Nancy Astor was a glamorous American in London. Now onto marriage number 2 she could easily have been the stuff of turn of the century gossip, but Nancy had better things to do; see Nancy wanted to be in politics.
Now, in 1918 this was not an easy thing to do! Women had just gotten the vote (literally; some women in the UK could first start voting in 1918) BUT Nancy’s husband had just had to give up his seat as MP (Member of Parliament) for Plymouth Sutton, and seeing as Nancy was the one who actually got her husband into social reform and politics in the first place, she figured it made sense for her to take his place.
So Nancy made the ballsy decision to become one of the first women to ever run for a seat in the Houses of Parliament.
And in 1919, she only went and won!
Nancy was really popular with the voters; they loved her informal style, charms, wit and that she campaigned for womens rights.
Sadly, her fellow MPs were not huge fans of Nancy.
Though she wasn’t the first female MP (that was Irish Republican, Constance Markievicz, who couldn’t take her seat because she was in prison…) Nancy WAS the first female MP to actually serve in the Houses of Parliament.
Many male MPs were not down with this. And so began a campaign of icing Nancy out.
Because apparently, in 1919 MPs were the cast of Mean Girls.
Along with the frostiness was a healthy level of good old fashioned bitching. Winston Churchill (The Regina George of Parliament) did not get along with Nancy.
Winston was not a fan of the fact Nancy was in parliament full stop and Nancy was not a fan of the fact that Winston was against her being an MP and was also a highly functioning alcoholic in such an important role.
In one notable spat, Nancy shot at Winston:
‘If I were your wife, I’d put poison in your tea’.
To which Winston Churchill supposedly replied:
‘And if I were your husband, I’d drink it’
But being an MP wasn’t just forming cliques and griping, there was actual work to be done; Nancy and her ilk needed to run the country!
A quick note, before we move on: I know we have a lot of non UK based readers so a quick FYI for you guys: in Parliament MPs respond by shouting, jeering and sometimes just making a ton of guttural noises as a sign of disapproval.
Politicians started doing this centuries ago, and despite it slowing everything the fuck down, we’ve just continued, because, history.
So to summarise, Parliament looks a lot like this:
Nancy was due to make her first speech, highlighting the need for alcohol control.
Considering this was a topic she had campaigned for during the election and she was about to stand in front of several hundred men that hated her, you’d understand if she was nervous.
Luckily though, Parliament has a rule that during a new MPs first speech (known as a Maiden Speech) every member of Parliament must be quiet, because giving a speech is scary enough without some randomer suddenly screaming.
BUT: Nancy was about to be the first female MP to give a speech to Parliament…
So naturally that unwritten rule went out the window as her fellow MPs happily jumped aboard the ‘let’s all be cocks for no reason’ train.
Nancy started her speech by immediately addressing the fact that she would not be ‘craving the indulgence’ of her fellow MPs. That she was there to do a job and like it or not, she was damn well going to do it.
As she continued her speech she was met with shouts of:
To this Nancy cooly shot back:
‘I know what I am talking about and you must remember that women have got a vote now and we mean to use it.’
And just like that, Nancy made it clear that she was not to be fucked with.
For over 2 years, Nancy remained the sole female MP in parliament.
She fought for the voting age for women to be lowered (which it was in 1928) and for the legal drinking age to be made higher (because it used to be 14, what the actual fuck?!?) as well as championing countless causes for women and children.
Nancy also became renowned for put downs, should another MP try and have a go.
By the time Nancy Astor left her post as MP she had served for a whopping 26 years, and opened the door for female politicians everywhere.
This was interesting, where can I find out more? You should totally check out, Adrian Forts, Nancy: The Story of Lady Astor. There are also some cracking documentaries on Nancy Astor, including a BBC4 one which is often on repeat (*cough* and on the web *cough*)