1. 1945: An Oxford girl.
Margaret Thatcher — then Margaret Roberts — at age 20, with her parents and sister, Muriel.
She was born Oct. 13, 1925, in Grantham, England. Her father was the town mayor and owner of two grocery stories. In college, Thatcher became president of the Oxford University Conservative Association
2. 1950: First foray into politics.
Thatcher attends a garden party at Buckingham Palace.
In 1949, two years after receiving her chemistry degree from Oxford, she ran for office, becoming Britain’s youngest female politician. (She was a conservative candidate in the constituency of Dartford.) She lost.
3. 1951: Marriage and family.
She married wealthy oil executive Denis Thatcher on December 13, 1951.
In 1953, she gave birth to twins Carol and Mark. The same year, she qualified as a lawyer. In 1959, she was elected to Parliament as MP of Finchley.
4. 1961: Beginnings of political leadership.
John Boyd Carpenter, the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance, greets Margaret Thatcher after her appointment as Joint Parliamentary Secretary to his Ministry.
As Parliamentary Under Secretary for Pensions and National Insurance, Thatcher made her first move toward party leadership (quite literally, as she moved into a front bench in the House).
5. 1967: National spotlight.
Thatcher speaks at a party conference.
In 1968, she voted to decriminalise homosexuality and legalize abortion. In 1970, conservatives won the general election, and Thatcher was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science. In this post, she became famous for attempting to get rid of free milk in primary schools.
6. 1975: Leader of the Conservative Party.
Thatcher is elected leader of the Conservative Party. (She’s pictured here celebrating a victory with her 21 year-old son Mark.)
7. 1976: The Iron Lady.
Outside her home in Chelsea.
In January 1976, a Russian newspaper called her the “Iron Lady,” responding to a speech she gave attacking the Soviet Union.
8. 1979: Madam Prime Minister.
Thatcher is elected the first female prime minister with a slim majority. She is 53.
9. 1980: A rough start.
Amid the British recession, Thatcher’s approval rating fell to 23% — lower than any previous Prime Minister’s. She raised taxes, going against recommendations from leading economists.
Meanwhile, hunger strikes were carried out by IRA prisoners in Northern Ireland. They wanted rights that had been stripped from them in 1976: to wear their own clothes, to refrain from prison work, and to associate freely between other prisoners. Thatcher refused. An Irish politician called her “the biggest bastard we have ever known.”
10. 1982: The Lady at war.
Argentina invades the British Falkland Islands in April 1992. Thatcher’s government responds with swift and decisive force, sending naval warships. The islands are taken back within two months. This crucial military victory galvanized the public and helped Thatcher win reelection in June.
11. 1985: Peace in Northern Ireland.
Viscount Whitelaw, Norman Tebbit and Margaret Thatcher at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool.
In November, Thatcher signs the Anglo-Irish agreement at Hillsborough Castle, ending the violence in Northern Ireland.
12. 1987: A third term.
Margaret Thatcher outside 10 Downing Street, London, on general election day.
After being credited with ending the Cold War, Thatcher was reelected for a historic third term.
Throughout her first and second term, Thatcher’s policy — later called Thatcherism — involved her lowering direct income taxes and raising indirect taxes. She also reduced expenditure on social services, which made her unpopular among academic peers. Thatcher was the first Oxford-educated post-war PM to be denied an honorary doctorate from Oxford.
13. 1989: Disaster response.
On April 15, during an FA Cup semi-final match at Hillsborough Stadium, 96 football fans were crushed to death, while 766 others were injured. Police blamed drunk rowdy fans, though in fact it was the failure of South Yorkshire Police to control the stadium.
In 2012, new documents revealed that at the time, Margaret Thatcher wanted to downplay criticism of South Yorkshire police, who had been previously called “Maggie Thatcher’s Bootboys” after they tackled protesters during a miners’ strike.
Hillsborough Justice Campaign spokesman Shelia Coleman told the press that the prime minister “got off very lightly.”
“It’s always been our argument that it [the cover-up] was payback time, Margaret Thatcher’s way of thanking South Yorkshire Police for how they managed the miners’ strike.”
14. 1990: Resignation.
After a series of public protests and internal power struggles within the Conservative Party, Thatcher steps down as Prime Minister on November 22. John Major succeeded her as prime minister.
15. 1992: Baroness Thatcher.
Thatcher is surrounded by empty seats as she waits for Queen Elizabeth to deliver a speech at the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords, November 2002.
In 1992, Queen Elizabeth names the former prime minister Baroness Margaret Thatcher of Kesteven, a member of the unelected House of Lords with a lifetime title. She stays involved in Conservative politics and delivers speeches for the next ten years, until she suffers a series of small strokes in 2002 and is advised to stop speaking in public.
16. 2004: The Lady mourns.
Thatcher arrives at the funeral service for former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Simi Valley, California.
Sir Denis Thatcher, Margaret Thatcher’s beloved husband, dies at the age of 88 in June 2003. One year later, her longtime friend and political ally Ronald Reagan dies in California. Reagan had asked Thatcher before his death if she would deliver a eulogy for him, so she prerecords her tribute to be played at the ceremony, despite having been advised by her doctors to give up public speaking.
17. 2010: Exiting the public eye.
British Prime Minister David Cameron greets Thatcher on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street in June 2010.
In October, she would miss her 85th birthday party, to have been hosted in Downing Street by Cameron, because of poor health.