Lady Astor bliver parlamentsmedlem

Lady Astor bliver parlamentsmedlem

Amerikanskfødte Nancy Astor, den første kvinde, der nogensinde sad i Underhuset, vælges til parlamentet med et betydeligt flertal. Lady Astor tog unionistpladsen for sin mand, Waldorf Astor, der flyttede op til et arveligt sæde i House of Lords.

Født i Danville, Virginia, i 1879, var hun datter af en tidligere konfødereret officer, der blev en velhavende tobaksauktionør. Hun blev gift med Robert Gould Shaw II, en bostonier, i 1897, og de fik en søn, inden de blev skilt i 1903. Kort efter besøgte hun England, hvor hun mødtes og blev forelsket i Waldorf Astor, amerikaners oldebarnebarn. pelshandler John Jacob Astor. I 1906 giftede de sig. Nancy Astor blev en indflydelsesrig samfunds værtinde, der præsiderede på Astor landejendom Cliveden. "Cliveden -sættet", da Astors sociale klik blev kendt, kom til at udøve betydelig politisk indflydelse på en række områder, især udenrigsanliggender.

I 1910 blev Waldorf Astor valgt til underhuset som konservativ, og Astors flyttede til sin valgkreds i Plymouth. Ni år senere døde Waldorfs far, og han lykkedes til sin viscountcy og plads i House of Lords. Nancy Astor besluttede at føre kampagne om sin ledige plads i Underhuset og kørte en flamboyant kampagne, der tiltrak sig international opmærksomhed. Den 28. november 1919 vandt hun en rungende sejr ved valget og blev efterfølgende den første kvinde, der nogensinde sad i Underhuset. (Hun var imidlertid ikke den første kvinde, der blev valgt til Commons; i 1918 blev den irske nationalist Constance Markiewicz valgt som parlamentsmedlem for en valgkreds i Dublin, men nægtede at tage til London som protest mod den britiske regering.)

Selvom Lady Astor blev betragtet som en konservativ, tog han en individuel tilgang til politik og sagde: "Hvis du vil have et partihack, skal du ikke vælge mig." Hendes lidenskabelige taler om kvinders og børns rettigheder, hendes beskedne sorte påklædning og hendes lejlighedsvise ærbødighed vandt hende en betydelig følge. Gentagne gange genvalgt af sin valgkreds i Plymouth sad hun i Underhuset indtil hendes pensionering i 1945.


100 år med Nancy Astor

100 år med Nancy Astor

Hej #Plymouth & #8211 I dag blev den første statue nogensinde af en kvinde på Plymouth Hoe afsløret. Lady Nancy Astor var den første nogensinde kvindelige parlamentsmedlem, der tog plads i Underhuset, som repræsentant for Plymouth Sutton, som er en del af den patch, jeg stiller op til genvalg til. I to år var hun den eneste kvinde i Underhuset Nancy Astor brød bogstaveligt talt glasloftet, og derfor startede mit team og jeg statuen appel i 2017. Vi afleverede det til Plymouth Women in Business i 2018, og de har lavet en virkelig fantastisk arbejde med fundraising og hæve denne storslåede statue. Jeg har været stolt over at stå bag nogle strålende Labour -kvinder, der ledede kampagnen. Mit håb tilbage i 2017 var, at denne statue ville fortælle mere om Plymouths historie og være et fyrtårn for vores bys piger og unge kvinder for at gøre en forskel for deres by. Nancy Astor og jeg ville være uenige om meget, og nogle af hendes synspunkter ville ikke være acceptable i det moderne Storbritannien, men det gælder de fleste af Storbritanniens historiske storheder. Dette bør ikke fjerne behovet for, at vi fortæller dette vigtige kapitel i vores bys historie og britiske historie. Som by har vi en så rig arv, men vi er ikke altid gode til at fortælle det, og derfor vil denne statue gøre en sådan forskel. At se statuen i sin fulde herlighed viser, at der er opnået – godt gået til alle, der planlagde , doneret, skulptureret og udformet denne værdige tilføjelse til Plymouth Hoe.Lad mig vide, hvad du synes Plymouth

Indsendt af Luke Pollard torsdag den 28. november 2019

  • En statue af Nancy Astor tager stolthed over pladsen
  • Lady Astor tjente bestanddelene i Plymouth Sutton i 26 år
  • Luke: “Nancy Astor brød glasloftet. ”

Den 1. december 1919 blev Nancy Astor det første kvindelige parlamentsmedlem, der tog plads i Underhuset. Anledningen blev mindet om afsløringen af ​​en statue af Lady Astor på Hoe, hvor hun boede og tjente sine vælgere i Plymouth Sutton.

Lady Astor var en pioner, hun støttede velfærdsreformer, lige stemmeret og adgang til erhvervene for kvinder. Hun stod som en unionistisk kandidat (nu det konservative parti) og var kendt som en forkæmper for andre kvindelige parlamentsmedlemmer, uanset deres partitilknytning. Astor fungerede som parlamentsmedlem i 26 år (1919-1945) og vandt syv på hinanden følgende valg.

Luke Pollard, der stiller op til genvalg som MP for Plymouth Sutton og Devonport sagde:

“Nancy Astor brød glasloftet, og derfor startede mit team og jeg statuen appel i 2017. Vi afleverede det til Plymouth Women in Business i 2018, og de har gjort et virkelig fremragende stykke arbejde med at indsamle penge og rejse denne storslåede statue. Jeg har været stolt over at stå bag nogle strålende Labour -kvinder, der ledede kampagnen. Mit håb tilbage i 2017 var, at denne statue ville fortælle mere om Plymouths historie og være et fyrtårn for vores bys piger og unge kvinder for at gøre en forskel for deres by.

Nancy Astor og jeg ville være uenige om meget, og nogle af hendes synspunkter ville ikke være acceptable i det moderne Storbritannien, men det gælder de fleste af Storbritanniens historiske storheder. Dette bør ikke fjerne behovet for, at vi fortæller dette vigtige kapitel i vores bys historie og britiske historie. Som by har vi en så rig arv, men vi er ikke altid gode til at fortælle det, og derfor vil denne statue gøre en sådan forskel. ”

Der var tværpolitisk støtte til en statue til minde om Nancy Astor og tiltrædelse af Luke ved ceremonien var tidligere Plymouth-parlamentsmedlemmer: Alison Raynsford, Linda Gilroy, baronesse Janet Fookes og Lord David Owen.

/> Plymouth -parlamentsmedlemmer: Alison Raynsford, Linda Gilroy, Luke Pollard, barones Janet Fookes og Lord David Owen.

Et århundrede efter at Lady Astor tog plads i parlamentet, hvordan har britisk politik ændret sig for kvinder?

For et århundrede siden foretog Nancy Astor togrejsen fra sin valgkreds i Plymouth, en by ved det sydvestlige Englands kyst, til London. Der, den 1. december 1919, tog hun plads i parlamentet og mdash den første kvinde i britisk historie, der gjorde det.

