Lady Astor 100 Statue Campaign

Nancy Astor versus 700 hostile men. It was never a fair contest

A century ago today, Viscountess Astor boarded a train in Plymouth to take her to Westminster. As the first female MP to sit in the House of Commons (Sinn Fein’s Countess Markievicz, elected the previous year, refused to take her seat), Astor, then 40, entered a chamber filled with 700-odd hostile men, who, Winston Churchill later told her, were determined to freeze her out.

Churchill explained that Astor’s arrival in parliament was like a woman entering his bathroom when he had “nothing to protect myself with except a sponge”. Astor retorted: “Did it never occur to you that your appalling appearance might have been protection enough?”

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Alexis Bowater