University of Reading Special Collections and Dr Jacqui Turner worked with National Trust at Cliveden to construct and launch an extensive programme celebrating the life and times of Nancy Astor. We used the landscape to interpret Nancy’s life and legacy and challenged the way that women and power are typically represented.

Nancy Astor; vigour, vitality and cheek

The ‘Nancy Astor; vigour, vitality and cheek’ programme launched at Cliveden on 25 April 2019, 100 years since Nancy Astor made history by becoming the first woman to take her seat in The Houses of Parliament. Through a series of exhibits and events, Cliveden explored Nancy’s legacy as a politician, a champion of women’s rights, as a wife and mother and as an entertainer of celebrities and controversial characters. It also looked at the influence she had on the development of the House and Gardens, and how she made Cliveden her own.

Find out more about the programme here.

“My vigour, vitality, and cheek repel me. I am the kind of woman I would run from.” – Nancy Astor

Letters to Nancy

A display in the Blenheim Pavilion showed some of the many hundreds of letters Nancy received in 1919, at the time of her election. From positive words of reassurance to the less certain “…Dear lady don’t be consistently feminist or you will ruin our cause!”, the letters portrayed the impact that a woman taking a seat in parliament had on the people of Britain.

Astor Voices

The celebration also included ‘Astor Voices’ with oral testimonies from Nancy’s grandchildren as they walk through the Cliveden estate, providing a glimpse of the Nancy only those close to her had the chance to experience. Did you know that the Blenheim Pavilion was once the Astor grandchildren’s sand pit?

The recordings will be deposited in the British Library.

Historical Interpreters

Volunteer groups performed scenarios inspired by Nancy’s life.

For more information about The Astors at Cliveden visit The National Trust website.