Nancy Astor (Politician) – Overview, Biography

Name:Nancy Astor
Occupation: Politician
Birth Day: May 19,
Death Date:May 2, 1964 (age 84)
Age: Aged 84
Country: United States
Zodiac Sign:Taurus

Nancy Astor

Nancy Astor was born on May 19, 1879 in United States (84 years old). Nancy Astor is a Politician, zodiac sign: Taurus. Nationality: United States. Approx. Net Worth: Undisclosed.

Brief Info

Famous as the first female member of the British Parliament, the American-born Astor represented England’s Plymouth Sutton constituency from 1919 until 1945. Nancy Astor was a member of the Conservative Party.


In her adulthood, Nancy Astor became a Christian Scientist and was openly dismissive of both Roman Catholics and Jews.

Net Worth 2020

Find out more about Nancy Astor net worth here.

Does Nancy Astor Dead or Alive?

As per our current Database, Nancy Astor died on May 2, 1964 (age 84).


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Before Fame

Nancy Astor moved to England in 1905 and quickly met and married her second husband, who shared an exact birthday and birth year with her.


Biography Timeline


Nancy Langhorne had four sisters and three brothers who survived childhood. All of the sisters were known for their beauty; Nancy and her sister Irene both attended a finishing school in New York City. There Nancy met her first husband, socialite Robert Gould Shaw II, a first cousin of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first unit in the Union Army to be composed of African Americans. They married in New York City on 27 October 1897, when she was 18.


The marriage was unhappy. Shaw’s friends said Nancy became puritanical and rigid after marriage; her friends said that Shaw was an abusive alcoholic. During their four-year marriage, they had one son, Robert Gould Shaw III (called Bobby). Nancy left Shaw numerous times during their marriage, the first during their honeymoon. In 1903, Nancy’s mother died; at that time, Nancy Shaw gained a divorce and moved back to Mirador to try to run her father’s household, but was unsuccessful.


Nancy Shaw took a tour of England and fell in love with the country. Since she had been so happy there, her father suggested that she move to England. Seeing she was reluctant, her father said this was also her mother’s wish; he suggested she take her younger sister Phyllis. Nancy and Phyllis moved together to England in 1905. Their older sister Irene had married the artist Charles Dana Gibson and became a model for his Gibson Girls.


Viscountess Astor was not the first woman elected to the Westminster Parliament. That was achieved by Constance Markievicz, who was the first woman MP elected to Westminster in 1918, but as she was an Irish Republican, she did not take her seat. As a result, Lady Astor is sometimes erroneously referred to as the first woman MP, or the first woman elected to the U.K. Parliament, rather than the first woman MP to take her seat in Parliament.


Astor was hampered in the popular campaign for her published and at times vocal teetotalism and her ignorance of current political issues. Astor appealed to voters on the basis of her earlier work with the Canadian soldiers, allies of the British, charitable work during the war, her financial resources for the campaign and her ability to improvise. Her audiences appreciated her wit and ability to turn the tables on hecklers. Once a man asked her what the Astors had done for him and she responded with, “Why, Charlie, you know,” and later had a picture taken with him. This informal style baffled yet amused the British public. She rallied the supporters of the current government, moderated her Prohibition views, and used women’s meetings to gain the support of female voters. A by-election was held on 28 November 1919, and she took up her seat in the House on 1 December as a Unionist (also known as “Tory”) Member of Parliament.


In May 1922, Astor was guest of honour at a Pan-American conference held by the U.S. League of Women Voters in Baltimore, Maryland.


Nancy Astor’s accomplishments in the House of Commons were relatively minor. She never held a position with much influence, and never any post of ministerial rank, although her time in Commons saw four Conservative Prime Ministers in office. The Duchess of Atholl (elected to Parliament in 1923, four years after Lady Astor) rose to higher levels in the Conservative Party before Astor did. Astor felt if she had more position in the party, she would be less free to criticise her party’s government. She did gain passage of a bill to increase the legal drinking age to eighteen unless the minor has parental approval.


Astor became the first President of the newly formed Electrical Association For Women in 1924.


She chaired the first ever International Conference of Women In Science, Industry and Commerce, a three-day event held London in July 1925, organised by Caroline Haslett for the Women’s Engineering Society in co-operation with other leading women’s groups. Astor hosted a large gathering at her home in St James’s to enable networking amongst the international delegates, and spoke strongly of her support of and the need for women to work in the fields of science, engineering and technology.


Despite having Catholic friends such as Belloc for a time, Astor’s religious views included a strong vein of Anti-Catholicism. Christopher Sykes argues that Kerr, an ex-Catholic, influenced this, but others argue that Astor’s Protestant Virginia origins are a sufficient explanation for her Anti-Catholic views. (Anti-Catholicism was also tied into historic national rivalries.) In 1927, she reportedly told James Louis Garvin that if he hired a Catholic, “bishops would be there within a week.”


The 1930s were a decade of personal and professional difficulty for Lady Astor. In 1929, she won a narrow victory over the Labour candidate. In 1931, Bobby Shaw, her son from her first marriage, was arrested for homosexual offences. As her son had previously shown tendencies towards alcoholism and instability, Astor’s friend Philip Kerr, now the 11th Marquess of Lothian, suggested the arrest might act as a catalyst for him to change his behaviour, but he was incorrect.