Da hun blev valgt som konservativt parlamentsmedlem (MP) i Storbritannien i 1919, havde kvinder og kun nogle kvinder (dem over 30 år, der opfyldte en ejendomskvalifikation) haft stemmeret i godt et år. Astor var ikke den første kvinde, der blev valgt til parlamentet og mdash i 1918, Constance Markievicz vandt et valg i Dublin, Irland, men hun undlod at tage sit sæde på grund af sit politiske parti Sinn F & eacutein ’s politik. Dette betød, at Astor var den første kvinde til at bryde den barriere. På den måde trodsede hun århundreder af sexisme, der var forankret i det britiske samfund og trådte med sin debut i parlamentet ind i en dengang totalt manddomineret verden.

I mange henseender er Astors arv komplekst. Hun blev senere genvalgt syv gange, inden hun trak sig tilbage i 1945, efter at have mistet støtte fra sit parti. Historikere og biografer har påpeget, at hendes synspunkter i 1930'erne omfattede rapporterede sympatier med nazisme og fascistiske bevægelser, hun rapporteres også at have fremsat antisemitiske og antikatolske udsagn.

24 kvindelige parlamentsmedlemmer blev valgt ved folketingsvalget i 1945, og Astor blev efterfulgt i Plymouth af Lucy Middleton, en politiker fra Labour -partiet.

Selvom hendes politiske liv udspillede sig i en helt anden æra, historikere og nutidige lovgivere, er der flere paralleller mellem Astors oplevelser og kvindelige politikeres oplevelser i Storbritannien i dag.

Astor løb for sin mand og rsquos sæde i Underhuset, da han fik titlen Viscount og senere blev hævet til House of Lords. Astor, der blev født Nancy Witcher Langhorne i Danville, Va., Til en familie, der mistede deres formue under den amerikanske borgerkrig, skilte sig ud blandt datidens politikere på mere end én måde. En 26-årig Nancy var flyttet til England i 1905 og krydsede stier med andre amerikanske udstationerede Waldorf Astor, parret giftede sig et år senere.

& ldquo Da hun ankom til England, var hun ikke den typiske engelske kvinde. Hun var amerikansk for en, og rdquo Astor & rsquos barnebarn, fortæller viscount William Astor til TIME. & ldquoJeg tror, ​​at en af ​​grundene til, at hun blev parlamentsmedlem, var, at hun var helt uvidende om de barrierer, der blokerede kvinder i England. & rdquo (Den første kvinde, der blev valgt til kongressen, kom kun tre år tidligere.)

Jacqui Turner, der er professor i historie ved University of Reading, er enig. & ldquoNancy kørte en fantastisk, livlig, vittig kampagne i amerikansk stil, & rdquo Turner siger. Hun havde ikke den engelske overklassestivhed [eller] formalitet om hende. & rdquo I stedet ville Astor møde lokalbefolkningen i Plymouth & rsquos fattigste områder, sidde ned med kvinder i fattigdom og gå ind for politikker, der ville gavne dem. Astor fik en bred tilslutning blandt byens og kvindens kvinder, bemærker Turner, som igen overbeviste deres ægtemænd om at stemme på hende.

& ldquoDet var virkelig banebrydende dengang, & rdquo siger Charlotte Holloway, en kandidat for Labour Party, der stillede op til at repræsentere valgkredsen i Plymouth Moor View & mdash, som blev omfattet af Astors oprindelige sæde frem til 2010 & mdash i det britiske folketingsvalg 12. december. (I øjeblikket har Labour -parlamentsmedlem Luke Pollard, Plymouth & rsquos først åbent homoseksuelle parlamentsmedlem, der har sæde for Plymouth, Sutton og Devonport -konservative parlamentsmedlem Johnny Mercer har Plymouth Moor View.) & LdquoNår vi ser, at den [konservative] regering & rsquos stramhedsdagsorden har uforholdsmæssigt påvirket kvinder, og vi se, at børn lever i fattigdom i det 21. århundrede, hendes arv er lige så levende nu som det nogensinde var. & rdquo

Astor fortsatte med at gå ind for lokalpolitik, kontroversielt modsat sig den konventionelle konservative partis linje og kæmpede for medholdenhed ved at fremhæve den skade, alkohol havde påført Plymouth & rsquos -samfundene. & ldquoJeg ser på gode parlamentsmedlemmer i dag, og det er rsquos, hvad de gør, & rdquo siger Rebecca Smith, en konservativ folketingskandidat, der stiller op i Astor & rsquos tidligere sæde i Plymouth Sutton og Devonport. & ldquoDe er på jorden for at finde ud af, hvad der foregår og sigter mod at påvirke love for at bringe forandringer i deres lokalsamfund. & rdquo Astor introducerede lov om beruselse af spiritus i 1923, det første lovforslag af en kvinde, der blev vedtaget i en lov i Storbritannien. Loven siger, at det er ulovligt at drikke alkohol under 18 år og stadig er i dag.

Som politiker var den hurtige Astor en & ldquomaverick, & rdquo siger hendes barnebarn. & ldquoDu vidste aldrig helt, hvad hun skulle sige eller gøre. & rdquo I to år, indtil den anden kvinde, der blev valgt, kom ind i huset, måtte Astor kæmpe for at blive hørt. & ldquoHun slog væk, bestemt. Hun stod op og afbrød folk lejlighedsvis eller holdt en hård tale, så hun ville blive hørt. Du ser tilbage på nogle af hendes taler nu, og du tænker, & lsquoHvorfor sagde hun det? & rsquo& rdquo siger William Astor. & ldquoDerefter indser du, at når du læser hele debatten, siger hun bare Jeg lsquom også her. Du har lige haft en hel debat om kvinders rettigheder, og jeg er den eneste kvinde i rummet, men ingen har bedt mig om at tale. & Rsquo& rdquo

I årevis nægtede flere politikere at tale med Astor på grund af hendes køn. Men med tiden brød hun disse barrierer ned og endte med at få venner og støtte fra hele det politiske spektrum. Hendes følgere var udbredt hver uge, hun ville modtage omkring 3.000 breve fra kvinder over hele landet, ifølge Turner.

Men brevene Astor modtog var ikke altid positive. Ifølge historikeren Turner læste en usigneret note & ldquoTo that blasted American whore, go home. & Rdquo For mange kvindelige politikere er der klare paralleller i dag. Flere kvindelige parlamentsmedlemmer har stået op foran det kommende valg med henvisning til misbrug, herunder voldtægt og dødstrusler. Mens Astor modtog breve, modtager kvindelige politikere nu krænkende kommentarer på sociale medier.

En undersøgelse sidste år af Amnesty International viste, at Labour-politiker Diane Abbott modtog næsten halvdelen af ​​alle krænkende tweets, der blev sendt til kvindelige parlamentsmedlemmer i op til det sidste folketingsvalg i 2017. & ldquoSom kvinde står, gør det mig ganske bange og angst ,, & rdquo siger Sima Davarian, en kandidat, der stiller op til at repræsentere de liberale demokrater i South West Devon. & ldquoDer & rsquos definitivt kvindehad og grim retorik. & rdquo Davarian siger, at der også er andre udfordringer, kvinder stadig står over for, når de forsøger at gå ind i politik.

