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People Top 5
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- April 22, 2013
- Vol. 79
- No. 16
Margaret Thatcher: 1925-2013
Determined and Combative, Britain's First Female Prime Minister Reshaped, but Also Divided, Her Nation
The battles that cemented her reputation as a leader with inflexible conservative values – her promotion of free markets and battles with labor unions; her aggressive military response to Argentina's 1982 seizure of the Falkland Islands; and her acceleration of the Cold War, hand-in-hand with her friend President Ronald Reagan – were often divisive. Yet during the 11 years she occupied 10 Downing St., beginning in 1979, Thatcher not only commanded respect for her unflinching commitment to Britain's interests. As Europe's first female head of state, she also inspired dreams, giving girls around the globe "reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation," as Meryl Streep, who portrayed Thatcher in the 2011 film The Iron Lady, put it.
After a long battle with dementia, Thatcher, 87, died of a stroke on April 8. In residence at London's Ritz hotel, she went "peacefully," said her children, twins Mark and Carol, 59. Hailed by current prime minister David Cameron as "a great leader, a great prime minister, a great Briton," Thatcher will be the first since Winston Churchill to be accorded the sort of funereal honors usually reserved for royalty. Thatcher dismissed talk of such pomp as "a waste of money," evidence that her steely will—and her life-long thriftiness—remained intact. The 2003 death of her beloved husband, Denis, however, provided a glimpse behind Thatcher's iron facade. "Being prime minister is a lonely job," she said at the time. "But with Denis there, I was never alone."
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