Dr David Feldman of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism has also related that whilst attending a dinner at the Savoy Hotel in 1934, Astor asked the League of Nations’ high commissioner for refugees whether he believed “that there must be something in the Jews themselves that had brought them persecution throughout the ages”. Dr Feldman acknowledged, though, that this was “not an unusual view” and explained it “was a conventional idea in the UK at the time”. Some years later, in a 1947 during a visit to New York, she apparently “clashed” with reporters, renouncing her anti-Semitism, telling one that she was “not anti-Jewish but gangsterism isn’t going to solve the Palestine problem”.


Astor was also deeply involved in the so-called Cliveden set, a coterie of aristocrats described by one journalist as having subscribed to their own form of fascism. In this capacity, Astor was considered a “legendary hostess” for the group which in 1936 welcomed, amongst others, Hitler’s foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop. Ribbentrop communicated to Hitler, regarding the likelihood of an agreement between Germany and England and singled out the “Astorgruppe” as one of the circles ‘that want a fresh understanding with Germany and who hold that it would not basically be impossible to achieve’. The Sunday newspaper, Reynolds News, also reported during the period that ‘Cliveden has been the centre of friendship with German influence’. To this end, several of her friends and associates, especially the Marquess of Lothian were involved in the policy of appeasement of Nazi Germany. Astor, however, was frustrated that the group be viewed as a pro-German conspiracy, and her husband, William Waldorf Astor wrote in a letter to the Times that ‘[t]o link our weekends with any particular clique is as absurd as is the allegation that those of us who desire to establish better relations with Germany or Italy are pro-Nazis or pro-Fascists.’. The Cliveden set was also depicted by war agitators as the prime movers for peace.


Astor was reportedly a supporter of the Nazis as a solution to what she saw as the “world problems” of Jews and Communists. In 1938 she met Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. (himself a well-documented anti-semite), asking him not to take offence at her anti-catholic views, writing “I’m glad you are smart enough not to take my [views] personally” and highlighting the fact that she had a number of Catholic friends. Astor and Kennedy’s correspondence is reportedly filled with anti-Semitic language, with Edward J. Renehan Jr. writing that:

Astor commented to Kennedy that Hitler would have to do worse than “give a rough time…to the killers of christ” for Britain and America to risk “Armageddon to save them. The wheel of history swings round as the Lord would have it. Who are we to stand in the way of the future?” Astor made various other documented anti-Semitic comments, such as her complaint that the Observer newspaper, which was owned at the time by her husband, was “full of homosexuals and Jews”, and her tense, anti-semitic exchange with MP Alan Graham in 1938, as described by Harold Nicolson:


When the war began, Astor admitted that she had made mistakes, and voted against Chamberlain, but left-wing hostility to her politics remained. In a 1939 speech, the pro-Soviet Labour MP Stafford Cripps called her “The Member for Berlin”.


The period from 1937 to the end of the war was personally difficult for her: from 1937–38 Astor lost both her sister Phyllis and her only surviving brother. In 1940, the Marquess of Lothian died. He had been her closest Christian Scientist friend even after her husband converted. George Bernard Shaw’s wife died three years later. During the war, Astor’s husband had a heart attack. After this, their marriage grew cold, likely due to her subsequent discomfort with his health problems. She ran a hospital for Canadian soldiers as she had during the First World War, but openly expressed a preference for the earlier soldiers.


Lady Astor believed her party and her husband caused her retirement in 1945. As the Conservatives believed she had become a political liability in the final years of World War II, her husband said that if she stood for office again the family would not support her. She conceded but, according to contemporary reports, was both irritated and angry about her situation.


Lady Astor struggled in retirement, which put further strain on her marriage. In a speech commemorating her 25 years in parliament, she stated that her retirement was forced on her and that it should please the men of Britain. The couple began travelling separately and soon were living apart. Lord Astor also began moving towards left-wing politics in his last years, and that exacerbated their differences. However, the couple reconciled before his death on 30 September 1952.


After 1956, Nancy Astor became increasingly isolated. In 1959, she was honoured by receiving the Freedom of City of Plymouth. By this time, she had lost all her sisters and brothers, her colleague “Red Ellen” Wilkinson died in 1947, George Bernard Shaw died in 1950, and she did not take well to widowhood. Her son Bobby Shaw became increasingly combative and after her death he committed suicide. Her son, Jakie, married a prominent Catholic woman, which hurt his relationship with his mother. She and her other children became estranged. Gradually she began to accept Catholics as friends. However, she said that her final years were lonely.


Lady Astor died in 1964 at her daughter Nancy Astor’s home at Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire. She was cremated and her ashes interred at the Octagon Temple at Cliveden.


The Astors also owned a grand London house, No. 4 St. James’s Square, now the premises of the Naval & Military Club. A blue plaque unveiled in 1987 commemorates Astor at St. James’s Square. Through her many social connections, Lady Astor became involved in a political circle called Milner’s Kindergarten. Considered liberal in their age, the group advocated unity and equality among English-speaking people and a continuance or expansion of the British Empire.


A bronze statue of Lady Astor was installed in Plymouth, near her former family home, in 2019 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of her election to Parliament. During the George Floyd protests in 2020, the word “Nazi” was spray-painted on its base. The statue was on a list published on a website called Topple the Racists.

🎂 Upcoming Birthday

Currently, Nancy Astor is 143 years, 0 months and 3 days old. Nancy Astor will celebrate 144th birthday on a Friday 19th of May 2023.

Find out about Nancy Astor birthday activities in timeline view here.

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