showed that being a woman never means being inferior and you can be as tough or tougher than any man. To all she showed that conviction goes hand-to-hand with empathy. People need a leader who they can count on especially during tough times. Margaret was that rock in a sea of unrest.

The world will mourn the loss of a great woman!

Thatcher, a visionary or a stubborn egotist?

Like many leaders who make tremendous impacts on their country, Margaret Thatcher was actually born into very modest means with a father who owned a grocery store, something she would refer back to throughout her political career. Considering herself to be middle class she always considered middle class to be 'her people'. Unlike most future political leaders, Thatcher went into science not only earning her Bachelor of Science but also working for two major material companies while working on her law degree and eventually going into politics. Yet even in college Thatcher knew she wanted to go into politics. Being part of the conservative (name of her political party in England) party on campus and even going to one of their national conventions, she was hooked on the energy and the potential impact she could make from inside the government, even if she was ridiculed as a female and having no potential in higher politics. She had the gift of a clear vision to the future and was going to let nothing get in her way to achieve that vision.

One of the aspects of Thatcher's personality that I found so fascinating is her tremendous capacity for work. Throughout her career, even into her retirement, she never slept more than 4 hours a night. It is hard to say if that was why she was successful or it was a result of her success that she worked so hard, but with every position she had in politics she would read and provide opinions on every level of document including those that were far beneath her status. For instance while she was Education Secretary she oversaw a number of changes including the consolidation of many smaller schools to fewer larger school. She insisted on reviewing every single proposal for consolidation even though this was something that normally would be vetted at a much lower level and then sent up with recommendations, she insisted on reviewing personally. The result of this insistence on personal involvement and her tremendous capacity to remember details read years prior allowed her to overwhelm nearly anyone in debate by her knowledge. She was able to pull our detailed plans, facts and figures to support virtually any argument she was trying to make. This is part of the reason she was such a force to be reckoned with in any discussion which would ultimately turn into a debate..

This attention to detail and ability to remember facts and figures all led to another interesting characteristic that most in England feel is fully synonymous with the name Thatcher. When you can out debate nearly every opponent, TV interviewer or world leader, one can unknowingly build a shell of superiority that fails to let in outside opinions. While Thatcher always had strong opinions, possibly due to listening to her father as a part time preacher and part time political leader, but most likely in no small part to her just being the smartest kid in class. It must have been hard when you have all the answers to open your mind up to listen to other people's opinions. While in school this might not have been a problem, however in politics it is a very mixed blessing. On one hand a true visionary leader needs to be able to make a goal and stick to it regardless of what critics might say. Only when they succeed will others possibly understand their forward-looking vision. A perfect example of this was Thatcher's dogged defense of a tiny territory off the coast of Argentina that was attacked and occupied by Argentina's military dictatorship. Most inside England and globally believed that England's military would have no ability to remove an invading force from the Falklands, thousands of miles from their home bases. Yet with dogged optimism and determination she succeeded and won that conflict.

"Make up your own mind what you are going to do and persuade people to go YOUR way. Never go with the crowd."

--Margaret Thatcher

A conviction to rival any leader in the world

Yet on the other hand if one doesn't listen to other opinions, especially as an elected official, one might find themselves either further in front or going in the wrong direction of loyal supporters. Thatcher found just that in 1990 when, what is called the back-benchers or those in her party that were not in her cabinet, started to become increasingly frustrated with her policies especially when she refused to listen to their feedback or concerns. She was convinced of her own direction and would not be swayed. This was precisely how she earned her nickname the Iron Lady which was actually first issued by the Soviet Union as an insult to her, yet she took as a compliment. In fact when Ronald Regan was engaged in negotiations with the Soviet Union she told him (and has since been famously repeated) "Now is not the time to be wobbly". This is how she lived her life, with conviction and strength.

It would be inappropriate to speak about Thatcher without discussing her over archiving goal in life, which was to rid the country, and ideally the world, of socialism. Partly through the teachings of her father but also through her own ideas, she felt that people are happiest when they have control over their own destiny even if that means they sometimes have to work a little harder. She understood the concept of the government helping people during tough times, but wanted to limit that and really have people work to better themselves. One of the toughest challenges was actually privatizing major industries including electric, gas even the air industry; things we take for granted when we speak of British Telecom or British Airways, but was in no way taken for granted in the 1980s. These programs, which Thatcher enacted to encourage the population to control their own destiny, truly put to test capitalism as a concept and had tremendous impact on society. Some of the deregulation has actually led to large drops in the economy decades later including the housing/debt crisis that hit in 2010, on the other hand there has been more wealth created in that country than could ever have been imagined prior.

While it goes without saying that intelligent plays a major role in the success, however sometimes even more of a factor is hard work, determination and execution. Thatcher was renowned for working 20-hour days (to the detriment of her family at home) and pushing her colleagues and even the population as a whole to new and many times difficult positions when her conviction told her that was the proper place to go. She faced hurdles at every turn, but never let those hold her down. She gained tremendous respect from world leaders who had for the most part never encountered a strong female leader in modern history. She truly was a force to be reckoned with!

