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      Nancy Astor, Women and Politics, 1919–1945

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          Abstract

          Nancy Astor was the first woman elected to the House of Commons, in 1919. She succeeded her husband in his Plymouth constituency when he inherited a seat in the House of Lords, so avoided the discrimination which for decades prevented the selection of many women for winnable seats. She was not a suffragist, or, when elected, a feminist, but the hostility of many men, in and out of parliament, to her presence in the Commons stimulated her support for some, though not all, causes for which the women’s movement campaigned. She promoted equal pay, equal work opportunities, custody rights and the equal franchise, among other things, with some success, but was dubious about divorce and birth control due to her faith in Christian Science and its moral strictures. She was passionately anti-war, so like other feminists and pacifists was an ‘appeaser’. She was not a ‘crypto-Nazi’ as she was, and sometimes is, represented. She facilitated contact between women activists and MPs, male and female, and encouraged cross-party co-operation among women MPs. She was a popular and regular public speaker and widened the appeal of many aims of the women’s movement among women who were dubious about feminism. She was a Conservative who never followed the party line and an active promoter of state welfare measures, especially for young children. She was popular in Plymouth and supported her constituents through World War Two, but stood down in 1945 and left politics when Labour was likely to win the seat in the landslide election. Overall, her greatest contribution is that she significantly raised the profile of women in British politics and assisted the very gradual shift to greater gender equality and expansion of state welfare between the wars and through World War Two.

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          Most cited references 4

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          Women in a Men’s House the Women M.P.s, 1919–1945

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            ‘Votes for All! Why did only some women get the vote in 1918 and what did they do with it?’

             P. Thane (2018)
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              Astor [née Langhorne], Nancy Witcher, Viscountess Astor (1879–1964)

               M. Pugh,  Martin Pugh (2004)
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                2056-6700
                Open Library of Humanities
                Open Library of Humanities
                2056-6700
                01 July 2020
                2020
                : 6
                : 2
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Birkbeck College, University of London, UK
                Article
                10.16995/olh.542
                Copyright: © 2020 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                Categories
                ‘An unconventional MP’: nancy astor, public women and gendered political culture

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