Former education minister and Conservative vice-chairman Dame Angela Rumbold has died, the party has said.
The 77-year-old served as MP for Mitcham and Morden in south London between 1982 and 1997, forging a reputation as an outspoken Thatcherite.
She was also credited with helping to secure more representation for women.
Tributes were led by party co-chairman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who described her as "one of the leading politicians of her generation".
"Her tireless effort at improving the quality and standard of education to children is a testament to her commitment," she said.
"Angela helped transform political life in this country by paving the way for many women of great talent to enter politics.
"On behalf of everyone at the party I would like to express our sadness on hearing of her passing and also our thanks for such a fulfilled and accomplished life."
Dame Angela, who was unafraid to speak out against her own party on occasion, rose quickly through the government ranks.
She served as a minister between 1986 and 1992, before being made a Dame and becoming Conservative deputy chairman.
She is best remembered for her time as a minister in the Department for Education and continued working in the schools field after losing her seat. She was beaten at the third attempt by Labour's Siobhain McDonagh during the 1997 landslide.
A mother of three, she was the first woman to be put in charge of recruiting and scrutinising would-be Tory candidates - and told activists to do more to encourage women to come forward.
Tim Montgomerie, founder of the ConservativeHome website, remembered Dame Angela giving a speech at Exeter University in 1990, during which she was continually heckled by left-wing activists.
He wrote on his Gazette blog: "She did not flinch and told the meeting that the morally insecure Left hated hearing Conservatives talk about their plans for educating the poor and under-privileged."