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      ‘To Keep It in the Family’: Spouses, Seat Inheritance and Parliamentary Elections in Post-Suffrage Britain 1918–1945

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          Abstract

          This article analyses the parliamentary phenomenon that historians have referred to as the ‘halo effect’. A model adopted by Nancy Astor, the ‘halo effect’ describes candidates fighting parliamentary seats that had previously been contested by their spouse and accounted for almost a third of the women elected to parliament between the wars. Instead of dismissing its presence as a lack of political progress for women post-suffrage, this article suggests that the ‘halo effect’ was part of the early attempts of political parties to accommodate gender in public life. It indicates the continued relevance of the family as a political organising unit within the era of mass democracy. Rather than understanding seat inheritance between spouses as simply nepotism, this article demonstrates that, for women, their status as wives provided excellent political training and a committed political partner to help them in their careers. Beyond ‘male equivalence’, their relationships helped them to present an identity that allayed some of the tensions surrounding women in public political life and partly accounts for the great success of the ‘halo effect’ in bringing women into parliament in this era.

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          Most cited references 57

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            Women and the Women’s Movement in Britain, 1914–1999

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                2056-6700
                Open Library of Humanities
                Open Library of Humanities
                2056-6700
                23 November 2020
                2020
                : 6
                : 2
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University of Cambridge, GB
                Article
                10.16995/olh.556
                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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