Tim Graham/Getty Images
Adam Carlson
April 08, 2013 AT 02:13 PM EDT

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is dead of a stroke. She was 87.

Her spokesman Tim Bell said, “It is with great sadness that Mark and Carol Thatcher announced that their mother, Baroness Thatcher, died peacefully following a stroke this morning.”

Thatcher was one of her country’s longest-serving prime ministers, in office from 1979–1990, and the only woman to hold the title. She was inextricable from her conservative politics — including the Falklands War with Argentina as well as her anti-tax and anti-labor positions. “I am not a consensus politician,” she said. “I am a conviction politician.”

In cultural memory, she is remembered for her relationship with Ronald Reagan, and for Meryl Streep’s Oscar-winning imitation in The Iron Lady two years ago. In a statement to EW, Streep called Thatcher “a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics.” She continued:

“It is hard to imagine a part of our current history that has not been affected by measures she put forward in the U.K. at the end of the 20th century. Her hard-nosed fiscal measures took a toll on the poor, and her hands-off approach to financial regulation led to great wealth for others. There is an argument that her steadfast, almost emotional loyalty to the pound sterling has helped the U.K. weather the storms of European monetary uncertainty.

“But to me she was a figure of awe for her personal strength and grit. To have come up, legitimately, through the ranks of the British political system, class bound and gender phobic as it was, in the time that she did and the way that she did, was a formidable achievement. To have won it, not because she inherited position as the daughter of a great man, or the widow of an important man, but by dint of her own striving. To have withstood the special hatred and ridicule, unprecedented in my opinion, leveled in our time at a public figure who was not a mass murderer; and to have managed to keep her convictions attached to fervent ideals and idea — wrongheaded or misguided as we might see them now-without corruption — I see that as evidence of some kind of greatness, worthy for the argument of history to settle. To have given women and girls around the world reason to supplant fantasies of being princesses with a different dream: the real-life option of leading their nation; this was groundbreaking and admirable.

“I was honored to try to imagine her late life journey, after power; but I have only a glancing understanding of what her many struggles were, and how she managed to sail through to the other side. I wish to convey my respectful condolences to her family and many friends.”

A further statement from Thatcher’s family is expected.

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