It has been pointed out to me that Nancy Astor was not the first woman MP to be elected, merely the first one to take her seat in the House.
The first one was the Irish Republican and socialist Constance Markiewicz, who was elected in December 1918 but refused to swear the oath of allegiance and, therefore, take her seat.
I realized that as I was writing the entry but decided not to correct it after it had been posted. It is good to know that our readers are alert to mistakes by the bloggers.
In the meantime, here is a quotation from a letter Harold Nicolson wrote to his sons in 1943, which contains a slightly spiteful description of Nancy Astor:
“We had a debate on the reform of the Foreign Service. The main idea is to fuse the Diplomatic with the Consular and Commercial Services. I have been in favour of it for thirty years. But the debate went wrong as usual. The women Members felt that their rights were being trampled on, and staged a full-dress attack on the exclusion of women from the Service.There is more on his exchange of not very attractive witticisms about women and foreign affairs, which proves that despite his much-publicized unconventional marriage to Vita Sackville-West (who was a stauch conservative, by the way) Nicolson had dull and conventional views on the role of women.
Nancy Astor, as the senior woman Member, insisted on voicing their complaint. She has one of those minds that work from association to association, and therefore spreads sideways with extreme rapidity. Further and further did she diverge from the point while Mrs Tate beside her kept on saying, ‘Get back to the point, Nancy. You were talking about the 1934 Committee.’
‘Well, I come from Virginia’, said Lady Astor, ‘and that reminds me, when I was in Washington ….’
I was annoyed by this, as I knew that I was to be called after her. It was like playing squash with a dish of scrambled eggs. Anyhow I made my speech and it went well enough.”
Unfortunately, I cannot lay my hands on my copy of ‘Chips’ Channon’s “Diaries”, where there are other interesting comments about Lady Astor. Perhaps some of our readers could come to my rescue and send in the odd quotation.