The British Overseas Territory of the Falkland Islands was quick to issue a stamp commemorating former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, bringing out a stamp design on April 12, the same week she died. Thatcher, as the British leader responsible for recapturing the islands after they were seized by Argentina in 1982, has a strong following there. The Falkland Islands celebrates Thatcher Day every Jan. 10, the anniversary of her visit in 1983. The election of Margaret Thatcher as prime minister in 1979 is regarded as a pivotal point in 20th-century British politics, not only for the defeat of James Callaghan’s incumbent Labour government but because it marked the first of four consecutive general election victories for the Conservative party.
To date Margaret Thatcher is the first and only woman to have led a major political party in the U.K. and holding the office from 1979 to 1990, she served as British prime minister for the longest continuous period since Robert Jenkinson in the early 19th century. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady” for her unwavering and steadfast character, Thatcher grew up in Lincolnshire, the daughter of a grocer. She received a bachelor of chemistry from Oxford University, working as a research chemist for BX Plastics. She once said she was turned down for a job at British industrial giant Imperial Chemical Industries because the personnel department considered her “headstrong, obstinate, and dangerously self-opinionated.”
After becoming active in politics, Thatcher qualified as a barrister in 1953, specializing in taxation. After losing elections in 1950 and 1951, and not running in the 1955 election, she returned to politics in an unsuccessful 1955 by-election race. She was not elected to the House of Parliament until 1959, as a Conservative. She became a cabinet minister in the government of Edward Heath from 1970 to 1974. She became leader of the opposition in 1975. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, then prime minister Thatcher responded to the attack by sending a task force to recapture the islands, despite the logistical problem of British forces operating 13,000 kilometres from home.
At that time her Iron Lady nickname, first applied to her by a Soviet newspaper in 1976, stuck. Other nicknames included the less flattering Attila the Hen. While minister of Education she was called Milk Snatcher after she abolished the distribution of free milk to schoolchildren aged seven to 11. “She will be forever remembered in the islands for her decisiveness in sending a task force to liberate our home following the Argentine invasion in 1982,” said Mike Summers, speaking on behalf of the islands’ Legislative Assembly. “Her friendship and support will be sorely missed, and we will always be thankful for all that she did for us.”
She was also criticized for favouring a poll tax, the privatization of state-owned industries and closing coal mining pits. She resigned as prime minister in November 1990 and left the House of Commons in 1992 at which time she was given a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the county of Lincolnshire. In 1992 she was hired by tobacco company Philip Morris as a consultant. She also published two volumes of memoirs, and a book on world statecraft. She suffered several small strokes in 2002 and in 2005 her family revealed she was suffering from dementia.
The Falkland Islands issue consists of a set of four stamps, spanning four decades. The 30p stamp depicts Thatcher and her husband Denis arriving at 10 Downing Street after becoming Britain’s first woman prime minister on May 4, 1979. The 75p stamp shows her inspecting a minefield in the Falkland Islands in 1983. The £1 stamp shows an image taken during her second visit to the Falkland Islands in 1992, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the islands’ return to British control. The £1.20 stamp shows Thatcher holding a Falkland Islands commemorative coin marking the 25th anniversary of the conflict’s end. She struck the coin in 2007 at a special ceremony at the Pobjoy Mint. The first-day cover shows Thatcher visiting the British Military Cemetery at San Carlos Bay, Falklands Islands. The stamps were designed by Andrew Robinson, and printed by BDT International using lithography. They will be available May 13. For more information go to www.pobjoystamps.com.