We are very pleased to announce that the long needed ‘go to’ collection on Nancy Astor is now live at the Open Library of Humanities. The Special Collection is edited by Dr Daniel Grey (University of Hertfordshire) and Dr Jacqui Turner (University of Reading). Daniel Grey is Head of History at Hertfordshire and has published extensively on women, crime and the state. Jacqui Turner is Associate Professor of Modern British Political History and curator of the national Astor100 centenary programme.

Articles will be added on an ongoing basis – keep an eye on this space and the list of articles below:

Collection launched: 06 Jul 2020

2019 marked the centenary of Nancy Astor’s election to the British Parliament becoming the first woman to take her seat and thus changing democracy forever. Astor was ‘An Unconventional MP’ and this collection considers the parliamentary politics and the gendered culture of the early C20th in which she operated. It engages with ways in which history has influenced the present, conceptualising a ‘future’ grounded in the gendered restrictions of the past. It considers how the identities of Astor and other women were constructed and deployed and how her career has generated gendered discourses on government, citizenship and transformation. This special collection is eclectic in its contributors and contributions; articles address a range of approaches to Astor and her period – new perspectives on Astor, and beyond engagement with Astor as an individual, consideration of issues of gender identity, difference and representation. They provide a new voice and a new legacy.

(Cover image Courtesy of The Box Plymouth in association with Astor100).

OLH Special Collection: Nancy Astor Public Women and Gendered Political Culture in Interwar Britain


Collection Articles

01/07/2020: Professor Pat Thane, ‘Nancy Astor, Women and Politics, 1919–1945′  here 

Abstract: Nancy Astor was the first woman elected to the House of Commons, in 1919. She succeeded her husband in his Plymouth constituency when he inherited a seat in the House of Lords, so avoided the discrimination which for decades prevented the selection of many women for winnable seats. She was not a suffragist, or, when elected, a feminist, but the hostility of many men, in and out of parliament, to her presence in the Commons stimulated her support for some, though not all, causes for which the women’s movement campaigned. She promoted equal pay, equal work opportunities, custody rights and the equal franchise, among other things, with some success, but was dubious about divorce and birth control due to her faith in Christian Science and its moral strictures. She was passionately anti-war, so like other feminists and pacifists was an ‘appeaser’. She was not a ‘crypto-Nazi’ as she was, and sometimes is, represented. She facilitated contact between women activists and MPs, male and female, and encouraged cross-party co-operation among women MPs. She was a popular and regular public speaker and widened the appeal of many aims of the women’s movement among women who were dubious about feminism. She was a Conservative who never followed the party line and an active promoter of state welfare measures, especially for young children. She was popular in Plymouth and supported her constituents through World War Two, but stood down in 1945 and left politics when Labour was likely to win the seat in the landslide election. Overall, her greatest contribution is that she significantly raised the profile of women in British politics and assisted the very gradual shift to greater gender equality and expansion of state welfare between the wars and through World War Two.

How to Cite: Thane, P., 2020. Nancy Astor, Women and Politics, 1919–1945. Open Library of Humanities, 6(2), p.1. DOI: http://doi.org/10.16995/olh.542