Iron Lady's legacy remembered in Western MA - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Iron Lady's legacy remembered in Western MA

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87.

The Iron Lady did have ties here in Western Mass. Back in 1998 she spoke in Springfield about the challenges facing the 21st century.

"I think it said to the community this is extraordinary that this is a woman of Lady Thatcher's stature would travel thousands of miles to come to a woman's college and be a keynotes speaker for the region," said Bay Path College President Carol Leary. "When we met her she basically was very warm, very welcoming, and very kind."

Leary says that Britain's first female prime minister's visit to Springfield helped to Bay Path College's history.

"For us it was an important moment in our evolution we said after that we will only bring the very best speakers to this region," said Leary.

But, not everyone was happy about Margaret Thatcher's visit. Leary recalls a number of protestors came out that day she explained that many people in the area were unhappy with Thatcher's policies towards Ireland.

"We have a large Irish population," said Leary. "We were not disrespectful to the Irish and their heritage, but we felt she had an important message as a political leader of our time."

Thatcher took office in 1979 where she would stay for 11 years. She is remembered for her personal and political strength.

While in office she cut taxes, privatized state industries and deregulated financial markets.

Her opponents accused her of widening the gap between the rich and poor.

The Iron Lady was the only British prime minister in the 20th century to serve three consecutive terms. She resigned from the job in 1990 after a leadership struggle with her own party.

"As you look to her being the first woman, I think she was being judged not only as the political leader as a prime minister of Great Britain but in her role as a woman," said Leary. "I think at the end of her tenure people realized she would go down in history as one of the best."

And, Leary says, that Thatcher's memory will always live on at Bay Path.

Copyright 2013 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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