Astor stod også over for tilbageslag fra sine jævnaldrende, herunder premierminister Winston Churchill, der ikke var tilhænger af, at kvinder skulle komme ind i parlamentet. (I sine yngre år var Churchill imod kampagnen for kvindelig stemmeret.) Da Astor havde taget plads i parlamentet, sagde Churchill angiveligt, at han havde det som om, at en kvindelig kvinde var kommet ind på mit badeværelse, og jeg kun havde en svamp at forsvare mig med , & rdquo William Astor noter.

Berømt sparrede parret under parlamentsdebatter. & ldquoChurchill ville holde temmelig lange taler, og min bedstemor ville kede sig, så [ved en lejlighed] stod hun op og sagde: & lsquoHvis jeg var gift med dig, forgiftede jeg din kaffe & rsquo, hvortil Churchill svarede, & lsquoHvis jeg var gift med dig, drak jeg og drikke det, & rsquo & rdquo siger William Astor. I en artikel fra 1964 skrev TIME, at Astor & ldquowas blev kritiseret, fordømt og hånet i løbet af store dele af hendes liv. & Rdquo

Hendes arv for mig var, at hun stak det ud, & rdquo siger Turner fra Astors rolle i parlamentarisk historie. Hun lød ikke, hun gav ikke op, hun dukkede ikke op, hun arbejdede hårdere end nogen anden, og hun talte ud. & rdquo

Og tingene ser anderledes ud i dag, med det seneste parlament med 211 siddende kvindelige parlamentsmedlemmer og mdash, selvom andelen af ​​kvinder er på et helt højt tidspunkt siden rekordernes begyndelse, men stadig står på kun 32% repræsentation. Smith siger, at hun er en del af en WhatsApp -gruppe med andre kvindelige politikere for at dele støtte og råd en stor forskel for, da Astor stod alene i parlamentet. & ldquoDer er en kultur, hvor det er normalt at have kvinder i Underhuset nu, hvilket viser, hvordan samfundet er gået videre, & rdquo Smith siger.

Et århundrede senere ser de kvindelige kandidater, der stiller op i Astor & rsquos valgkreds og de omkringliggende områder, stadig hendes indflydelse og paralleller med hendes oplevelser. Selvom omstændighederne, hvor hun blev valgt, er anderledes end hvad mange af os finder nu, åbnede hun i sidste ende døren for, at kvindelige parlamentsmedlemmer kunne komme igennem, og hun holdt døren åben, & rdquo siger Smith.


Hvad er hendes historie?

Fra Amerika havde Nancy giftet sig ind i den uhyre velhavende Astor -familie.

Hun blev først valgt til parlamentet for Plymouth Sutton i et mellemvalg, og erstattede sin mand i sædet, da han kom ind i House of Lords.

Hendes charme og evne til at appellere til hver klasse blev antaget at have hjulpet hende til sejr.

Hun var en vokal feminist, men havde ingen bånd til suffragette -bevægelsen, der var aktiv dengang.

I 1923 var hun ansvarlig for det første lov om private medlemmer, der nogensinde blev vedtaget af en kvinde - lov om beruset spiritus - der stoppede salget af alkohol til personer under 19 år. Den samme lov er gældende i dag.

Som kvinde stod hun over for sexisme og harme. Hun sagde om det misbrug, hun stod overfor: & quot Da jeg stod op og stillede spørgsmål, der vedrørte kvinder og børn, sociale og moralske spørgsmål, blev jeg råbt til i 5 eller 10 minutter ad gangen.

"Det var dengang, de troede, at jeg snarere var en freak, en stemme, der græd i ørkenen".

Churchill selv blev engang registreret som at indrømme, at mændene i kammeret forsøgte at fryse hende ud.


Lady Astor døde i en alder af 87 - Model og socialite fanget i Profumo -affæren, der rystede Storbritannien, går bort

DAMEN i et statelig hjem, der er involveret i Storbritanniens mest berygtede sexskandale, er død i en alder af 87 år.

Lady Bronwen Astor havde været en af ​​de mest berømte modeller i sin generation, før hun blev fanget i 1960'ernes Profumo -affære.

Men hun blev afskåret af det høje samfund, efter at godset blev baggrund for den berygtede affære.

Hendes Cliveden -ejendom nær Maidenhead havde været det sted, hvor modellen Christine Keeler - som også døde i sidste måned i en alder af 75 - sluttede til gift regeringskrigsminister John Profumo.

Keeler havde også et seksuelt forhold til en sovjetisk flådeattaché Yevgeny Ivanov, der udløste frygt for sikkerheden og Profumo 's fratrædelse, efter at han i første omgang nægtede affæren.

I 1960 giftede Lady Astor sig med den velhavende Tory MP Viscount & quotBill & Astor efter at have været stjernen i modelleringskredsløbet, men kun tre år senere blev hun involveret i en skandale, efter at Bill havde sex med natklubbens danser Mandy Rice -Davies - og skæbnesvangert introducerede sin ven Christine Keeler for Profumo .

Politiet overvejede endda at opkræve Viscount Astor for at drive et bordel på den overdådige ejendom, som nu ejes af National Trust og drives som et femstjernet hotel.

Bronwen mente altid, at Rice-Davies lå og sov med sin mand, og parret forblev sammen indtil Bill 's død i 1966, 58 år gammel.

Hun blev uddannet psykoterapeut i 1986 og drev en praksis i mere end 20 år samt arbejdede som åndelig rådgiver.


Tag: Nancy Astor

Biên dịch: Nguyễn Thị Kim Phụng

Vào ngày này năm 1919, Nancy Astor - sinh tại Mỹ, trở thành người phụ nữ đầu tiên chính thức là thành viên Hạ viện Anh. Bà được bầu vào Nghị viện với đa số đáng kể. Phu nhân Astor đã ngồi vào chiếc ghế đảng Bảo thủ của chồng mình, Tử tước Waldorf Astor, người khi ấy vừa nhận được một ghế thừa kế tại Thượng viện.

Sinh năm 1879 fra Danville, Virginia, phu nhân Astor là con gái của một cựu sĩ quan Hợp bang miền Nam, người đã vươn lên trở thành một nhà đấu giá thuốc lá giàu có. Ban đầu, bà kết hôn với Robert Gould Shaw II, người gốc Boston, i 1897, og họ có với nhau một con trai tr kc khi ly hôn vào năm 1903. Ngay sau đó, Nancy đến thămà Waldorf Astor, chắt của nhà kinh doanh lông thú người Mỹ, John Jacob Astor. Næsten 1906, så blev vi hørt. Fortsæt med at læse 󈬌/11/1919: Nancy Astor trở thành nữ hạ nghị sĩ đầu tiên của Anh ”


Indhold

Nancy Witcher Langhorne blev født i Langhorne House i Danville, Virginia. [5] Hun var den ottende af elleve børn født af jernbaneforretningsmanden Chiswell Dabney Langhorne og Nancy Witcher Keene. [5] Efter afskaffelsen af ​​slaveriet kæmpede Chiswell for at gøre sine operationer rentable, og med ødelæggelsen af ​​krigen levede familien i næsten fattigdom i flere år, før Nancy blev født. Efter hendes fødsel fik hendes far et job som tobaksauktionør i Danville, centrum for lysbladetobak og et stort marketing- og forarbejdningscenter.

