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On April 8th, 2013, the world mourned the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who passed away after suffering from a stroke at the age of 87. Besides being the country's longest serving leader (1979 to 1990) in the 20th century, she was the first woman to lead a Western democracy. During her 11-year reign, the strong-willed woman, who was nicknamed 'Iron Lady' by leaders of the former Soviet Union, made some hard-charging decisions for which she was loved and loathed in equal measures.
No matter the emotion evoked, the one thing everyone does agree on, is that she was a woman with great resolve. When she took over Britain in 1979, she inherited a country that was in virtual bankruptcy. Faced with a massive devaluation of its currency, the country had been reduced to accepting a loan from the International Monetary Fund to keep afloat. Not surprisingly, the debt-ridden nation was also in a deep recession that was exacerbated by the soaring unemployment rate.
In order to restore prosperity, Ms. Thatcher had to make some tough and controversial decisions like raising interest rates and even taxes, at a time when most British people were suffering. Harsh as they seemed, they turned out to be exactly what was needed to turn the economy around.
Early in her second term, just as things were looking a little more settled, she was faced with another major setback - A strike by the British Miners Union. Once again, the Iron Lady stood her ground in what ended up being the longest and most violent protest in the country's history. She eventually managed to defeat the union and live up to her reputation as economic reformist.
Things were not easy internationally either. In 1982, Argentina decided to stake its claim on the Falkland Islands, which they asserted had been their territory since the 19th century. Britain, however, considered the islands to be one of their overseas dependent territories and protested. When all diplomatic negotiations failed, Ms. Thatcher did what any strong leader would do - Send in the British Army. It took 74 days, but on 14th June 1982, the Argentinean army finally retreated and the Islands became independent again.
If that was not enough, she was also involved along with former US President Ronald Reagan, in helping bring a peaceful resolution to the Cold War - A dispute with the former Soviet Union that was once regarded as a major threat to world peace. She also presided over the systematic break-up of the region into separate countries.
When Ms. Thatcher resigned as leader of the Conservative Party in 1990, she left behind a country that was fiscally stronger and a world power to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, during the last few years of her life, the Iron Lady was afflicted with dementia and had very little recollection of all the things that were happening around her and even of all that she had accomplished during her illustrious career.
And if none of these achievements impressed you than here is one that definitely will. Margaret Thatcher may have been directly responsible for the invention of soft-serve ice cream. For believe it or not, before she entered politics, this hard-charging lady worked as a research chemist for a food manufacturing company called J. Lyons and Company, where she was part of a team that was responsible for whipping more air into ice cream - and creating what we all now call 'soft serve'!
Resources: PBS.org, world.time.com, newsfeed.time.com