Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor


Nancy Witcher Langhorne was born in 1879 in Danville and raised in Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A. Her family had become impoverished due to the Civil War, but recovered its fortunes by the time Nancy was adolescent. Nancy grew up to be a beautiful woman and married into more wealth. Her first marriage lasted only a decade. On a trip to England in 1906, she met and married Waldorf Astor, a descendant of America's first millionaire family.

In 1910, Waldorf was elected to Parliament and Nancy became involved in her husband's work. Waldorf became Viscount Astor after his father's death in 1919 and was elevated to the House of Lords. Nancy ran for the seat vacated by her husband in the House of Commons and was elected by a substantial majority. She was the first woman to be a member of Parliament in Britain.

Nancy Astor was a member of the conservative Tory party. Her main focus was on issues affecting women and children. She once said, "We are not asking for superiority for we have always had that; all we ask is equality." She was the first woman to introduce a bill into Parliament. It was to prohibit the sale of alcohol in bars to persons under the age of eighteen. She remained in Parliament until her retirement in 1945. She died in 1964, at the age of eighty-five.

Contributed by Danuta Bois, 1996.

1. American Women's History by Doris Weatherford, Prentice Hall General Reference, 1994
2. Susan B. Anthony Slept Here. A Guide to American Women's Landmarks by Lynn Sherr and Jurate Kazickas, Random House, 1994

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