I 1874 vandt han en byggekontrakt med Chesapeake og Ohio Railroad ved hjælp af tidligere kontakter fra hans tjeneste i borgerkrigen. I 1892, da Nancy var tretten år gammel, havde hendes far reetableret sin rigdom og bygget et betydeligt hjem. [6] [7] Chiswell Langhorne flyttede senere sin familie til en ejendom, kendt som Mirador, i Albemarle County, Virginia.

Nancy Langhorne havde fire søstre og tre brødre, der overlevede barndommen. Alle søstrene var kendt for deres skønhed Nancy og hendes søster Irene gik begge på en afslutningsskole i New York City. Der mødte Nancy sin første mand, socialisten Robert Gould Shaw II, en fætter til oberst Robert Gould Shaw, der befalede det 54. Massachusetts Regiment, den første enhed i Unionens hær, der skulle bestå af afroamerikanere. De giftede sig i New York City den 27. oktober 1897, da hun var 18.

Ægteskabet var ulykkeligt. Shaws venner sagde, at Nancy blev puritansk og stiv efter ægteskabet, at hendes venner sagde, at Shaw var en voldelig alkoholiker. Under deres fireårige ægteskab havde de en søn, Robert Gould Shaw III (kaldet Bobbie). Nancy forlod Shaw mange gange under deres ægteskab, den første under deres bryllupsrejse. I 1903 døde Nancys mor på det tidspunkt, Nancy Shaw fik en skilsmisse og flyttede tilbage til Mirador at forsøge at drive sin fars husstand, men det lykkedes ikke. [8]

Nancy Shaw tog en rundtur i England og blev forelsket i landet. Da hun havde været så glad der, foreslog hendes far, at hun flyttede til England. Da hun så, at hun var tilbageholdende, sagde hendes far, at dette også var hendes mors ønske, at han foreslog, at hun tog sin yngre søster Phyllis. Nancy og Phyllis flyttede sammen til England i 1905. Deres storesøster Irene havde giftet sig med kunstneren Charles Dana Gibson og blev en model for sine Gibson Girls.

Nancy Shaw var allerede blevet kendt i det engelske samfund som en interessant og vittig amerikaner, i en tid hvor mange velhavende unge amerikanske kvinder havde giftet sig ind i aristokratiet. Hendes tendens til at være prangende i samtalen, men alligevel religiøst from og næsten forsigtig i adfærd, forvirrede mange af de engelske mænd, men glædede nogle af de ældre socialitter. Nancy begyndte også at vise sin dygtighed til at vinde over kritikere. Hun blev engang spurgt af en engelsk kvinde: "Er du kommet for at hente vores ægtemænd?" Hendes uventede svar, "Hvis du kendte den ulejlighed, jeg havde at slippe af med." Charmerede hendes lyttere og viste det vid, som hun blev kendt for. [9]

Hun blev gift med en englænder, omend en født i USA, Waldorf Astor, da han var tolv år, hans far, William Waldorf Astor, havde flyttet familien til England og opdraget sine børn i engelsk aristokratisk stil. Parret var godt matchet, da de begge var amerikanske udlændinge med lignende temperament. De var i samme alder og født samme dag, 19. maj 1879. Astor delte nogle af Nancys moralske holdninger og havde en hjertesygdom, der kan have bidraget til hans tilbageholdenhed. Efter ægteskabet flyttede Astors ind i Cliveden, en overdådig ejendom i Buckinghamshire ved Themsen, der var en bryllupsgave fra Astors far. [10] Nancy Astor udviklede sig som en fremtrædende værtinde for den sociale elite. [b]

Astors ejede også et storslået London -hus, nr. 4 St. James's Square, nu lokaler for Naval & amp Military Club. En blå plakat, der blev afsløret i 1987, mindes Astor på St. James's Square. [11] Gennem sine mange sociale forbindelser blev Lady Astor involveret i en politisk kreds kaldet Milners børnehave. Betragtes som liberal i deres alder, gik gruppen ind for enhed og lighed blandt engelsktalende mennesker og en fortsættelse eller udvidelse af det britiske imperium.

Med Milners børnehave begyndte Astor sin tilknytning til Philip Kerr. Venskabet blev vigtigt i hendes religiøse liv, de mødtes kort efter Kerr havde lidt en åndelig krise vedrørende hans engang fromme katolicisme. De blev tiltrukket af Christian Science, som de begge til sidst konverterede til. [10] [12] Efter konverteringen begyndte hun at proselytisere for den tro og spillede en rolle i Kerrs konvertering til den. [13] Hun forsøgte også at konvertere Hilaire Bellocs døtre til Christian Science, hvilket førte til et brud mellem dem. [14]

På trods af at de havde katolske venner som Belloc for en tid, omfattede Astors religiøse synspunkter en stærk vene af antikatolicisme. [15] Christopher Sykes hævder, at Kerr, en tidligere katolik, påvirkede dette, men andre hævder, at Astors protestantiske Virginia-oprindelse er en tilstrækkelig forklaring på hendes antikatolske synspunkter. (Antikatolicismen var også knyttet til historiske nationale rivaliseringer.)

Hun forsøgte at afskrække ansættelse af jøder eller katolikker til ledende stillinger på Observatøren, [16] en avis ejet af hendes mand [17] i 1927 fortalte hun angiveligt James Louis Garvin, at hvis han hyrede en katolik, ville "biskopper være der inden for en uge."

Flere elementer i Viscountess Astors liv påvirkede hendes første kampagne, men hun blev kandidat, efter at det var lykkedes hendes mand at blive adelsmand og House of Lords. Han havde nydt en lovende politisk karriere i flere år før 1. verdenskrig i Underhuset efter sin fars død, det lykkedes ham at få sin fars ligestilling som 2. Viscount Astor. Han blev automatisk medlem af House of Lords og måtte derfor miste sin plads i Plymouth Sutton i Underhuset. [10] Med denne ændring besluttede Lady Astor at bestride mellemvalget til den ledige parlamentsplads.

