Love her or loathe her -- as many did -- there is little doubt that Margaret Thatcher was the dominant political, social, economic and cultural force in Britain during the latter half of the last century.
Not only was Thatcher Britain's first female PM, but she was also Britain's only female PM, whose 11 years in office were the longest for any PM in 150 years.
What this daughter of a green grocer did, was undo and reverse socialism in Britain that started with Clement Atlee and continued through the leadership of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.
In essence, she returned Britain to private ownership, starting with her fights with Arthur Scargill of the powerful miners union. The battle was ugly and relentless, but she won. (As an aside, a similar battle is being fought today in the U.S. against excessive benefits given to unions.)
By the time she became PM in 1979, Britain was on the ropes as a fading power, the plaything of unions which manipulated the economy. She changed all that through the strength of her character and the force of her convictions.
"The lady is not for turning," she once said, and indeed she wasn't.
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Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher leaving 10 Downing Street after the Conservative Party won a convincing majority in the General Election.
Baroness Margaret Thatcher reunited with her husband Sir Denis Thatcher, this afternoon when he returned home after spending the last few weeks recovering from his six-hour coronary by-pass operation. * Sir Denis the husband of former Conservative Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher, who is 87-years-old, said he was looking forward to a relaxing weekend in their home in Belgravia, West London. 15/6/03: His family said that the 88-year-old had been readmitted to the Royal Brompton Hospital in London for tests following major heart surgery in January. *30/10/03: Baroness Thatcher will be joined by her twin children, Carol and Mark, at a memorial service to pay tribute to her late husband, Sir Denis Thatcher. Sir Denis died in June, aged 88 having undergone major heart surgery six months earlier from which it appeared he had made a good recovery.
David Montgomery/Getty Images)British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, circa 1985. (Photo by David Montgomery/Getty Images) (Photo by David Montgomery/Getty Images)
Margaret Thatcher and Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany at ease in the grounds as they had three hours of 'relaxed and very friendly' talks at Chequers, the Prime Minister's country residence. They agreed more emphasis should be laid on the warmth of Anglo-German relations.
Baroness Thatcher and Conservative leader David Cameron meet for dinner at the Goring Hotel in Victoria, south-west London.
Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh sit with the Knights and Ladies of the Garter in the Waterloo Room at Windsor Castle before a Garter Service at St George's Chapel in the castle grounds. * The Knights and Ladies of The Most Noble Order of the Garter are, from left: front row, The Duke of Grafton, The King of Spain, The Queen of Denmark, The Duke of Gloucester, The Princess Royal, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Queen, The Prince of Wales, The Duke of Kent, Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg, The Queen of the Netherlands, The King of Norway. Second row; Page of Honour The Honorable John Bowes-Lyon, Sir Edward Heath, The Duke of Devonshire, Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, The Duke of Wellington, The Chancellor Lord Carrington, Lord Richardson of Duntisbourne, Lord Bramall, Viscount Ridley, Lord Kingsdown, Baroness Thatcher, Page of Honour Lord Carnegie. Third row; Lord Inge, The Duke of Abercorn, Lord Ashburton, Sir Edmund Hilary, Sir Timothy Coleman, Sir William Gladstone and Sir Anthony Acland.
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands (l) and Prince Claus (2nd from right) with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with Welsh Secretary Peter Walker at Clydach Vale in Rhondda Valley, where she saw derelict land being reclaimed as part of a factory development.
Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus of the Netherlands meet with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Downing Street during their state visit to Britain.
File photo dated 17/06/07 of Margaret Thatcher and the Duke of York as a hand-written note by Lady Thatcher appears to show how she grappled with her response to the Duke of York's deployment as part of the Falklands task force.
EMBARGOED TO 0001 FRIDAY MARCH 22 File photo dated 01/10/88 of Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as Lady Thatcher's 1982 private papers include a number of brief mentions of figures who would go on to play a significant role in public and political life. They include an early meeting with Robert Mugabe, who had been elected as Prime Minister of Zimbabwe in 1980.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, watched by her husband Denis, lays a wreath among the hundreds of other floral tributes near the turn stile area of the Bradford City football ground, Yorkshire, where many of the 52 victims of the tragedy were found.
During the second day of their State visit to Britain, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Prince Claus are greeted by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street, London, for luncheon.
Conservative MP Margaret Thatcher (the future British Prime Minister), Secretary of State for Education and Science.
Unsuccessful Conservative candidate for Dartford, Margaret Hilda Roberts, 26, on the day of her wedding to Denis Thatcher at Wesley's Chapel, in London.
A popular event in the two-day programme of the Conservative Women's Conference was the address on education by Margaret Thatcher, Education Secretary.
Margaret Thatcher enjoying a chat with dancers from the Red Army Ensemble -- Moscow Military District, at the Royal Albert Hall.
Unsuccessful Conservative candidate for Dartford, Margaret Roberts, 26, at her wedding to 36-year-old Denis Thatcher at Wesley's Chapel, in London.
Prime Minister, Edward Heath sports a smile which lasted during a three-minute ovation he received at the opening of the annual Conservative conference at the Winter Gardens. Sharing the platform with him is Margaret Thatcher, Secretary for Education and Science.
Margaret Thatcher, Conservative MP, receives a kiss from her husband Denis.
Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher, at working her office at the House of Commons.
Conservative MP Margaret Thatcher, 49, in her Chelsea home kitchen, before making her challenge for the Conservative Party leadership and a place in political history.
Former California Governor Ronald Reagan presenting a silver dollar medallion to Opposition Leader Margaret Thatcher when he visited her in her House of Commons office.
