Last Updated on February 11, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 525
As Young's The Iron Lady is a biography, the characters in the book are real people. Here are some of the leading figures in the biography.
Margaret Thatcher was born in the sleepy little town of Grantham in Lincolnshire in 1925. Her father was a local politician and had a profound effect on her development. His obsession with thrift deprived Margaret's childhood home of basic amenities like running water, which they easily could have afforded on the income from her father's two shops. A scrupulously industrious if not particularly brilliant student, she barely managed to be accepted at Oxford to study chemistry. It was here that she discovered Conservatism and the Conservative party. At Oxford, she met a number of figures who later would be both notable supporters and adversaries.
Having run for parliament unsuccessfully ten years before, she secured a seat in the general election of 1959. Her rise through the party ranks was steady. She advanced through several posts in the shadow cabinet and became minister of education when the Conservatives won power in 1970. In 1975, defying the expectations of many, she became the first woman to lead the Conservative Party, and in 1979, she was elected as the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Thatcher remained in power until 1991 and is remembered for an epic clash with the country's miners' unions, from which she emerged victorious. Other noteworthy events of her premiership include the Falklands War with Argentina, a conflict fought half a world away from the United Kingdom. Her policies, which promoted reliance on market forces and reducing the scale of government, became known as "Thatcherism." She was ultimately removed from power by opponents within her own party.
Roberts, Thatcher's father, was a merchant and local politician. He was puritanical, religious, and unwavering in his views on society. However, after becoming mayor of Grantham at the end of the World War II, he laid out a program for improving public transportation and health services and promised to build houses. He allied himself with Lord Brownlow of the local nobility, and together, they worked conscientiously for the betterment of Grantham.
Roberts believed in the power of education, although he had little formal schooling himself. He supervised his daughter's education closely and ensured that she attended the best of the community schools. Throughout her career, Thatcher paid tribute to him and his moral rectitude and self-acquired learning. Although he never rose above the institutions of his small town, his character was instrumental in producing a figure who would, for a time, dominate international politics.
Margaret married Denis Thatcher in 1951. Also a member of the Conservative party, he had inherited a chemical business, which he managed with some success. The firm was eventually sold for a considerable amount, making Denis a wealthy man. His income made it possible for Margaret to study law, securing in great measure her political career. He wryly said that his position while on the road with his famous wife was "always half a step behind." Young writes that the couple's marriage vows "were put to the test more severely than either [could] have expected. But the bond endured."
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