After the so-called “Winter of Discontent,” during which frequent public-sector strikes plagued Britain, a backlash against the country’s center-left leadership brewed under the banner “Labour Isn’t Working.” In an overwhelming vote, Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative candidate, was elected prime minister — marking the largest shift towards conservatism in British postwar history. But most visibly, Thatcher became the nation’s first female prime minister, and TIME’s cover story focused on the Iron Lady’s origins and upbringing.
Margaret Roberts, who was never called “Maggie,” is remembered in Grantham as a studious, determined little girl with the cherubic looks of a cupid on a Victorian valentine. At the age of nine, she won a poetry-reading prize at the annual town festival. Her headmistress at Hunting Town Road Elementary School offered congratulations, saying, “You were lucky!” To which Margaret replied: “I wasn’t lucky. I deserved it.”