Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess Astor

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Nancy Witcher Astor (Langhorne), Viscountess Astor

Birthdate: (84)
Birthplace: Danville, Virginia, USA
Death: May 2, 1964 (84)
Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire, England
Place of Burial: Cliveden Chapel, Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Chiswell Dabney Langhorne and Nancy Witcher Langhorne
Wife of William Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor
Ex-wife of Robert Gould Shaw, II
Mother of Robert Gould Shaw, III; William Astor, 3rd Viscount Astor; Nancy Phyllis Louise Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, Countess of Ancaster; David Astor; Michael Langhorne Astor and 1 other
Sister of Elisha Keene Langhorne; John Langhorne; Mary Langhorne; Chiswell Langhorne; Harry Scarisbrook Langhorne and 5 others

Managed by: James Duane Pell Bishop III
Last Updated:

About Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess Astor,_Viscountess_Astor

Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess Astor, CH, (19 May 1879 – 2 May 1964) was the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the British House of Commons. Nancy Astor represented the Conservative Party and was the wife of Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor.

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Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess Astor's Timeline

May 19, 1879
Danville, Virginia, USA
August 18, 1898
Age 19
August 13, 1907
Age 28
Cliveden, Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England
Age 29
March 5, 1912
Age 32
London, England
April 10, 1916
Age 36
August 29, 1918
Age 39
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
May 2, 1964
Age 84
Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire, England

<The Times May 4, 1964>



Nancy Viscountess Astor, C.H., the first woman to take her seat as a
member of the House of Commons, died on Saturday at Grimsthorpe
Castle, Lincolnshire. She was 84.

In any age or country Nancy Astor would have been remarkable for
outstanding vitality, personality, charm and will power. She was
always a delight to the eye, small, compact, a finely drawn profile, a
classic head, growing more and more exquisite with the years. She was
made all of one piece,a perfect working model, always well dressed.
From the first day she entered the House of Commons in neat black with
touches of white at collar, in appearance she struck the exact note
and set the style for her feminine colleagues in years to come.

Nancy Witcher Langhorne was born of an old Virginian family on May 19,
1879, on the same day as her future husband, William Waldorf Astor,
was born in New York. In 1897 she married Robert Gerald Shaw, of
Boston, from whom she obtained a divorce in 1903 and in 1906 she
married Waldorf Astor. When he succeeded to the viscounty and resigned
from the representation in Parliament of the Sutton Division of
Plymouth Lady Astor was elected as Unionist member on November 28,
1919. She was the first woman to sit in the House of Commons, being
introduced by Balfour and Lloyd George. Countess Markieviecz, who did
not take her seat, had been elected by an Irish constituency in the
Sinn Fein interest at a slightly earlier date. From 1919 to 1945 Lady
Astor continued to represent Plymouth and most of her life and work
were closely identified with the city, of which during the Second
World War she was Lady Mayoress.

In Parliament she naturally devoted herself mainly to the claims of
women and children, speakinmg with gaity or gravity according to her
mood, but never dully and always brief and sometimes brilliantly. Her
worst fault was a habit of interruption which, however tempered with
wit, was apt to cause annoyance. Temperance, education, nursery
schools, women police were subjects which greatly interested her.

Like Zenobia, and also in St James's Square, Lady Astor was a famous
political hostess and her house was the meeting place of sistinguished
visitors to the metropolis, especially Americans. One day in might be
Gandhi, the next day Grandi and the following day a batch of social
workers or Cabinet ministers or Charlie Chaplin or Ruth Draper or
G.B.S. And there were from time to time the huge party gatherings
comparable with those of Londonderry House or of the Devonshire House
of an earlier day. On the top of the staircase, sparkling with jewels,
she welcomed each guest with a bantering quip or jest and was the
central figure throughout the evening.

Her energy was extraordinary. After a long day in London and in the
House she would return to Cliveden about seven, change into tennis
clothes and play two or even three sets of singles with one of her
nieces; then down to the river (before the war) in her cream coloured
car, driven at speed; she would swim across the Thames, talking all
the time about God, or advising someone on the bank about the way to
live his, or usually her, life, touch the bottom on the far bank, tell
the swans to go away, and swim back still talking. In earlier years
she was a dashing rider and a sure shot; later golf was her favourite
game. She played it well and conversationally and distinguished
herself in parliamentary matches.

She had a sharp sense of the ridiculous and could have made a fortune
on the variety stage. No one who saw her Christmastime impersonations
in the old days at Cliveden, egged on by her sisters Phyllis and Nora,
will ever forget her clever performances. Dressed in a hunting coat of
her husband's and her hair hidden under a large black velvet
huntsman's cap she became the little foreign visitor, here for the
hunting season; or with a row of celluloid teeth worn crookedly, an
upper-class Englishwoman who thought Americans peculiar. Someone once
said she was a cross between Joan of Arc and Gracie Fields. She wasn't
courageous, if by courage is meant mastery of fear, for she did not
know about fear. She was fearless of physical dangers, of criticism,
of people.

No one could be kinder, more tender, generous, comforting and swift to
help in time of trouble. She loved being needed and was at her best in
a crisis. She would have denied it but she had an innate sense of
drama and had a flare for dealing with people en masse. American
politicians and journalists of the old school were bewitched by her.
The latter, war-time journalists were scared by her outspokenness and
refused to be charmed. It is recorded the Gladstone asked his wife
whether she would prefer to know nothing and say anything she pleased,
or to know everything and say next to nothing on matters of foreign
and domestic policy. Lady Astor got the best of both worlds, knowing
everything and saying anything she pleased.

Her matriarchal feelings were strong and she liked to feel in touch
with the whole circle at all times. She held the family together,
including nieces and nephews. Within this circle she loved to recall
Virginia days, her father Colonel Langhorne, her sisters and their
beaux. During a visit to the States in 1922 she made 40 speeches,
mainly in Virginia, "without a single faux pas" reported an American

Her deep religious sense found its formal setting in the Christian
Science Church and she was dilligent student of the Scriptures, with a
strong horror of sin and a crusading spirit which spurred her pusrue
reforms regardless of party divisions. There were four persons whose
influence and friendship and characters she was never tired of
acknowledging with gratitude and affection: Rachel Macmillan, Henry
Jones, Arthur Balfour, and Philip Lothian.

After her withdrawal from Parliament, in June, 1945, when she did not
stand for reelection Lady Astor continued her interest in the city she
had represented so long and made regular visits while her health

On July 16, 1959, she was made an honorary Freeman of the City of
Plymouth. PARA In the same year Lady Astor performed the launching
ceremony for H.M.S. Plymouth, first ship for 250 years to bear the
name, presented a diamond and sapphire necklace to be worn by the Lady
Mayoress of Plymouth, and gave her home at 3, Elliot Terrace,
overlooking the Hoe, to the city for use as a Lord Mayor's residence.
Its use was later modified to a place for the accommodation of
official visitors.

Her husband died in 1952 and she is survived by her four sons,
Viscount Astor; David Astor, editor of the Observer; Michael Astor;
Major J.J. Astor; and by her daughter, the Countess of Ancaster.



May 2, 1964
Age 84
Cliveden Chapel, Taplow, Buckinghamshire, England