Political opponents charged her with permitting the country's welfare state, particularly the free health and education system, to run down. Former Foreign Minister David Owen called her administration "heartless" and others claimed she stood for the privileges of the rich.
Thatcher increased public spending on the National Health Service and on schools but she also supported private medicine and private schools, saying people should have the right to choose how to spend their money.
"A vast change separates the Britain of today from the Britain of the late 1970s" her 1987 Conservative election platform boasted.
Under Thatcher, new laws curbed the unions. One of these made democratic strike votes mandatory and another outlawed secondary picketing. The number of strikes tumbled.
Under her leadership local governments sold more than 1 million low-rent public housing units to renters who became home-owners.
Her "privatization" program of such huge enterprises as the British Telecom telephone system, British Gas and British Airways put a third of formerly nationalized industries into the private sector.
Ministers said since Thatcher took office, the number of people owning stock in companies tripled to 9 million, a big step toward what she called "my great aim of making every man and woman a capitalist."
Thatcher defended Reagan during the Iran arms scandal as "a very honest and straightforward man.
But while Reagan appeared to soften and be prepared to trade arms for the release of American hostages, Thatcher stood firm. She said she had to say "no" to families of hostages "and they may go away and think I am hard."
Thatcher narrowly escaped an Irish terrorist bomb in 1984 that wrecked the hotel in which she was staying and killed five of her friends. She said her most important decisions as prime minister were to "stand up to people who threaten you ... You must stand up to bullies and never, never give in to intimidation or violence."
Her biggest political crisis came in 1986 when members of her Cabinet clashed over whether an American company or a European consortium should rescue Britain's only helicopter manufacturer. Political opponents charged she was responsible for the leaking of a classified letter in the affair.
She faced a bitter struggle in an emergency debate in the House of Commons and privately admitted to doubting whether she would be able to stay on as prime minister. But in Parliament the "Iron Lady" rallied her supporters and won a vote of confidence.
Thatcher is perceived in different ways. French President Francois Mitterrand was quoted as saying she has "eyes like Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe."
Author Anthony Burgess said that as a young woman Thatcher was attractive but had no glamour. "Glamour came with power and the need to sustain power has increased the glamour," he said.
The lady destined to be the most famous native since Isaac Newton of Grantham, 100 miles north of London, was born Margaret Hilda Roberts above her father's grocery store Oct. 13, 1925. Alfred Roberts, of working class origins and a devout Methodist, kept a religious house with grace recited before and after meals and no newspapers on Sunday.
"I was brought up in an atmosphere that you worked hard to get on," Thatcher
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