Margaret Thatcher led Britain for more than 11 years with a firm, guiding hand that earned her the name "The Iron Lady." However, by the time she stepped down in 1990, Great Britain had been returned to its place as one the most powerful and economically viable nations in Europe.
Thatcher, 87, died Monday after a stroke, according to her spokesman.
Thatcher, the daughter of grocery story owner and an arch conservative, became the British Prime Minister in 1979, at a point of time when the Labor Party's policies had put the country on the road to financial ruin. During the next 11 years her fierce free market beliefs helped steer the country to economic success and away from the socialistic policies that have caused so many problems in other European countries. When she stepped down in 1990, she was the country's longest-serving prime minister in the 20th century.
Most Americans remember Thatcher as a staunch ally of then-President Ronald Reagan. They both shared the same views of limited government and their collaborations helped restore the natural alliance between the two countries, which had become frayed. Despite a close friendship with then Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Thatcher backed Reagan's many moves that helped nourish democracy in Eastern Europe. In the end-and with Gorbachev's tacit approval-the old Soviet Union crumbled and democracy spread to countries that had since World War II been under Soviet control.
Thatcher left 10 Downing St. in 1990, but her iron will never changed. She continued to speak out on policy matters until a series of strokes kept her from being as active as she had been earlier. Because of her strident beliefs, she made many enemies-both at home and abroad. But the economic policies she brought to her country have largely remained. These policies have kept Britain on the course of financial stability and has helped the country avoid many of the problems of other European countries, such as Greece.
Like Winston Churchill before her, Thatcher was the right person at the right time for her country. We can only hope every generation will have a politician the caliber of a Thatcher or a Reagan to step into leadership roles when needed the most.