During her three-term tenure as Britain's first (and only) female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher whipped a "strike-infested" Britain into stronger economic shape and pushed the nation's political center of gravity dramatically to the right. And the tough-as-nails leader was known for battling her own party — which would eventually kick her out of power — just as much as her opposition. This no-nonsense approach to governing earned Thatcher, who died Monday morning at age 87, more than her fair share of less-than-flattering nicknames, including "Her Magggiesty," "Attila the Hen," and, of course, the "Iron Lady, which was given to her by a Soviet Army newspaper after she criticized Moscow for being bent on world domination.
But beneath Thatcher's steely and polarizing public persona was a grocer's daughter with a high voice and a sharp tongue, a woman who held onto a childhood love of poetry and science throughout her life. Here, a collection of images that capture this surprisingly playful "Maggie."
The life of the party: You want to sway a potential voter? Accompany them in an impromptu sing-along. In this 1950s-era photo, then-Conservative candidate Margaret Roberts (Thatcher's maiden name) leads four voters in song — reportedly as a means of quelling a political argument in the bar of The Bull Inn, Dartford, England. (Keystone/Getty Images)
Speed demon: She may be dressed for parliament, but Thatcher sure knows how to let loose on a ski run with her instructor in Battersea Park, London, on Dec. 7, 1962. (Reg Lancaster/Express/Getty Images)
Pucker up: Denis Thatcher lays one on his wife on Feb. 4, 1975 after finding out she had come out on top in the first round of voting for the Conservative party leadership. (AP Photo)
In on the joke: Thatcher places a finger on her nose and her arm in the air at the Cartoonist pub in London, where she receives the Gold Joker Award on May 4, 1976. (Angela Deane-Drummond/Getty Images)
Follower of fashions: Thatcher looks remarkably à la mode as she tries on a high-tech helmet at the Marconi Avionics plant in Gravesend, Kent, on Aug. 21, 1978. (Central Press/Getty Images)
Sweet side: Thatcher packs Cadbury Creme Eggs on a visit to a factory in Birmingham during her election tour of Britain on April 20, 1979. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Swingin': A stocking-footed Thatcher waves to the crowd from a makeshift rescue hoist during a visit to the Royal Navy on Aug. 16, 1983. (Central Press/Getty Images)
Monkeying around: Thatcher cuddles up to a chimp during a 1985 photo op. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A gracious host: Thatcher stands in front of 10 Downing Street on Dec. 3, 1986 to welcome two "reindeer" who arrived by motorcycle to present the prime minister with a Christmas tree. (REUTERS/Roy Letkey PN)
Let it all out: Thatcher blows into a portable breathalyzer while visiting a factory in Barry, South Wales, on May 26, 1987.
Pulling a George Bush: Even British parliamentarians have trouble feigning interest all the time. Here, Thatcher and fellow former party leader Edward Heath check their watches during speeches at the Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth, England, on Oct. 7, 1998. (REUTERS/Paul Bates)
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Ferguson riots were terrible — but this racist reaction was worse
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Don't argue about politics this Thanksgiving. Just don't.
- In Ferguson, Michael Brown lost his life — and America's police lost the benefit of the doubt
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How Rand Paul's GOP opponents will use his minority outreach against him
- How to survive a spaceship disaster
Subscribe to the Week