Wednesday, 28 November 2012

On this Day: 28th of November 1919- Nancy Astor becomes the first woman MP

Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess Astor, CH, (19 May 1879 – 2 May 1964) was the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons.

Nancy Astor’s husband, Waldorf Astor, had enjoyed a promising career for several years before World War I in the House of Commons, but then he succeeded to his father's peerage as the 2nd Viscount Astor. This meant that he automatically became a member of the House of Lords and forfeited his seat of Plymouth Sutton in the House of Commons. So Lady Astor decided to contest the vacant Parliamentary seat.

A By-election was held on 28 November 1919, and she took up her seat in the House on 1 December as a Unionist (also known as "Tory") Member of Parliament.

Lady Astor's accomplishments in the House of Commons were relatively minor. She never held a position with much influence. Indeed, the Duchess of Atholl (elected to Parliament in 1923, four years after Lady Astor) rose to higher levels in the Tory Party before Astor did, and this was largely as Astor wished. She felt that if she had a position in the party, she would be less free to criticise her party’s government. One of her few significant achievements in the House was the passage of a bill she sponsored to increase the legal drinking age to eighteen unless the minor has parental approval.

Lady Astor died in 1964 at her daughter's home at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire. She was cremated and her ashes interred at the Octagon Temple at Cliveden.

Research courtesy of Wikipedia

Images courtesy of  The Boston Public Library Under the Commons agreement on


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