What we can learn from this story

I find it frustrating during elections when any opposition identifies changes in economy or environment and blames it on the party in office who most of the time has been in office for only a couple of years. The assumption is that policies and decisions by a leader have virtually instantaneous impacts. Yet when you read on the Iron Lady with the benefit of hindsight it becomes increasingly clear how every action has not simply one reaction but a chain of reactions, which will ripple for decades to come. One example is the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act in the United States in 1999 leading over a decade later to the mortgage crisis and in no small part led to one of the steepest recessions in US and global history. While for many years that repeal led to tremendous economic growth, virtually without precedent in the United States, without oversight it also led to companies taking advantage of the system leading to global debt crisis.

If we can learn anything from this example or those from Thatcher's history is that changes take time and will always have long reaching consequences. This is not to say that a country should not change, for change is inevitable for survival, but one needs to take measured steps and know it takes time to measure success. In many ways the Chinese have a very good policy when they take a view not of 1-2 years to measure success, but 1-2 decades. Thus, in our own lives or those of our leaders try to not expect things immediately but know that all things take time and must be given a chance to play out. If they don't work as expected, make course corrections of course, but know that results don't happen immediately.

A few of my favorite quotes

"You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot help the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer" -- Margaret Thatcher

No one, thank heavens, is quite like anyone else, however much the Socialists may like to pretend otherwise. We believe that everyone has the right to be unequal. But to us, every human being is equally important...Everyone must be allowed to develop the abilities he knows he has within him -- and she knows she has within her -- in the way he chooses" -- Margaret Thatcher

"There is something else which one feels. That is a sense of this country's destiny: the centuries of history and experience which ensure that, when principles have to be defended, when good has to be upheld and when evil has to be overcome, Britain will take up arms. It is because we on this side have never flinched from difficult decisions that this House and this country can have confidence in this Government today." - Margaret Thatcher

My overall review of this book

For all those that might have or plan to see the movie "The Iron Lady" I would highly recommend you read this book, which goes into far more detail on the accomplishments she had in her life which is quite extensive and has had far reaching impacts. In fact I fear the movie glosses over quite a bit of what Ms. Thatcher actually accomplished and the hurdles she had to overcome. For those interested in politics or simply the story of a woman who overcame all obstacles and came to be seen not for her gender but the ideas and strength of character. This book is both inspiring and entertaining at the same time.

Please be aware that John Campbell assumes a certain level of familiarity with British political system and processes and thus might be beneficial to read up slightly on this in advance. There will be several chapters that will seem to dwell on election nuances that for those less interested in politics might wish to skip. However, even for those readers who bypass small sections on local politics and read simply on her country and world impacts will find this to be a very satisfying read.

Get your own copy

While an interesting movie, this book is far superior to what was made for the silver screen. A true biography of this amazing woman which did not shy away from showing both sides of her personality and policies. Strongly recommend it to all who are interested in this fascinating woman.

A great example of Thatcher's emphatic speech in Parliament

What are your thoughts, ESPECIALLY if you were in England while she was Prime Minister.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      tonyleather 4 years ago

      She was a truly great leader, and though may hated her style of leadership, she certainly got things done. A powerful woman indeed!

    • Erin Mellor profile image

      Erin Mellor 4 years ago from Europe

      I come from the English Midlands, and grew up with Thatcher as Prime Minister. School and hospital budgets were cut, state owned utilities were sold off at well below their market value to the rich, and a generation of kids left school to find no work, many of them have never found stable work as a result. Lots of people find the mourning rather strange.

    • yonique88 profile image

      yonique88 4 years ago

      I don't really care for Margaret Thatcher but I really like your lens.

    • profile image

      BarbsSpot 4 years ago

      @Lensmaster...Congratulations on the Purple Star for this controversial Lens! Well presented!

    • PlethoraReader profile image

      Matthew 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @JohnTannahill: We appreciate you sharing the other side of her story from your perspective. Something like this brings color to her story.

    • PlethoraReader profile image

      Matthew 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @nicenet: Everyone had different experiences with her, but her work at least deserves respect. Thank you for your thoughts

    • PlethoraReader profile image

      Matthew 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @pauline60: Thank you so much for sharing something so personal from your family's experience. These are the kind of personal stories that personalize biographies such as this. Thank you.

    • pauline60 profile image

      pauline60 4 years ago

      I am the daughter of a coalminer and grew up in a pit village. My father still lives in the ruins of it. He and my mother could not move away as their house became virtually worthless after a lifetime of paying for it. We lost not only our jobs but out entire communities which collapsed completely when there was nowhere left for people to work. Those communities have not recovered nearly 30 years on, and probably never will. Tens of thousands of people's lives were ruined in the North East. Of course some people did rather nicely under her regime.

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 4 years ago

      Magaret Thatcher is one of my great heroine. A determined lady even though some people booed her after she passed away, she will be dearly missed.

