Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor, Viscountess Astor (19 May 1879 — 2 May 1964) was an American-born socialite who made a second marriage to Waldorf Astor as a young woman in England. After he succeeded to the peerage and entered the House of Lords, she entered politics, in 1919 winning his former seat in Plymouth and becoming the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons. She served in Parliament as a representative of the Conservative Party for Plymouth Sutton until 1945, when she was persuaded to step down.
Contrary to popular belief she was not the first woman to be elected to the British Parliament. The first was Countess Constance Markievicz but as a Sinn Féin MP she followed their abstentionist policy and refused her seat, making Nancy Astor the first serving woman MP.
In the 1930’s Nancy Astor and several of her friends and associates became heavily involved in the German appeasement policy; this group became known as the “Cliveden set”, a Germanophile social network that was in favour of friendly relations with Germany.
Nancy Astor was also friends with US Ambassador to Britain Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. Reportedly 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”. In a 1939 speech, a fellow MP called her “The Member for Berlin”.
After serving for 26 years (1919 – 1945) The Tories believed she had become a political liability and her husband said that if she ran for office again the family would not support her. So in 1945 she retired from politics.
On one occasion, while canvassing in Plymouth, she was greeted at a door by a young girl whose mother was away. As Astor was unfamiliar with the area, she had been given a naval officer as an escort. The girl, when asked about her mother, replied: “…but she said if a lady comes with a sailor they’re to use the upstairs room and leave ten bob”.
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