Margaret Thatcher speaking at the Conservative Local Government Conference at Caxton Hall, London, when she angrily accused the Government of having tried to whip up non-existent emotions in the referendum campaigns.
Margaret Thatcher, spokesperson on Education in the Conservative Shadow Cabinet, at the Houses of Parliament.
Margaret and Denis Thatcher get away from it all with their 25-year-old twins, Mark and Carol, by strolling through the grounds of Scotney Castle, Kent where Mrs Thatcher has a National Trust flat. She is relaxing before the battle ahead to become the first female Prime Minster.
Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher in a jubilant mood outside her Chelsea home, after Tory victories in by-elections at two former Labour strongholds - Workington and Walsall North.
Margaret and Denis Thatcher with their children, Mark and Carol, at their Chelsea home on the day of their silver wedding anniversary.
File photo dated 26/4/1982 of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Wide divisions within the Conservative party over how the Government should respond to Argentina's invasion of the Falklands are revealed today as Margaret Thatcher's 1982 private papers are made public.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wears protective clothing as she tours the premises of Vacuum Interrupters Ltd.
Margaret Thatcher waves from the doorstep of Number 10 Downing Street in Whitehall, London, on the day of the General Election.
Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher in a thoughtful mood when she hosted her party's press conference in London, as the 1979 General Election campaign entered its final week.
Britain's first women Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher arrives at no.10 Downing Street to take up office following the Conservative victory in the general election.
A jubilant Margaret Thatcher acknowledging the standing ovation after her speech on the final day of the Conservative Party Conference at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher facing an enthusiastic reception from well-wishers outside No 10 Downing Street, in London, on her return from the Commons, where she told MPs talks on a surrender by Argentina of the Falkland Islands were in progress.
Margaret Thatcher addressing a crowd at Stoneleigh near Coventry wearing a garland presented to her by an Asian constituent.
Margaret Thatcher with her husband Denis greets supporters at a rally in Fleetwood during her campaign visit of the North West.
Conservative party leader Margaret Thatcher with 16 year old Rother Valley schoolboy, William Hague, after he received a standing ovation from delegates at the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool.
10th JUNE: On this day in 1983 Margaret Thatcher won a landslide victory to start her second term of power. The window of success frames the jubilant Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher waving to well-wishers after her election win. At Tory Party headquarters, she told flag-waving supporters "My victory is greater than I had dared to hope".
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher looks pensive as she awaits the arrival of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher returning to 10 Downing Street after winning the election. Instead of entering her official residence, she insisted on walking to the end of the street and the corner of Whitehall to shake hands with well-wishers.
Ronald Reagan has a word in the ear of Margaret Thatcher on the day that Thatcher becomes the longest-serving Prime Minister in the 20th century.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, left, with American President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with French President Francois Mitterrand at the Chapter House, Canterbury Cathedral, when the Channel Fixed Link Treaty was signed by the foreign secretaries.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher gives a three-fingered salute outside 10 Downing Street as she begins her third successive term of office following the Conservative victory in the general election.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterand at Canterbury Cathedral for the signing of the Channel Fixed Link Treaty.
Left to right: Queen Elizabeth II, American President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at Buckingham Palace when they attended a special banquet hosted by the Queen following the London Economic Summit.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is joined by Queen Elizabeth II and five former PMs at 10 Downing Street, London, as she hosts a dinner celebrating the 250th anniversary of the residence becoming the London home of Prime Ministers. (L-R) James Callaghan, Lord Home, Thatcher, Lord Stockton, the Queen, Lord Wilson and Edward Heath.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis lead off the dancing during the Victory Ball at the Empress Hall, Blackpool.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her husband Denis on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street, London, ten years after they moved in, following the 1979 general election.
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher outside 10 Downing Street, in London, with her son Mark, daughter-in-law Diane, and two-month-old grandson Michael.
She said "no" to the European Union (in fact she said "no, no, no"), and when in doubt she called upon her own "conservative" beliefs and did what she thought was right -- and it usually was.
Not for nothing was she known as the "Iron Lady." As she said of herself: "I am patient -- so long as I get my way"
She took Britain into a brief war with Argentina over whether the Falkland Islands should remain British, and won. It also signalled that Britain was back as a world influence.
She formed an alliance with U.S. Presidents Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush -- for Reagan she supplied brain power to do the right thing, for Bush she loaned him courage to do what was right.
As for the Soviet Union's Mikhail Gorbachev, she famously said he was someone she could work with...and did.
Parts of Britain never forgave her for bringing the unions to heel.
Admittedly controversial, she was not defeated at the polls by the British electorate, but by the Conservative party shed led from the wilderness to power. By replacing her, the party viewed itself as being pragmatic and realistic, when actually it was being cowardly and cunning.
John Major replaced her, and faded fast.
Fortunately, Labour's Tony Blair had elements of Thatcherism in his genes. His support of Bush the Younger after 9/11, was pure Thatcher.
What was refreshing about Mrs. Thatcher was her candour and courage, witness the jibe that "Socialism works until it runs out of other people's money."
We in the West were blessed that Thatcher, Reagan and Gorbachev were in power at the same time. It meant the end of the USSR which, in itself, was a monumental step towards normality. Russia under Putin no longer lusts to rule the world.
Significantly, it is those who revere "freedom" who most miss Mrs. Thatcher. When East Europe wore Communist shackles, Margaret Thatcher was their inspiration and their hope. She gave persecuted people hope.
Sadly, there is no Margaret Thatcher on the political horizon today.
Would that there were.
Now she is gone. Dead at age 87 from a stroke, we are told.
We are unlikely to see her like again.