Astor havde ikke været forbundet med kvindebevægelsesbevægelsen på de britiske øer. Den første kvinde, der blev valgt til det britiske parlament, Constance Markievicz, sagde, at Lady Astor var "af overklassen, uden kontakt". [10] Grevinde Markiewicz havde været i Holloway -fængslet for Sinn Féin -aktiviteter under hendes valg, og andre suffragetter var blevet fængslet for brandstiftelse. Da Astor blev mødt, da hun ankom til Paddington station dagen efter hendes valg af en skare af suffragetter, herunder navngivne kvinder, der var blevet fængslet og sultestrejke, sagde en: "Dette er begyndelsen på vores æra. Jeg er glad for at have lidt for dette. " [18]

Astor blev hæmmet i den populære kampagne for hendes publicerede og til tider vokale teetotalisme og hendes uvidenhed om aktuelle politiske spørgsmål. Astor appellerede til vælgerne på grundlag af hendes tidligere arbejde med de canadiske soldater, britiske allierede, velgørende arbejde under krigen, hendes økonomiske ressourcer til kampagnen og hendes evne til at improvisere. Hendes publikum værdsatte hendes vid og evne til at vende bordene til hecklers. Engang spurgte en mand hende, hvad Astors havde gjort for ham, og hun svarede med, "Hvorfor, Charlie, du ved," [c] og fik senere taget et billede med ham. Denne uformelle stil forvirrede, men alligevel morede den britiske offentlighed. Hun samledes tilhængerne af den nuværende regering, modererede sine forbudsopfattelser og brugte kvindemøder til at opnå støtte fra kvindelige vælgere. Et mellemvalg blev afholdt den 28. november 1919, [19], og hun indtog sin plads i huset den 1. december som unionist (også kendt som "Tory") parlamentsmedlem.

Viscountess Astor var ikke den første kvinde, der blev valgt til Westminster -parlamentet. Det opnåede Constance Markievicz, som var den første kvindelige parlamentsmedlem valgt til Westminster i 1918, men da hun var irsk republikaner, tog hun ikke plads. Som følge heraf omtales Lady Astor undertiden fejlagtigt som den første kvindelige parlamentsmedlem eller den første kvinde, der blev valgt til Det Forenede Kongeriges parlament, snarere end den første kvindelige parlamentsmedlem, der tog plads i parlamentet.

Astor var den første kvinde, der blev valgt gennem det, der er blevet kaldt 'haloeffekten' af, at kvinder overtog deres mands parlamentariske sæde, en proces, der stod for valget af ti kvindelige parlamentsmedlemmer (næsten en tredjedel af de kvinder, der blev valgt til parlamentet) mellem de to verdenskrige. [20]

Astors parlamentariske karriere var den mest offentlige fase i hendes liv. Hun fik opmærksomhed som kvinde og som en, der ikke fulgte reglerne, ofte tilskrevet hendes amerikanske opvækst. På hendes første dag i Underhuset blev hun kaldt til at bestille for at chatte med et medhusmedlem, uden at hun var klar over, at hun var den person, der forårsagede balladen. Hun lærte at klæde sig mere afslappet og undgik barer og rygerum, som mændene besøgte. [21] [22]

Tidligt i sin første periode ønskede parlamentsmedlem Horatio Bottomley at dominere spørgsmålet om "soldatens ven", [23] og troede på, at hun var en hindring, og forsøgte at ødelægge hendes politiske karriere. Han udnyttede hendes modstand mod skilsmissereform og hendes bestræbelser på at opretholde alkoholrestriktioner fra krigen. Bottomley fremstillede hende som en hykler, da hun blev skilt, sagde han, at det lovforslag, hun modsatte sig, ville give kvinder mulighed for at få den samme slags skilsmisse, som hun havde i Amerika. Bottomley blev senere fængslet for bedrageri, som Astor brugte til hendes fordel i andre kampagner. [24]

Astor fik venner blandt kvindelige parlamentsmedlemmer, herunder medlemmer af de andre partier. Margaret Wintringham blev valgt, efter at Astor havde siddet i to år. Astor blev ven med Ellen Wilkinson, medlem af Labour Party (og en tidligere kommunist). Astor foreslog senere at oprette et "kvindeparti", men de kvindelige Labour -parlamentsmedlemmer modsatte sig dette, da deres parti dengang var i embedet og havde lovet dem holdninger. Over tid adskilte politiske forskelle de kvindelige parlamentsmedlemmer i 1931. Astor blev fjendtlig over for kvindelige Labour -medlemmer som Susan Lawrence. [25] [26]

Nancy Astors præstationer i Underhuset var relativt små. Hun havde aldrig en stilling med stor indflydelse og aldrig nogen ministerpost, selvom hendes tid i Commons oplevede fire konservative statsministre i embedet. Hertuginden af ​​Atholl (valgt til parlamentet i 1923, fire år efter Lady Astor) steg til højere niveauer i det konservative parti, før Astor gjorde det. Astor følte, at hvis hun havde mere position i partiet, ville hun være mindre fri til at kritisere sit partis regering.

I løbet af denne periode var Nancy Astor fortsat aktiv uden for regeringen og støttede udviklingen og udvidelsen af ​​børnehaver til børns uddannelse. Hun blev introduceret til spørgsmålet af socialisten Margaret McMillan, der mente, at hendes afdøde søster hjalp hende med at guide hende i livet. Lady Astor var oprindeligt skeptisk over for dette aspekt, men senere blev de to kvinder tætte Astor brugte hendes rigdom til at hjælpe deres sociale indsats. [27] [28]

Selvom han var aktiv i velgørende bestræbelser, blev Astor kendt for en stribe grusomhed. Da hun hørte om en politisk fjendes død, udtrykte hun sin glæde. Da folk klagede, undskyldte hun ikke, men sagde: "Jeg er en Virginian, vi skyder for at dræbe." Angus McDonnell, en ven i Virginia, gjorde hende vred ved at gifte sig uden at rådføre sig med ham om hans valg. Hun fortalte ham senere om hans jomfrutale, at han "virkelig må gøre det bedre end det." I løbet af sit voksne liv fremmedgjorde Astor også mange med sine skarpe ord. [29] [30]

I løbet af 1920'erne holdt Astor flere effektive taler i parlamentet og opnåede støtte til hendes lov om berusende spiritus (salg til personer under 18 år) (kaldet "Lady Astors regning"), hvilket hævede lovalderen for forbrug af alkohol i et offentligt hus fra 14 til 18. [10] [32] Hendes rigdom og personlighed gjorde opmærksom på kvinder, der tjente i regeringen. Hun arbejdede med at rekruttere kvinder til embedsværket, politiet, uddannelsesreformen og House of Lords. Hun var vellidt i sin valgkreds såvel som USA i løbet af 1920'erne, men hendes succes menes generelt at være faldet i de følgende årtier. [33] [34]

I maj 1922 var Astor æresgæst ved en panamerikansk konference afholdt af U.S.Liga of Women Voters i Baltimore, Maryland. [31]

Astor blev den første formand for den nystiftede Electrical Association For Women i 1924. [35]

She chaired the first ever International Conference of Women In Science, Industry and Commerce, a three-day event held London in July 1925, organised by Caroline Haslett for the Women's Engineering Society in co-operation with other leading women's groups. Astor hosted a large gathering at her home in St James's to enable networking amongst the international delegates, and spoke strongly of her support of and the need for women to work in the fields of science, engineering and technology. [35]

She was concerned about the treatment of juvenile victims of crime: "The work of new MPs, such as Nancy Astor, led to a Departmental Committee on Sexual Offences Against Young People, which reported in 1925." [36]

The 1930s were a decade of personal and professional difficulty for Lady Astor. In 1929, she won a narrow victory over the Labour candidate. In 1931, Bobby Shaw, her son from her first marriage, was arrested for homosexual offences. [10] As her son had previously shown tendencies towards alcoholism and instability, Astor's friend Philip Kerr, now the 11th Marquess of Lothian, suggested the arrest might act as a catalyst for him to change his behaviour, but he was incorrect.