      Thanks for giving me an insight into her life.

    • JohnTannahill profile image

      John Tannahill 4 years ago from Somewhere in England

      Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - UK for short. Only a minority of people in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales voted for her party. So, by referring to her as an English leader, you are almost right. Though we all had to suffer her leadership.

      I am uneasy when I read articles like this, and some of the comments below, which praise her. I saw a different side to her, having lived through her terms of office as a young adult living in the UK, and it wasn't pretty.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      great woman. I saw her on bbc.

    • EliasZanetti LM profile image

      EliasZanetti LM 4 years ago

      A controversial politician while in power and still after her death. Nice lens.

    • chi kung profile image

      chi kung 4 years ago

      @wleon63: you know she closed factories that were not profitable, there is no point in throughing money out of the window when you think about the whole country not just individual workers...

      Sure it was tough for those who lost their jobs, but surely new jobs were created

      As a leader I think she was too stubborn but - on the other hand you have to be a strong leader and have to follow your vision for the good of the whole country, nut just individuals

    • PeterStip profile image

      PeterStip 4 years ago

      Thatcher was a close friend to the dictator of of Chili Pinochet. And defended him while he should have been brought for justice for torture and murder.

      She was a hard-line neoconservative and went for pure capitalism, just like Pinochet. For her, the weak should not be given a chance. (this tends to fascism in my opinion). She made the I-society. She is together with Ronald Reagan guilty of the greed mentality that is the source of the crisis we live in today.

      Her death will sadly enough not change this mentality.

    • profile image

      webscribbler 4 years ago

      There's something to be said for a strong leader who gathers the facts and then makes up their own mind. This new trend of governing by following the results of often misleading polls asked of uninformed citizens is neither smart or the sign of a good leader.

    • VineetBhandari profile image

      VineetBhandari 4 years ago

      a tough woman in a men world need to take some tough decisions accepting (or ignoring) the consequences

    • chocochipchip profile image

      chocochipchip 4 years ago

      An amazing woman!

    • chocochipchip profile image

      chocochipchip 4 years ago

      An amazing woman!

    • Bobbala profile image

      Bobbala 4 years ago

      Great lens! A great leader. One of the heroes of my lifetime as well.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Sometimes, leaders have to make hard decisions to move the country onward and in the process, hurt some. I admire Thatcher's ability to make hard decisions.

    • PlethoraReader profile image

      Matthew 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @wleon63: I appreciate you bringing a different viewpoint to the conversation here. There clearly was controversy around many of her decisions and I think it is important that we hear from others on some of the other impacts her decisions might have made. Thank you for taking the time to share your memories of her.

    • wleon63 profile image

      wleon63 4 years ago

      One more thing to add to what I have put, she also destroyed all of the factories, and sold off all the council houses. My country under Thatcher became darker, meaner, and people became desperate as two societies within society was born - one for the rich who only grew richer under her - and the other society which was made up of good, honest hardworking people, who were left destroyed and destitute by this evil woman. No, her passing will not be mourned by many in the North of England. And today's present Government in England, is acting in exactly the same way.

    • wleon63 profile image

      wleon63 4 years ago

      Well, judging by all the comments below, it seems they are all Conservatives. I can tell you that I was certainly not a fan of this woman. I lived through those years, and the misery and heartache she caused will never be forgotten. She did not listen to anyone and stormed ahead no matter what the consequences.

      She decimated and destroyed the North of England, closed down the mines, caused riots everywhere, and unemployment shot up into the millions. She then brought out the hated and despised 'Poll Tax' which eventually brought her down.

      She did absolutely nothing for those who were poor and the rich grew richer under her. The gap between rich and poor widened to such an extent that it caused untold misery and poverty for those who did not have - hence the riots and social unrest on a scale not seen before on British shores.

      No, Yes, she was a woman, working in a man's world. And she could have done so much, but she completely alienated the my country. And there are people in the North of England especially now, who still have not forgotten what she did, nor will they ever forgive. And who can blame them? I certainly do not.

    • favored profile image

      Fay Favored 4 years ago from USA

      She was a wonderful leader and will be missed.

    • profile image

      storytimesam 4 years ago

      Your Lens was very interesting... the iron lady was a able leader and brought her country many blessings by her leadership. Thanks for sharing.

    • lgOlson profile image

      L. Olson 4 years ago from Northern Arizona

      Such a great woman and leader. One of the heroes of my lifetime.

    • PlethoraReader profile image

      Matthew 4 years ago from Silicon Valley

      @stewartscoles: Thank you for your first hand account. It seems many times when we see leaders come from humble beginnings they appear to be able to better understand adversity and look out for others. Thank you for sharing!

    • profile image

      stewartscoles 4 years ago

      When she first came to power it was a miserable time in the UK and a major shake up was the only way to turn things around. Aside from the fact that she was the first woman premier it was double good that she had come from humble blood stock to lead a party that was full of individuals that had a more privileged backgrounds.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 5 years ago

      I like the type of leader she was... Great review.