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Lady Nancy Witcher Langhorne Astor
Birth: May 19, 1879
Danville
Danville City
Virginia, USA
Death: May 2, 1964
Grimsthorpe
Lincolnshire, England

Society Figure, Women's Pioneer. An American married to British wealth and position, she became the first woman to sit in, though not the first elected to, the House of Commons. Raised in Albemarle County, Virginia, by a Confederate veteran father made well-off in the railroad boom, she was a noted beauty in her time. She and her four sisters were collectively called the "Gibson Girls" from images created by her older sister Irene's husband, painter Charles Dana Gibson. Moving to England in the early 1900s following a broken marriage, she quickly became a much desired member of high society. After meeting Waldorf Astor, child of the legendary Astor family, she married him in May of 1906 and established herself as mistress of Cliveden, the couple's Buckinghamshire estate. Playing hostess to a wide circle of upper crust friends, she was also liked by the general populace because of her charitable activities which included setting up a World War I hospital for Canadian soldiers on her property at which she, though herself both a Christian Scientist and a pacifist, personally helped care for the wounded troops. When her husband succeeded to his father's title and seat in the House of Lords in 1919, Lady Astor stood as the Conservative candidate for Plymouth. Her effort was handicapped by her prohibitionism, lack of political experience, and knack for saying outrageous things, but was helped by her good looks and nature, willingness to moderate her views, and genuine devotion to her constituents. During most of her 25 years in Parliament she proved popular and energetic, though with time her anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic views caused comment and the term "Cliveden Set" became, probably unjustly, a synonym for "Nazi". (At one point Nancy was even derided as the "Member for Berlin"). During World War II she again established a hospital on her estate, but she was showing early signs of mental decline which led to, among other things, resentment at her calling the troops involved in the Burma and Italian campaigns "D-Dodgers". She most reluctantly retired from Parliament in 1945 and slowly drifted apart from her husband as her political views moved even more to the right (she proudly proclaimed herself the daughter of a slave owner) and his to the left, though the couple was to reconcile prior to Lord Astor's death. Thoroughly established in her adopted land, Nancy never lost her identity as an American and more especially as a Virginian, visiting frequently over the years , donating both money and artifact collections to the University of Virginia during the 1930s, and contributing materially to the 1929 restoration of Stratford Hall, Robert E. Lee's Westmoreland County birthplace and ancestral home. Gradually isolated as her health deteriorated, she became a virtual recluse prior to her death at her daughter's home. An undoubtedly clever lady, Nancy left behind many well known quotes including "I married beneath myself. All women do", "My vigour, vitality, and cheek repel me. I am the kind of woman I would run from", and "One reason I don't drink is because I wish to know when I am having a good time". Best remembered of all, however, is an exchange with Churchill in which she said "Winston, if you were my husband I should poison your coffee" and the great statesman replied "Nancy, if you were my wife I should drink it". (bio by: Bob Hufford) 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  Nancy Witcher Keen Langhorne (1848 - 1903)
  Chiswell Dabney Langhorne (1843 - 1919)
 
 Spouses:
  William Waldorf 2nd Viscount Astor (1879 - 1952)
  Robert Gould Shaw (1873 - 1930)*
 
 Children:
  Robert Gould Shaw (1898 - 1970)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Burial:
Cliveden Chapel
Taplow
South Bucks District
Buckinghamshire, England
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Bob Hufford
Record added: Nov 01, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 60961299
Lady Nancy Witcher <i>Langhorne</i> Astor
Added by: Ron Moody
 
Lady Nancy Witcher <i>Langhorne</i> Astor
Added by: Bob Hufford
 
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