Nancy Astor holds a very special place in parliamentary history. She was the first woman to sit in the House of Commons, but she was not the first woman to stand or be elected. Seventeen pioneering women stood in the 1918 general election. Constance Markiewicz was the only one elected, but as a member of Sinn Fein and in adherence to their abstentionist policy, she did not take her seat.
Dr Jacqui Turner has been working with Parliament to help portray Nancy Astor’s contributions to British politics .
International Women’s Day 2019
In March 2019, Jacqui gave the International Women’s Day lecture in the Houses of Parliament ‘Nancy Astor: First steps towards a better balanced world’.
She was kindly introduced by Luke Pollard MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport.
100 Years of Women in Parliament
A display ‘Nancy Astor: the first woman MP in Westminster’ with materials from the Parliamentary Archives is available to view in the House of Lords. Please email the Parliamentary Archives firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries about visiting the display.
You can also view Parliament’s online exhibition on Nancy Astor.
Conservative Party Conference 2019
We spent 3 days at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester with the pop up exhibition of Nancy Astor’s desk drawing parallels between the expectations and hostilities towards women MPs today and their roots in Astor’s time. We also threw is some fundraising for the statue on the side!
Our sincere thanks go to Stephen Parkinson, Baron Parkinson of Whitley Bay, and the Conservative History Group for their sponsorship of the Astor100 exhibition at the Conservative Party Conference 2019. @ConHistGrp https://twitter.com/conhistgrp?lang=en
Nancy Astor’s Maiden Speech 24th February 1920
“I know that it was very difficult for some hon. Members to receive the first lady M.P. into the House. It was almost as difficult for some of them as it was for the lady M.P. herself to come in. Hon. Members, however, should not be frightened of what Plymouth sends out into the world. After all, I suppose when Drake and Raleigh wanted to set out on their venturesome careers, some cautious person said, “Do not do it; it has never been tried before. You stay at home, my sons, cruising around in home waters.” I have no doubt that the same thing occurred when the Pilgrim Fathers set out. I have no doubt that there were cautious Christian brethren who did not understand their going into the wide seas to worship God in their own way. But, on the whole, the world is all the better for those venturesome and courageous west country people, and I would like to say that I am quite certain that the women of the whole world will not forget that it was the fighting men of Devon who dared to send the first woman to represent women in the Mother of Parliaments.”
To coincide with the centenary of Nancy Astor’s maiden speech on 24th February, Jacqui met with the Leader of the house of Commons to discuss Astor’s speech.
History of Parliament: ‘Astor 100 and women’s parliamentary history: where do we go from here?’ 26th February 2020
Our sincere thanks to History of Parliament for supporting an evening panel event reflecting on the Astor100 project, its highs and lows, and considering where we go from here with Women’s parliamentary history. The panel event was introduced by Rachel Reeves MP who the same evening picked up a prize from Bloomsbury UK for her 2018 book Women of Westminster. It was expertly chaired by Professor Julie Gottlieb (University of Sheffield) whose own research includes comment on Nancy Astor.
Our sincere thanks to Mari Takayanagi at the Parliamentary Archives, Melanie Unwin and the Speakers Committee on Art in Parliament, Sammy Stugress and all at History of Parliament, Rachel Reeves MP, Luke Pollard MP and Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the House of Commons.
Follow highlights of the panel discussion on Twitter