Astor, Nancy Witcher (Langhorne) Astor, Viscountess

Astor, Nancy Witcher (Langhorne) Astor, Viscountess, 1879–1964, British politician, b. Virginia. She was first married to Robert Gould Shaw, and after her divorce (1903) from him she went to England. There she was married (1906) to Waldorf Astor (see under Astor, William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount). When he succeeded his father as viscount and had to give up his seat in the House of Commons as member for Plymouth, she was elected in his place and became the first woman to sit in Parliament. In her years as a Conservative member (1919–45) her sharp tongue in debate, her passionate espousal of temperance and of reforms in woman and child welfare, and her cheerful lack of reverence for any and all won respect and attention. In the late 1930s their pleas for settlement and peace with the fascist powers in Europe were interpreted as treasonable by their enemies. At their country house, Cliveden (given to the government in 1942), the Astors brought together great literary figures and leaders of all political persuasions.

See biographies by M. Collis (1960) and C. Sykes (1972, repr. 1984); study by E. Langhorne (1974).

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