LONDON Margaret Thatcher, the first female British prime minister referred to by both ardent supporters and critics as "The Iron Lady," died Monday. She was 87.}
Her former spokesman Tim Bell said she suffered from a stroke.
Tough and proud of it, Thatcher was the steeliest British Prime Minister of modern times.
Born Margaret Roberts in 1925, she became a chemist, a proud housewife, and a Conservative member of Parliament, which, she thought, was as far as she would get.
"I don't think we will see a woman prime minister in my lifetime," Thatcher once said.
In 1979, she proved herself spectacularly wrong, and her trademark -- helmet hair, cut-glass accent and bullying style -- became a staple of British satire.
But the Iron Lady had a serious mission: to modernize British industry and break the powerful trade unions.
The fallout was brutal -- violent strikes and rocketing unemployment -- but Mrs. Thatcher never wavered.
Slowly, the economy did improve, and Mrs. Thatcher's uncompromising capitalism caught on with a new generation.
In the 1980s, as an unlikely commander-in-chief, she led British forces to victory in the Falklands war against Argentina and appointed herself referee-in-chief between Moscow and the White House.
Mrs. Thatcher was at the top of her game and loving it.
"Yes, I hope to go on and on," she said at the time.
But enemies were on the march. A deeply unpopular new property tax brought riots and her final undoing. In a bitter blow, her own party turned against her, and in 1990 threw her out.}
"We're leaving Downing Street for the last time," she said at the end.
It was the first time she shed tears in public, and the beginning of a long decline. Margaret Thatcher grew frail and developed dementia.
Britons will remember her as Maggie the Iron lady, who supporters still believe put the Great back into Britain.