When did Nancy Astor become the first female Minister of Parliament in the UK and what's her story?

But who was Nancy Astor, when was she elected, and what did she achieve? Here's what you need to know…

When did Nancy Astor become the first female Minister of Parliament?

Nancy Astor sat in the House of Commons from 1919-1945, winning seven elections to remain in government for that period.

She was an advocate for welfare reforms, supported equal voting rights and access to the professions for women.

Although she excelled at many of the attributes that make a good MP, she never quite conformed to the starched-collar approach, and was known for heckling her opponent mercilessly.

What's her story?

From America, Nancy had married into the immensely wealthy Astor family.

She was first elected to Parliament for Plymouth Sutton in a by-election, replacing her husband in the seat.

Her natural wit and charm were creditted or the victory, and her ability to appeal t0 every class.

She was a strong feminist – but had no ties to the highly vocal suffragette movement.

In 1923 she was responsible for the first Private Members’ Bill ever passed by a woman – the Intoxicating Liquor Bill – which stopped the sale of alchohol to those under the age of 19. The same law remains in place today.

As a trail blazer she was met with the expected sexism and resentment, and remained the sole target before another female MP joined two years later.

She recalled the kind of abuse she faced:  ”When I stood up and asked questions affecting women and children, social and moral questions, I used to be shouted at for 5 or 10 minutes at a time.

“That was when they thought that I was rather a freak, a voice crying in the wilderness”.

Churchill himself was once recorded as admitting the males of the chamber attempted to freeze her out.


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