An American Woman in the British House of Commons

The poll declaration for Plymouth Sutton in 1919 (source: Getty Images)

‘Born in Virginia, elected to be in the British House of Commons, I had a sense of gratitude and obligation to the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon peoples’[1]

Lisa Berry-Waite
University of Exeter

This year marks the centenary of Nancy Astor’s election to British Parliament, becoming the first woman MP to take her seat in the House of Commons. The landmark occasion is being commemorated with the Astor 100 campaign to celebrate Astor’s achievements and legacy, as well as to shine a spotlight on women in politics today. Astor’s political career spanned almost three decades; looking back at her career in 1956, she referred to herself as an ‘ardent feminist’ and continuously campaigned on women’s issues.[2]

Known for her wit and outspoken nature, Astor was elected as MP for Plymouth Sutton in a by-election in 1919 for the Conservative Party. She was persuaded to stand by her husband Waldorf Astor, who previously held the seat, when he was elevated to the House of Lords following the death of his father. Nancy Astor the pioneering politician has attracted attention from historians and the media alike, but few discuss in detail her American nationality and the influence it had on her British life and politics. Continue reading “An American Woman in the British House of Commons”