Astor made a disastrous speech stating that alcohol use was the reason England's national cricket team was defeated by the Australian national cricket team. Both the English and Australian teams objected to this statement. Astor remained oblivious to her growing unpopularity almost to the end of her career. [37] [38]

Astor's friendship with George Bernard Shaw helped her through some of her problems, although his own nonconformity caused friction between them. They held opposing political views and had very different temperaments. However, his own tendency to make controversial statements or put her into awkward situations proved to be a drawback for her political career. [39] [40]

After Bobby Shaw was arrested, Gertrude Ely, a Pennsylvania Railroad heiress from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania offered to provide a guided tour to Moscow for Lady Astor and Bobby. Because of public comments by her and her son during this period, her political career suffered. Her son made many flattering statements about the Soviet Union, while Astor often disparaged the nation because she did not approve of Communism. In a meeting, she asked Joseph Stalin directly why he had slaughtered so many Russians, but many of her criticisms were translated as less challenging statements. Some of her conservative supporters feared she had "gone soft" on Communism. (Her question to Stalin may have been translated correctly only because he insisted that he be told what she had said.) The Conservatives felt that her son's praise of the USSR served as a coup for Soviet propaganda they were unhappy with her tour. [39] [41]

Astor's antisemitism has been widely documented has been criticised in recent years, particularly in light of former Prime Minister Theresa May's 2019 unveiling of a statue in her honour with current Prime Minister Boris Johnson in attendance, [2] [4] [42] and more recently after Labour MP Rachel Reeves commemorated Astor in a series of tweets. [ citat nødvendig ] The then-leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, while opposed to her anti-semitism, recognised she was the first woman MP to take up her place in Parliament and so praised installation of the statue, commenting "I'm really pleased the statue is going up". [43]

Astor was reportedly a supporter of the Nazis as a solution to what she saw as the "world problems" of Jews and communists. [44] In 1938 she met Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., who was a well-documented anti-Semite. She asked him not to take offence at her anti-Catholic views and wrote, "I'm glad you are smart enough not to take my [views] personally". She highlighted highlighting the fact that she had a number of Catholic friends. [44] Astor and Kennedy's correspondence is reportedly filled with anti-Semitic language, and Edward J. Renehan Jr. wrote:

As fiercely anti-Communist as they were anti-Semitic, Kennedy and Astor looked upon Adolf Hitler as a welcome solution to both of these "world problems" (Nancy's phrase). . Kennedy replied that he expected the "Jew media" in the United States to become a problem, that "Jewish pundits in New York and Los Angeles" were already making noises contrived to "set a match to the fuse of the world". [45]

Astor commented to Kennedy that Hitler would have to do worse than "give a rough time. to the killers of christ" for Britain and America to risk "Armageddon to save them. The wheel of history swings round as the Lord would have it. Who are we to stand in the way of the future?" [46] Astor made various other documented anti-Semitic comments, such as her complaint that the Observatør newspaper, which was owned at the time by her husband, was "full of homosexuals and Jews", [46] and her tense anti-Semitic exchange with MP Alan Graham in 1938, as described by Harold Nicolson:

In the corridor a friend of mine named Alan Graham came up to Nancy and said, 'I do not think you behaved very well' [in a meeting of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee]. She turned upon him and said, 'Only a Jew like you would dare to be rude to me.' He replied, 'I should like very much to smack you in your face.' I think she is a little mad. [47] [48]

Dr David Feldman of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism has also related that whilst attending a dinner at the Savoy Hotel in 1934, Astor asked the League of Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees whether he believed "that there must be something in the Jews themselves that had brought them persecution throughout the ages". Dr Feldman acknowledged, however, that it was "not an unusual view" and explained it "was a conventional idea in the UK at the time". [3] [49] Some years later, during a visit to New York in 1947, she apparently "clashed" with reporters, renouncing her anti-Semitism, telling one that she was "not anti-Jewish but gangsterism isn't going to solve the Palestine problem". [3]

Astor was also deeply involved in the so-called Cliveden Set, a coterie of aristocrats that was described by one journalist as having subscribed to their own form of fascism. [50] In that capacity, Astor was considered a "legendary hostess" for the group that in 1936 welcomed Hitler's foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, who communicated to Hitler regarding the likelihood of an agreement between Germany and England and singled out the Astorgruppe as one of the circles "that want a fresh understanding with Germany and who hold that it would not basically be impossible to achieve". [51] The Sunday newspaper Reynolds News, also reported, "Cliveden has been the centre of friendship with German influence". To that end, several of her friends and associates, especially the Marquess of Lothian, were involved in the policy of appeasement of Nazi Germany. Astor, however, was frustrated that the group be viewed as a pro-German conspiracy, and her husband, William Waldorf Astor, wrote in a letter to the Times, "To link our weekends with any particular clique is as absurd as is the allegation that those of us who desire to establish better relations with Germany or Italy are pro-Nazis or pro-Fascists". [52] The Cliveden Set was also depicted by war agitators as the prime movers for peace.

At the request of her friend Felix Frankfurter, a future US Supreme Court justice who was Jewish, Astor intervened with the Nazis in Vienna and secured the release of Frankfurter's Jewish uncle, Solomon. [53] [54] Astor occasionally met with Nazi officials in keeping with Neville Chamberlain's policies, and she was known to distrust and to dislike British Foreign Secretary (later Prime Minister) Anthony Eden. She is alleged to have told one Nazi official that she supported German rearmament because the country was "surrounded by Catholics". She also told Ribbentrop, the German ambassador, who later became the foreign minister of Germany, that Hitler looked too much like Charlie Chaplin to be taken seriously. Those statements are the only documented incidents of her direct expressions to Nazis. [55] [56]

Astor became increasingly harsh in her anti-Catholic and anticommunist sentiments. After the passage of the Munich Agreement, she said that if the Czech refugees fleeing Nazi oppression were communists, they should seek asylum with the Soviets, instead of the British. While supporters of appeasement felt that that to be out of line, the Marquess of Lothian encouraged her comments. [57]

When the war began, Astor admitted that she had made mistakes, and voted against Chamberlain, but left-wing hostility to her politics remained. In a 1939 speech, the pro-Soviet Labour MP Stafford Cripps called her "The Member for Berlin". [58]

Her fear of Catholics increased and she made a speech saying that a Catholic conspiracy was subverting the Foreign Office. Based on her opposition to Communists, she insulted Stalin's role (from 1941) as one of the Allied Powers during the war. Her speeches became rambling and incomprehensible an opponent said that debating her had become "like playing squash with a dish of scrambled eggs". [59] On one occasion she accosted a young American soldier outside the Houses of Parliament. "Would you like to go in?" she asked. The GI replied: "You are the sort of woman my mother told me to avoid". [60]

