Born Margaret Hilda Roberts on 13 October 1925 in Grantham, she came from the provincial middle class. Her father, a local grocer and member of the local Conservative party, became (briefly) mayor of his town. With a scholarship in her pocket, Margaret was the first in her family to be admitted to Oxford University. From 1943 to 1947 she studied chemistry and in 1946 the brilliant student became president of the Oxford Conservative Students' Association.
After graduation, she worked as a chemist in industry and stood for local elections. After her first failure in politics, Margaret went to law school and married a wealthy divorcee, Denis Thatcher, in 1951. Two years later she gave birth to twins and qualified as a solicitor, specialising in tax law.
Her political career began in earnest in 1959, when she won the Finchley general election and became an MP. She was elected to the House of Commons continuously until 1992. She was one of the only Conservative MPs to vote for the decriminalisation of homosexuality and abortion rights. She also supported the death penalty.
When the Conservatives won the 1970 election, Margaret became Minister for Education. Nine years later, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. The eleven years she spent at 10 Downing Street were to profoundly change the country: faced with a recession, unemployment and very high taxes, the First Lady advocated shock therapy: deregulation and the 'minimal state', privatisations, tax cuts, the abandonment of loss-making industrial sectors and the restriction of trade union rights. All these reforms increased the country's productivity and favoured investors, but they also reinforced social inequalities. Margaret Thatcher was unyielding in the face of criticism and proved to be a formidable opponent who never gave in to the unions.
With her friend Ronald Reagan, she shares anti-communism and economic liberalism. They both credited each other with the peaceful resolution of the Cold War through nuclear deterrence. The First Lady is one of the few political figures to have given her name to a doctrine: Thatcherism. An anti-feminist, she was nevertheless the first female head of government in Europe. She holds the record for the longest tenure of Prime Minister in the UK in two centuries. Nicknamed the "Iron Lady" by a Soviet newspaper in 1976 for her visceral anti-communism and authoritarian style, this grocer's daughter embodied ultra-liberalism in the 1980s.
Margaret Thatcher resigned on 20 November 1990, following differences between her and the members of her government.
In 1992, on the proposal of her successor John Major, she was made a Peer of the United Kingdom and took a seat in the House of Lords. She retired from public life in 2002 after several strokes. Margaret Thatcher died on 8 April 2013 at the age of 87.