When I was a kid I never really knew my grandfather’s family, just met my aunt and uncle a couple of times over the years. My mum’s favourite story about my great-grandparents was about their time working with Lady Nancy Astor when seeking re-election in 1929. Although the house was busy with family, kids and dogs Lady Astor was invited to use the house as her campaign headquarters.
The campaign was successful, and Lady Astor returned to take her seat in the Houses of Parliament. My great-uncle actually met her, she made time to go through and say hello to the children and have tea with them. He recalls her with respect as a women with focus and an incredibly strong sense of purpose.
She seems to have been a woman who provoked extreme views in Plymouth. Whether you agree with her politics – which later on can definitely be viewed as At Best Dodgy – it’s trailblazers like her who have made it possible for strong women to step up to the world stage, and for that she will always have my thanks.
The Astors were important to the people of Plymouth, and used to operate rent-controlled properties for the poor. However I can’t think of one universally-loved politician and they did get a brick through the window for their support on the campaign!
There was an exhibition in Plymouth this summer which I didn’t find out about until I was leaving, but would have loved to have seen. Nancy: The Life and Times of Lady Astor is running at Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery until October. I’ll get in touch with the archivist to see if he has any photos from that campaign, it would be so amazing if I saw my grandparents smiling out from the campaign trail.
Although I can’t claim to be as good a cook as my great-grandmother – or to have been steeled by times as tough as the first world war – there’s a part of me that is very proud that she helped fuel the campaign of a trail-blazer in history.