Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister, dies at age 87

Lawmakers in Washington are paying tribute to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died Monday at the age of 87.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) seemed particularly affected by Thatcher’s passing, issuing a lengthy statement sending “the condolences of the U.S. House of Representatives to Prime Minister Cameron and the British people” at “this difficult hour.”

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“The greatest peacetime prime minister in British history is dead,” Boehner’s statement read in part. “Margaret Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter, stared down elites, union bosses, and communists to win three consecutive elections, establish conservative principles in Western Europe, and bring down the Iron Curtain." 

“There was no secret to her values – hard work and personal responsibility – and no nonsense in her leadership,” he continued. “She once said, ‘Defeat? I do not recognize the meaning of the word.’ Now this lady who was never for turning goes to rest as grateful friends and allies around the world mourn her passing and pray for her loved ones." 

"Americans will always keep Lady Thatcher in our hearts for her loyalty to Ronald Reagan and their friendship that we all admired. At this difficult hour, I send the condolences of the U.S. House of Representatives to Prime Minister Cameron and the British people,” Boehner said.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) praised the “Iron Lady,” who partnered with President Reagan during the Cold War as “one of the great leaders” of the last century.

President Obama called Thatcher one of the world's great champions of freedom and liberty. 

"Here in America, many of us will never forget her standing shoulder to shoulder with President Reagan, reminding the world that we are not simply carried along by the currents of history — we can shape them with moral conviction, unyielding courage and iron will," he said in a statement. "Michelle and I send our thoughts to the Thatcher family and all the British people as we carry on the work to which she dedicated her life — free peoples standing together, determined to write our own destiny."

Former President George W. Bush released a statement calling Thatcher “a great example of strength and character” and “a great ally” to the United States.

“Laura and I are saddened by the death of Baroness Margaret Thatcher,” he said. “She was an inspirational leader who stood on principle and guided her nation with confidence and clarity. 

"Prime Minister Thatcher is a great example of strength and character, and a great ally who strengthened the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the United State. Laura and I join the people of Great Britain in remembering the life and leadership of this strong woman and friend,” Bush said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thatcher was a champion of conservative values because she looked to empower people, rather than the government.


Thatcher served as Great Britain’s leader from 1979 to 1990, the first and only woman to hold that post.

Thatcher and Reagan pushed for lower taxes, smaller government and free trade in Britain and the United States, and were seen as political soul mates. That connection, and her reputation as a giant of global conservative politics, gave her passing considerable resonance among Republicans in Washington.


Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) changed his profile picture to one of Thatcher and honored her as a champion of "human freedom."



Closer to home, Thatcher’s term in office was marked by unrest in Northern Ireland. She dealt sternly with the political prisoners who died after a hunger strike over the conditions of their captivity and was at one point targeted for assassination by the Irish Republican Army.

Prior to becoming prime minister, Thatcher served as a Member of Parliament beginning in 1959, and rose to the top of the Conservative Party’s leadership in 1979. Thatcher’s hard-nosed style eventually led to discontent within her own party, and she resigned after a challenge to her power in 1990.

Thatcher showed a continued willingness to rankle those on the right in her later years, reportedly refusing to meet with former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2011.

Thatcher has spent the years since she held office setting up foundations, working on business opportunities and as a social activist.

She attended Reagan’s funeral in 2004, but by that time, her health was already in decline. She began suffering from dementia in the early 2000s as well as a number of strokes.

In 2011, Meryl Streep won an Oscar for her portrayal of Thatcher in the biopic “The Iron Lady.”

This story was last updated at 10:32 a.m.