The influence of Christianity in the Parliamentary career of Lady Nancy Astor, 1919-1945

PhD Thesis, Melanie Khuddro:

My research analyses the social character, theology and political impact of the Christian Science faith; a religion that was established and developed on the East Coast of the US in 1879. My project focuses on one its most influential exponents, Virginia-born Lady Nancy Astor, during the interwar period and specifically how her career in the UK as a Parliamentarian was influenced by her faith. As an American woman in such a pioneering and historic role, Astor’s membership and devotion to the church has been largely neglected in academic work (despite it clearly permeating into many aspects of her career) in favour of discussions regarding her gender and native upbringing.

Lady Nancy Astor speaking from the Town Hall in Plymouth after her election.

Broadly, this thesis considers interactions between Institutional Anglicanism and New Religious Movements in the US within the context of social politics. A primary goal of my research is to establish the history and character of Mary Baker Eddy’s church, founded in Boston, MA, and examine why both her politics and theology appealed to a gender-specific socio-economic group. I am also interested in how it was able to assimilate into traditional brands of Protestantism and the parallels that can be drawn between feminised Christianity and female MPs in masculine spaces. I am currently working on a chapter that compares Astor’s character to Eddy’s who, in a similar fashion to Astor, occupied an influential platform in Chicago and Boston to an audience that were unfamiliar with authoritative, politically-active women.

 ‘Christian Unity’, Helen M. Wright, ‘Star of Boston: The Life of Mary Baker Eddy’ ©2012


For this PhD, Melanie received funding from:

·         The Association of British American Nineteenth Century Historians Peter Parish Memorial Grant (2019)

·         American Politics Group Ros Davies Memorial Travel Grant (2018)

·         University of Reading Regional PhD Bursary (2017)