Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the grocerâ€™s daughter whose overpowering personality, bruising political style and free-market views transformed Britain and transfixed America through the 1980s, died Monday after a stroke, her spokesman said in a statement. She was 87.
The first woman to lead a major Western power, Mrs. Thatcher served 11 1 / 2 uninterrupted years in office before stepping down Nov. 28, 1990, making her the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century.
Infuriated by Britainâ€™s image as the â€śsick old man of Europe,â€ť she set out to dismantle Britainâ€™s cradle-to-grave welfare state, selling off scores of massive state-owned industries, crushing the power of organized labor and cutting government spending with the purpose of liberating the nation from what she called a â€śculture of dependency.â€ť
On the world stage, she collaborated closely with her friend Ronald Reagan to modernize Europeâ€™s anti-Soviet nuclear shield by deploying cruise and Pershing II missiles in Britain, a costly and controversial enterprise that some analysts would later say contributed to the breakup of the Soviet Union. Mrs. Thatcher then joined Reaganâ€™s successor, George H.W. Bush, in repelling Saddam Husseinâ€™s invasion of Kuwait, counseling Bush not to go â€śwobblyâ€ť on her.