Astor, Nancy W.

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Astor, Nancy W. (1879–1964). Politician, and daughter of an American railway developer in Virginia. Nancy Astor had an unhappy first marriage, which ended in divorce in 1903. The following year she travelled to England, marrying Waldorf Astor three years later; when Waldorf, Conservative MP for Plymouth, Sutton, succeeded to the peerage in 1919, Nancy was returned in his stead at the subsequent by-election, becoming only the second woman to be elected to Parliament and the first to take her seat (Constance Gore-Booth having declined, along with the other Sinn Fein MPs, to sit in 1918). As a parliamentarian (1919–45) Nancy was outspoken—perhaps too much so—in favour of those causes she held dear: opposition to divorce (despite her own experience); raising to 18 the age at which it was legal to purchase alcohol; lowering to 21 the voting age for women; above all, appeasement of Nazi Germany. The Astor home, Cliveden, became a by-word for appeasement, but in fact Nancy was anti-Nazi, refused to meet Hitler, and had her name included on a Nazi blacklist.

Geoffrey Alderman

Astor, Nancy Witcher (Langhorne), Viscountess

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Astor, Nancy Witcher (Langhorne), Viscountess (1879–1964) British politician, b. USA, the first woman elected to the House of Commons (1919–45). A Conservative, she advocated temperance, educational reform, and women's and children's welfare. In the 1930s she and her husband Viscount William Waldorf Astor headed a group of influential proponents of appeasement toward Nazi Germany.