The period from 1937 to the end of the war was personally difficult for her: from 1937–38 Astor lost both her sister Phyllis and her only surviving brother. In 1940, the Marquess of Lothian died. He had been her closest Christian Scientist friend even after her husband converted. George Bernard Shaw's wife died three years later. During the war, Astor's husband had a heart attack. After this, their marriage grew cold, likely due to her subsequent discomfort with his health problems. She ran a hospital for Canadian soldiers as she had during the First World War, but openly expressed a preference for the earlier soldiers. [61] [62] [63]

It was generally believed that it was Lady Astor who, during a World War II speech, first referred to the men of the 8th Army who were fighting in the Italian campaign as the "D-Day Dodgers". Observers thought she was suggesting they were avoiding the "real war" in France and the future invasion. The Allied soldiers in Italy were so incensed that Major Hamish Henderson of the 51st Highland Division composed a bitingly sarcastic song to the tune of the popular German song "Lili Marleen", called "The Ballad of the D-Day Dodgers". This song has also been attributed to Lance-Sergeant Harry Pynn of the Tank Rescue Section, 19 Army Fire Brigade. [64]

When told she was one of the people listed to be arrested, imprisoned and face possible execution in "The Black Book" under a German invasion of Britain, Lady Astor commented: "It is the complete answer to the terrible lie that the so-called 'Cliveden Set' was pro-Fascist." [65]

Lady Astor believed her party and her husband caused her retirement in 1945. As the Conservatives believed she had become a political liability in the final years of World War II, her husband said that if she stood for office again the family would not support her. She conceded but, according to contemporary reports, was both irritated and angry about her situation. [66] [67]

Lady Astor struggled in retirement, which put further strain on her marriage. [10] In a speech commemorating her 25 years in parliament, she stated that her retirement was forced on her and that it should please the men of Britain. The couple began travelling separately and soon were living apart. Lord Astor also began moving towards left-wing politics in his last years, and that exacerbated their differences. However, the couple reconciled before his death on 30 September 1952. [68] [69]

Lady Astor's public image suffered, as her ethnic and religious views were increasingly out of touch with cultural changes in Britain. She expressed a growing paranoia regarding ethnic minorities. In one instance, she stated that the President of the United States had become too dependent on New York City. To her this city represented "Jewish and foreign" influences that she feared. During a US tour, she told a group of African-American students that they should aspire to be like the black servants she remembered from her youth. On a later trip, she told African-American church members that they should be grateful for slavery because it had allowed them to be introduced to Christianity. In Rhodesia she proudly told the white minority government leaders that she was the daughter of a slave owner. [70]

After 1956, Nancy Astor became increasingly isolated. In 1959, she was honoured by receiving the Freedom of City of Plymouth. By this time, she had lost all her sisters and brothers, her colleague "Red Ellen" Wilkinson died in 1947, George Bernard Shaw died in 1950, and she did not take well to widowhood. Her son Bobbie Shaw became increasingly combative and after her death he committed suicide. Her son, Jakie, married a prominent Catholic woman, which hurt his relationship with his mother. She and her other children became estranged. Gradually she began to accept Catholics as friends. However, she said that her final years were lonely. [68] [69]

Lady Astor died in 1964 at her daughter Nancy Astor's home at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire. She was cremated and her ashes interred at the Octagon Temple at Cliveden. [68] [69] [71]

She was known for exchanges with Winston Churchill, though most of these are not well documented. Churchill told Lady Astor that having a woman in Parliament was like having one intrude on him in the bathroom, to which she retorted, "You're not handsome enough to have such fears." [72]

Lady Astor is also said to have responded to a question from Churchill about what disguise he should wear to a masquerade ball by saying, "Why don't you come sober, Prime Minister?" [73]

Although variations on the following anecdote exist with different people, the story is being told of Winston Churchill's encounter with Lady Astor who, after failing to shake him in an argument, broke off with the petulant remark, "Oh, if you were my husband, I'd put poison in your tea." "Madame," Winston responded, "if I were your husband, I'd drink it with pleasure." [74]

A bronze statue of Lady Astor was installed in Plymouth, near her former family home, in 2019 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her election to Parliament. [49] During the George Floyd protests in 2020, the word "Nazi" was spray-painted on its base. The statue was on a list published on a website called Topple the Racists. [75]


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This article claims there are 542 Canadian war graves in Italy. According to veterans.cg.ca “Canadian Cemeteries and Memorials in Italy” the number of Canadian war graves in Italy and Sicily is 5,245 (my addition of the individual cemeteries). Since 542 is less than 5,245 the statement is technically correct.

Further, there is no record of Lady Astor saying what is attributed to her here.

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Who is Lady Nancy Astor and why has she been immortalised as a statue?

100 years on since she was elected to the House of Commons, Lady Nancy Astor is being remembered with a bronze statue outside her family's former home in Plymouth.

Recognised as the first female MP to take a seat in the commons, what is the former politician best known for?

And how did the hostess turn into one of the most important MPs of the 20th century?

Who was Lady Astor?

Lady Astor - born Nancy Witcher Langhorne - is considered the first female MP to take a seat in parliament.

The Virginian-born politician was elected as a Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton in 1919 receiving more votes than Labour and the Liberal candidates combined.

However she is not the first ever female MP to be elected.

Irish Republican and Sinn Fein candidate Constance Markievicz, was elected a year earlier but did not take her seat.

Lady Astor went on to serve as an MP for a quarter of a century, eventually standing down in 1945.

How did she become an MP?

The socialite was well connected, marrying into the wealthy Astor family in 1897.

Her husband Waldorf Astor was the MP for Plymouth between 1910 to 1918 and then the Sutton division from 1918.

But it wasn't until he was forced to step-down in order to take over his father's peerage in the House of Lords that the she got involved in politics.

She stood in the 1919 by-election against Labour's William Thomas Gay and Liberal candidate Isaac Foot.

Who are the Astor family?

The Astor's were a prominent family of the 19th and 20th century Lady Astor's father-in-law owning The Independent newspaper.

With her husband, Lady Astor entertained the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Sir Winston Churchill at their estate Cliveden.

Their grandson William Astor III, 4th Viscount Astor currently sits as a Conservative hereditary Lord Temporal in the House of Lords.

What did Lady Astor do?

As well as paving the way for the hundreds of female politicians, Lady Astor had real change in mind when she was elected.

The MP is known for her desire for "drastic drink reforms" which she addressed in her maiden speech.

She eventually introduced the Intoxicating Liquor - Sale to Persons Under Eighteen - Bill, which raised the legal age for buying alcohol.

In her maiden speech she also said: "I am simply trying to speak for hundreds of women and children throughout the country who cannot speak for themselves."

How was her election received?

Lady Astor wasn't liked by everyone and it's even reported that Sir Winston Churchill that they had "tried to freeze her out".

She is once said to have told the former Prime Minister: "If I were your wife Iɽ give you poison in your coffee," to which Mr Churchill replied: "If you were my wife, Iɽ drink it."

It wasn't long before another woman joined her in the House of Commons when Margaret Wintringham, MP for Louth was elected in 1921.

