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. Unusually, we used the landscape to interpret Nancy’s life and legacy and challenged the way that women and power are typically represented. You can find our more about the programme here .
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. At the same time looking at the influence she had on the development of the House and Gardens, and how she made Cliveden her own.
Notorious for her sharp wit, glittering parties and diverse social connections, Nancy Astor was a complex character, surrounded by controversy for much of her life. But who was this complicated pioneer? How did she use Cliveden to entertain the great and good, make connections and further her own political aims? Throughout 2019, we’re unmasking the woman behind the black tricorn hat. How did she balance her personal and professional life? What hostility did she face whilst breaking boundaries and what legacy did she leave on her family and her home?
” My vigour, vitality, and cheek repel me. I am the kind of woman I would run from.” Nancy said.
‘Letters to Nancy’
There was a display in the Blenheim Pavilion of 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!” reveal what impact a woman taking a seat in parliament had on the people of Britain.
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.
Volunteer groups performed scenarios inspired by Nancy’s life.
For more information about The Astors at Cliveden visit The National Trust website