Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the grocer’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 Britain’s image as the “sick old man of Europe,” she set out to dismantle Britain’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 “culture of dependency.”
On the world stage, she collaborated closely with her friend Ronald Reagan to modernize Europe’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 Reagan’s successor, George H.W. Bush, in repelling Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, counseling Bush not to go “wobbly” on her.