Margaret Thatcher, the first and only woman to ever serve as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has died at the age of 87. A spokesperson announced this morning that she had a stroke, though she had been in poor health in recent years and was reportedly suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
A family statement (via the BBC) said, "It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother Baroness Thatcher died peacefully following a stroke this morning." She is survived by her two children with her husband, Denis, who died in 2003.
The longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century, Thatcher was elected to three terms, starting in 1979. A lion of the conservative movement, both in the U.K. and abroad, she took over a Britain that was mired in the economic decline of the 1970s and oversaw a strong and sometimes controversial recovery. Almost no sector of British society was unaffected by her government's philosophy of free markets, privatization, and tighter welfare spending that would eventually come to bear her name as Thatcherism.
"It was with great sadness that l learned of Lady Thatcher’s death. We've lost a great leader, a great Prime Minister and a great Briton"— UK Prime Minister (@Number10gov) April 8, 2013
Current PM David Cameron said of Thatcher today that "She didn't just lead our country, she saved our country." A statement from the Queen said she was saddened by Thatcher's death and she would send a private message of condolence to her family.
She changed our country forever and all of us owe so much to her. A legacy few will ever equal. Rest in peace Margaret— William Hague (@WilliamJHague) April 8, 2013
Along with her American counterpart, Ronald Reagan, "The Iron Lady" led the global opposition to the Soviet Union and became an icon of the Cold War, finally leaving office just as the communist grip on Eastern Europe had finally fallen away. Even her toughest political opponents could not deny the mark she left on her nation and the world.
The dominant figure of post war British politics is dead. Love her or loathe her Margaret Thatcher shaped this country as few others did— Nick Robinson (@bbcnickrobinson) April 8, 2013
Among the controversial decisions from her tenure were the 1982 war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands; a miner's strike that broke one of the nation's most powerful unions (while costing several protester their lives); her negotiations with China on the return of Hong Kong; and her support of South Africa's apartheid government of the 1980s.