Memphis memories of Margaret Thatcher - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Memphis memories of Margaret Thatcher

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Her courage was instrumental in leading to the end of the Cold War with the former Soviet Union.

Perhaps no other moniker suited a country's leader any better than calling former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher "The Iron Lady."

Thatcher died Monday after suffering a stroke. She was 87.

MORE: Thatcher, even in death, divides world opinion

Thatcher was never inclined to believe in the restrictions of the so-called glass-ceiling for women in the workplace. But, when she became England's first prime minister in history.

Thatcher didn't just rest on her laurels. She knew not just England was watching her words and actions.

It was the whole world.

For more than a century, Britons boasted their's was "the empire where the sun never sat." For 11 turbulent years, Thatcher, as Britain's first and only woman prime minister, from 1979-90, tried to lead her country into a new reality regarding its place in the world.

As the international community mourns the loss of the 87-year-old "Iron Lady," we didn't have to look far to find those in Memphis willing to share their memories or opinions about a woman often named as one of the most admired people in the world.

In 1986, a visit to a British base in Germany, created a memorable photo-op for then British Army officer and veteran, WHBQ-TV photojournalist Arthur Thomson.

"That day it was a place called in Germany, called Fallingbostel," Thompson said. "She was riding around in one of her British Army 'challenge' tanks. It's an iconic picture now. There she was on top of this 58-ton monster, hair with the scarf and everything ... with glasses. She did look every inch the 'Iron Lady. She loved being around the military. She felt confident with the military and I think she just knew what the military was capable of. They were never ever going to let her down."

Yet, the defiant Thatcher had to drive the stubborn and failing British economy in a direction many of its working class union employees didn't want to go. With the country on the verge of bankruptcy, Thatcher moved toward stabilization by closing down some heavily employed coal mining pits who weren't making a profit. Despite union outrage and threats of strikes Thatcher stood firm.

"Everybody knew that had to change," said Michael Leslie, Rhodes British History professor. "But, nobody could really work out how to do it. Mrs. Thatcher came on the scene as prime minister at just the point people were really in despair."

As for her much publicized warm relationship with former President Ronald Reagan, it extended far beyond the time when both had left office.
"I think both of them were probably more prudent and careful than their popular reputations suggest," Leslie said.

"She was always very gracious and kind and spoke a lot about the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain and the special relationship she had, working relationship she had with former President Ronald Reagan," added Steven Ross, who staged a Thatcher speaking engagement.

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