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Although seen by many as a milestone in the road to women's emancipation, Nancy Astor's presence in Parliament was not welcomed by everyone. Fellow MPs regularly ignored her, were rude to her or made it difficult for her to get to her seat in the Commons.

She was an unconventional MP who heckled, interrupted, pointed her finger and poked her tongue out at people! However, she was also determined, hard-working, full of character and understood the importance of her presence in Parliament.

Social issues

While two Private Members' Bills relating to the control of prostitution and raising the school leaving age did not get past their first readings, she put her parliamentary muscle behind a number of social issues, showing her support for prison reform, improvements to the probation service, votes for women aged over 21, the need for female police officers and nursery schools.

Intoxicating Liquor Bill

Her one legislative success came in 1923 when she introduced the Intoxicating Liquor (Sale to Persons under Eighteen) Bill. At the time children as young as 14 could legally buy a drink in a public house.

The Bill went through a number of readings and amendments before it was passed by 157 votes to 10 in July 1923. Although more modest than she would have liked, this marked the first time a woman had successfully steered a Private Members' Bill in all its stages through Parliament.

Honorary Plymothian

In Plymouth she also 'worked tirelessly for the common good of the people'. There are many buildings that still bear her name or feature plaques with reference to her.

With their wealth and sense of public service she and Waldorf funded the Virginia House Settlement, day nurseries, housing developments, playing fields, gardens and more.

Nancy Astor's Plymouth

Nancy Astor with a small child at the Three Towns Nursing Association party, 1942
© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)
Nancy Astor outside the Lord Mayor's Christmas Fund Office, Plymouth, 1941
© Plymouth City Council (Arts and Heritage)