Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor

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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.[1] Nancy Astor represented the Conservative Party and was the wife of Waldorf Astor, 2nd Viscount Astor.


Early life

Astor was born Nancy Witcher Langhorne in Danville, Virginia, in the United States. Her father was Chiswell Dabney Langhorne and her mother was Nancy Witcher Keene. Her father's earlier business venture had depended at least in part upon slave labor and had been badly damaged by the fallout from the American Civil War, causing the family to live in near-poverty for several years before Nancy was born. After her birth her father began working to regain the family wealth, first with a job as an auctioneer and later with a job that he obtained with the railroad by using old contacts from his work as a contractor. By the time she was thirteen years old, the Langhornes were again a rich family with a sizeable home.[2][3] Chiswell Langhorne later moved the family to their estate, known as Mirador, in Albemarle County, Virginia.

Nancy Langhorne had four sisters and three brothers. All the sisters were known for their beauty; her sister Irene later married the artist Charles Dana Gibson and became a model for the Gibson girl. Nancy and Irene both went to a finishing school in New York City. In New York, Nancy met her first husband, Robert Gould Shaw II, a cousin of the Colonel Robert Gould Shaw who commanded the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. They were married in New York City on October 27, 1897, when she was 18.

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