LONDON — Educated at Oxford, Thatcher began her political career in her mid-20s with an unsuccessful 1950 campaign for a parliamentary seat in the Labour Party stronghold of Dartford. She earned nationwide publicity as the youngest female candidate in the country despite her loss at the polls.
She was defeated again the next year, but on the campaign trail she met Denis Thatcher, a successful businessman whom she married in 1951. Their twins, Mark and Carol, were born two years later.
"She was beautiful, gay, very kind and thoughtful," Denis Thatcher said in an interview 25 years later.
"Who could meet Margaret without being completely slain by her personality and intellectual brilliance?"
As the first male Downing Street spouse, Denis Thatcher stayed out of the limelight to a large degree while supporting his wife on her many travels and public engagements. He was said to give her important behind-the-scenes advice on Cabinet choices and other personnel matters, but this role was not publicly discussed.
Margaret Thatcher first won election to Parliament in 1959, representing Finchley in north London. She climbed the Conservative Party ladder quickly, joining the Cabinet as education secretary in 1970.
In that post, she earned the unwanted nickname "Thatcher the milk snatcher" because of her reduction of school milk programs. It was a taste of battles to come.
As prime minister, she sold off one state industry after another: British Telecom, British Gas, Rolls-Royce, British Airways, British Coal, British Steel, the water companies and the electricity distribution system among them. She was proud of her government's role in privatizing some public housing, turning tenants into homeowners.
She ruffled feathers simply by being herself. She had faith — sometimes blind faith — in the clarity of her vision and little use for those of a more cautious mien.