Nancy Astor Facts:
Known for: first woman to take a seat in the British House of Commons; sharp wit and social commentary
Occupation: society hostess, Member of Parliament
Dates: May 19, 1879 - May 2, 1964
Also known as: Nancy Witcher Langhorne, Nancy Langhorne Astor, Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor, Viscountess Astor, Lady Astor
Nancy Astor: Childhood:
Nancy Astor's father was a Confederate officer. After the war he became a tobacco auctioneer. During her early childhood, the family was poor and struggling; as she became an adolescent, her father's success brought the family wealth. Her father refused to send her to college, a fact that Nancy Astor resented.
Nancy Astor: First Marriage:
Nancy Astor and Waldorf Astor:
Waldorf and Nancy Astor Enter Politics:
The House of Commons:
Her campaign slogan was "Vote for Lady Astor and your children will weigh more." She worked for temperance, women's rights, and children's rights. Another slogan she used was "If you want a party hack, don't elect me."
In 1923, Nancy Astor published My Two Countries, her own story.
World War II:
Nancy Astor was an opponent of socialism and, later during the Cold War, an outspoken critic of communism. She was also an anti-fascist. She refused to meet Hitler though she had an opportunity. Waldorf Astor met with him about the treatment of Christian Scientists and came away convinced that Hitler was mad.
Despite their opposition to fascism and the Nazis, the Astors supported economic appeasement of Germany, supporting the lifting of economic sanctions against Hitler's regime.
During World War II, Nancy Astor was noted for her morale-boosting visits to her constituents, especially during German bombing raids. She just missed being hit once, herself. She also served, unofficially, as hostess to American troops stationed at Plymouth during the build-up to the Normandy invasion.
Nancy Astor Retires:
In 1945, Nancy Astor left Parliament, at her husband's urging, and not entirely happily. She continued to be a witty and sharp critic of social and political trends when she disapproved, including both communism and the American McCarthy witch-hunts.
She largely withdrew from public life with the death of Waldorf Astor in 1952. She died in 1964.