Thursday, 6 March 2008

International Women's Day, 8th March - Part 2

4) Margaret Hilda Thatcher (October 1925 -)

She is a former British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990 and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1975 to 1990.

She is the first and to date only woman to hold either post. She is also the oldest living British Prime Minister.

Born in Grantham in Lincolnshire, England, she went on to read Chemistry at Somerville College, Oxford. She was selected as Conservative candidate for Finchley in 1958 and took her seat in the House of Commons the following year.

Upon the election of Edward Heath in 1970, Thatcher was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science.

In 1974, she backed Sir Keith Joseph for the Conservative party leader, but after falling short he dropped out of the race. Thatcher entered herself and became leader of the Conservative party in 1975.

Among other things, she defiantly opposed the Soviet Union, and her tough-talking rhetoric gained her the nickname the "Iron Lady".[1] As the Conservative party maintained leads in most polls, Thatcher went on to become Britain's Prime Minister in the 1979 General Election.

Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister was the longest since that of Lord Salisbury and was the longest continuous period in office since the tenure of Lord Liverpool who was Prime Minister in the early 19th century.

She was also the first woman to lead a major political party in the UK, and the first of only three women to have held any of the four great offices of state.

She currently has a life peerage as Baroness Thatcher, of Kesteven in the County of Lincolnshire, which entitles her to sit in the House of Lords. During her tenure as Prime Minister she was said to need just four hours' sleep a night.

5) Indira Gandhi (November 1917 - October 1984)
She was the Prime Minister of India for three consecutive terms from 1966 to 1977 and for a fourth term from 1980 until her assassination in 1984. She was India's first and to date only female Prime Minister.

Born in the politically influential Nehru dynasty, she grew up in an intensely political atmosphere. Her grandfather, Motilal Nehru, was a prominent Indian nationalist leader.

Her father, Jawaharlal Nehru was a pivotal figure in the Indian independence movement and the first Prime Minister of Independent India. Returning to India from Oxford in 1941, she became involved in the Indian Independence movement.

In the 1950s, she served her father unofficially as a personal assistant during his tenure as India's first Prime Minister. After her father's death in 1964, she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha by the President of India and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri's cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting.

The then Congress Party President K. Kamaraj was instrumental in making Indira Gandhi the Prime Minister after the sudden demise of Shastri. Gandhi soon showed an ability to win elections and outmaneuver opponents through populism. She introduced more left-wing economic policies and promoted agricultural productivity.

A crushing victory in the 1971 war with Pakistan was followed by a period of instability that led her to impose a state of emergency in 1975; she paid for the authoritarian excesses of the period with three years in opposition.

Returned to office in 1980, she became increasingly involved in an escalating conflict with separatists in Punjab that eventually led to her assassination by her own bodyguards in 1984.

6) Princess Diana (July 1961 - August 1997)

This lady is no doubt the most inspirational women of all, at least to me she was.

She was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. Their sons, Princes William and Henry (Harry), are second and third in line to the thrones of the United Kingdom and fifteen other Commonwealth Realms.

In the late 1980s, the marriage of Diana and Charles fell apart, an event at first suppressed, then sensationalised, by the world media.

The Prince and Princess of Wales were separated on 9 December 1992, by which time her relations with some of the Royal Family, excepting the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, were difficult.

While she blamed Camilla Parker-Bowles for her marital troubles, as early as October 1993, Diana was writing to a friend that she believed her husband was now in love with Tiggy Legge-Bourke and wanted to marry her. On 3 December 1993, Diana announced her withdrawal from public life.

In April 1987, the Princess of Wales was one of the first high-profile celebrities to be photographed touching a person infected with HIV at the 'chain of hope' organization.

Her contribution to changing the public opinion of AIDS sufferers was summarised in December 2001 by Bill Clinton at the 'Diana, Princess of Wales Lecture on AIDS':

“In 1987, when so many still believed that AIDS could be contracted through casual contact, Princess Diana sat on the sickbed of a man with AIDS and held his hand. She showed the world that people with AIDS deserve no isolation, but compassion and kindness. It helped change world's opinion, and gave hope to people with AIDS."

—Bill Clinton

On 31 August 1997, Diana died after a high speed car accident in the Pont d'Alma road tunnel in Paris along with Dodi Al-Fayed and the acting security manager of the Hôtel Ritz Paris, Henri Paul, who was instructed to drive the hired Mercedes-Benz through Paris secretly eluding the paparazzi.

Her funeral which was held on 6th Sep 1997 was broadcast and watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide.

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