The first time she worked in a campaign was when she was ten. Her university years were during World War II, and she came to maturity with an unembarrassed, unabashed patriotism that never left her. The war, not the Depression, was her formative experience. She went up to Oxford University, where she studied chemistry, although without much conviction. Politics was what compelled her. She ended up president of the Oxford University Conservative Association although she did not debate in the Oxford Union because women were not yet permitted to join.
She had settled on politics as her career. In , she went back to Grantham to campaign for the conservative candidate After graduating, she took a job as a research chemist in a plastics factory and then in the research department of the J. Lyons food company, testing cake fillings and ice creams. She had no great interest in being a scientist, but she was determined to support herself away from home. What she really wanted was to be adopted by a parliamentary constituency.
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She was given a constituency in the southeast of England that traditionally voted a strong Labor majority. She lost.
No one had expected otherwise, and she was very pleased to have had her first shot at Parliament. On the night of her adoption for the seat, she happened to meet a businessman named Denis Thatcher, who ran a family paint and chemical company. They were both interested in politics. And, as she put it, "his professional interest in paint and mine in plastics" gave them further topics of conversation, as "unromantic" a foundation as that might have seemed. They were married in Having had her fill of chemistry and cake fillings, she studied for the bar and became a lawyer, specializing in patents and tax.
She had already achieved some prominence.
Margaret Thatcher: From grocer’s daughter to Iron Lady
As a young Tory woman in , she wrote an article for a Sunday newspaper saying that women should not necessarily feel that they had to stay at home. They could pursue careers -- including in Parliament, where there were only 17 female MPs out of And there was no reason not to shoot high, even in Parliament. Why not a woman chancellor? Or foreign secretary?
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She had reached the first rung. Above all, the up-and-coming Tory politician had to avoid being 'reactionary.
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Described as a kind of "New Deal Conservative," he had seen it as his duty to embed the Tory Party firmly in the postwar consensus; and he embraced the welfare state, full employment, and planning -- all of which he saw as the "middle way" between the old liberalism, on one side, and socialism and totalitarianism, on the other. His family firm, Macmillans, had published Keynes's most important works Margaret Thatcher subscribed to what she called "the prevailing orthodoxy" and moved further up the rungs. In , Macmillan made her a junior minister, and she dutifully followed him as well as his successor, Alec Douglas-Home Then, as part of Edward Heath's team, she became education minister when he led the Conservative Party to victory in It was only in that she and Keith Joseph broke with Heath and the mainstream -- amid the economic and social crises, electoral defeat, and the struggle over the leadership.
Margaret Thatcher - Quotes, Death & Life - Biography
But she had already been much influenced by the Institute of Economic Affairs, with which she had worked since the s. As leader of the opposition from onward, she left no doubt that she was also one of the Conservative Party's most committed free marketers.
In the mids, not long after becoming Leader, she visited the Conservative Party's research department She reached into her briefcase and pulled out a book. It was Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty.
She held it up for all to see. Margaret Thatcher knew exactly what she thought. Government was doing too much. Putting them And if judged only by its first three years, the Thatcherite revolution might have been deemed a failure The new Tory government that took power in discovered that it had inherited an even more dire economic situation from Labor than it had anticipated Interest rates were 16 percent; inflation was programmed to rise to 20 percent; the government deficit was destined to swell.
Enormous pay increases were promised to public-sector workers, a sort of postdated check left behind by the Labor government that would guarantee still-higher inflation. The state-owned companies were insatiably draining money out of the Treasury. To make matters more difficult, Keith Joseph's hopes to convert the Tory Party had been only partly fulfilled. Thatcher was a minority within her own government and did not have control over her Cabinet Coming to office in the wake of endless strikes, she was forced to focus on the powerful trade unions.
Unless the unions could be curbed and a more level playing field instituted, nothing of substance could be accomplished. The government dug itself in, to varying degrees, on a series of strikes. It also got critical legislation through Parliament limiting the ability of unions, sometimes battling among themselves for power, to turn every disagreement into a class war. Instead of intervening with fiscal policy, the Tory government believed that its main economic job was to ensure a steady growth in the money supply that would be commensurate with economic growth.
The traditional Keynesian measures of economic management -- employment and output targets -- were abandoned in government budgetary documents, in favor of targeting the growth in money circulation in the economy. Huge and immensely controversial cuts were made in government spending, certainly reversing the trend of almost four decades. Yet the immediate results were not economic regeneration. Inflation, already deeply entrenched, was made worse by the oil-price shock of and the programmed public-sector pay hikes.
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It is not a book of revelations; it is not trying to compete with…. Although he stood as a ratepayer candidate for the council, becoming alderman and mayor, he was a strong Conservative. Margaret developed what would be a lifelong appreciation of the sense of duty, the good neighbourliness and the civic pride which characterised the best of life in Grantham. She particularly admired the solidarity and generosity which marked out organisations such as Rotary, of which her father was a leading member.
Through Rotary, her family received an Austrian Jewish girl called Edith into their home after the Anschluss in It would often be remarked that in later life Margaret Thatcher showed stronger hostility to Nazism — and, indeed, to Germany — than those who had been involved in combat. She enjoyed her school years in Grantham. But when her thoughts turned to university it was Somerville College, Oxford, not the local Nottingham University, for which she plumped. And it was at Somerville that she duly arrived in to read Natural Sciences.
Once at Oxford, she proved a competent and hard-working Chemistry student. Hodgkin was helpful to her charge, obtaining a number of modest grants to help her make ends meet, but Margaret looked for friendship to the Methodist Church and, naturally, to politics. She had joined the Oxford University Conservative Association OUCA as soon as she went up, and in the general election she campaigned for Quintin Hogg in Oxford and was a warm-up speaker for the Tory candidate back home in Grantham.
The following year this serious, determined and by now extremely attractive young woman was elected OUCA president, only the third woman to hold that position.