How is she remembered?

Lady Astor's seat may no longer exist - the constituency was abolished to make way for Plymouth Moor View and Plymouth Sutton and Devonport in 2010 - but her legacy lives on.

100 years since she was elected, a bronze statue has been unveiled at Plymouth Hoe outside Astor's former family home.

Former prime minister Theresa May unveiled the work of art sculpted by Hayley Gibbs.

Mrs May said: "I'm honored to be here today to unveil this magnificent statue to a brave and trailblazing woman."

She went on to praise the MP for "giving a voice" to the female population and inspiring her while she was prime minister.

Lady Astor's achievements have also been featured in a local exhibition at Plymouth Guildhall to celebrate the city's most powerful women from the last century.

Outside of the city, the Nancy Astor Express - a train which will travel from London's Paddington Station to Plymouth - has also been named after the politician to mark the occasion.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson remarked on her legacy, adding: "When Nancy Astor entered Parliament 100 years ago, she was a trailblazer, ripping up the conventions that held women back from joining the workplace."


Nancy Astor’s letters by Susannah O’Brien

It is over fifteen years since I first came across Nancy Astor’s letters in the wonderful archives at the University of Reading. These letters and their owners have remained with me and for the last year I have been writing a novel based on the stories told within them.

Nancy Astor was the first woman to enter the House of Commons. A reluctant MP, she agreed to ‘keep the seat warm’ for her husband who had unwillingly inherited his father’s seat in the Lords. She was an MP for over twenty-five years. It quickly became clear to her that she wasn’t only the Member for Plymouth. Women from all over the UK wrote to her she was the “Lady MP”. By 1922, she was receiving between 1500-2000 letters a week.

Women wrote to Astor asking for advice on birth control, childcare, poverty and alcohol abuse. The letters reveal so much about Astor her warmth, her grit, her contradictions, her passion for improving women’s lives confused with a fear of feminism. There is a different side to her too – she could be madly fun, and was hugely devoted to her friends. She became great pals with T E Lawrence and would ride pillion on his motorcycle, much to the horror of contemporary society.

This blog post gives a brief taster of some of my more interesting finds in the Astor archives and shows (I hope!) why they have provided such inspiration for my novel.

“I have had two babies within seventeen months and the thought of having to pass through what I suffered last time is nearly killing me.” Anon woman, quoted in ‘Report for the Society of Provision of Birth Control Clinics’ which was sent to Astor.

Astor was a contradiction. Her humanity and generosity to women in difficult circumstances belied her Conservative politics and strict Christian Scientist outlook. She was an outspoken opponent of divorce, despite being a divorcee herself. The issue of birth control presented her with a moral dilemma. In 1930, Eva Hubback (ex-suffragette and close friend of Eleanor Rathbone) wrote to Astor explaining that a National Birth Control Council was to be set up and inviting her to be a Vice President. “I need not tell you of my interest in Birth Control, as you are already aware of what I think of it,” Astor replied. “But at the same time I really think I would prefer not to accept nomination as a Vice President of the proposed clinic.”

Clare J. Schweizer of Rhondda began her letter (7 th July 1933) by thanking Astor for a lovely weekend at Cliveden before moving on to say: “I feel that I want to say once more how much I feel the need here of … women being instructed in birth control … I know from the women that the midwives are not keen to instruct them. It would mean less ‘biological accidents’ and that is bad for midwives’ trade!

Astor’s opinion changed over time. In 1933, her political secretary was able to state: “Lady Astor is by no means opposed to Birth Control. On the contrary, she supports the establishment of expert clinics when information can be given by qualified people to those married women who desire it. Moreover, she feels that Birth Control is a far less dangerous thing than abortion…”

“Lady Astor has asked me to tell you how sorry she is to hear of your difficulties and to send you the enclosed £2 towards your rent,” Astor’s secretary to Edith Mann, 27 th June 1932.

Astor was sympathetic to the plight of women in difficult situations, but she took her responsibilities seriously. She asked her secretary to investigate Mrs Mann’s situation. A local charity replied that Mann was indeed in a very bleak state and Astor subsequently sent some money.

In response to a similarly desperate letter from a Mrs Lottie Clark, Astor wrote: “Remember that all your needs are met not by any effort of yours or your husbands but because God is caring for you all … [and] know that God has a plan for them which is finer than anything you could ever wish. ” On this occasion, Mrs. Clark’s prayers were indeed answered because Astor enclosed a cheque for £10 along with these words of wisdom.

“You are a dear … your letters always come when I am feeling ‘down’ to cheer me up”. Ellen Wilkinson MP.

Astor was good friends with Labour firebrand Ellen Wilkinson. In a series of undated letters from Wilkinson we see her congratulating Astor for bravery in the Commons (“Please let me congratulate you on your immense courage as a member for a dockyard town in making that statement”), expressing gratitude for her famous hospitality (“It was the most unforgettable party”), and thanking Astor for her friendship. Wilkinson faced financial difficulty when her sister fell ill and she did not have sufficient funds to pay for medical care. “I know I ought to ask someone on my own side to lend me the money … but that means inevitably giving up some of my independence of action which is the dearest thing in my political life,” Wilkinson wrote. Astor lent Wilkinson money and offered to visit the ailing sister.

Perhaps the most telling evidence of Astor’s importance to women is the support and admiration she received from other women. “Heartiest congratulations to you dear Lady Astor,” wrote Millicent Fawcett in 1923 upon Astor’s re-election, “both on your own success and on your going back into the House of Commons with seven other women … We have a lasting gratitude to you...”

In the 1920s women were emerging into the public sphere with a voice and a vote for the first time. Yet despite these new freedoms, they were still imprisoned behind societal expectations. We see these contradictions in the letters both sent and received from Astor’s office.

My novel focuses on Tabitha, a recent Oxford graduate and Lady Astor’s Correspondence Secretary. I wanted to portray a clever young woman who, having fought for the suffragettes, was now looking for a way to make her mark on the world. But all her ambitions were flattened when she became pregnant. Tabitha is fictional, but her story embodies the difficulties faced by many women who wrote to Lady Astor.

Since 2017 I have taken two courses with the prestigious Faber Academy to help me develop my manuscript. I am immensely grateful to receive an independent research fellowship from the WHN. With this funding, I plan to return to the Astor archives to look further at the wonderful correspondence and find more letters to add texture and depth to my novel.

As the 100 th anniversary of Astor’s entrance to the Commons arrives, there is increased interest in her work. My novel will offer an entertaining insight into her words and deeds, and shine a spotlight onto women’s lives in the 1920s. I can’t wait to share Astor’s and Tabitha’s stories with a wider audience.

Susannah O’Brien is a teacher and writer. She has been fascinated by the works of Lady Astor for many years, having studied women’s political history at Royal Holloway, University of London, St John’s College, Oxford, and Trinity College, Dublin. She is now writing a novel based loosely on Lady Astor’s correspondence. She is a Women’s History Network Independent Research Fellow, 2019-2020.


Se videoen: Nancy Astor: First Woman in Parliament