Nancy Langhorne Astor

(May 19, 1879–May 2, 1964)
Albemarle County
Member of Parliament

Nancy Witcher Langhorne grew up in Danville and Richmond. She spent summers at Mirador, her family's estate near Charlottesville, where she married Robert Gould Shaw II, a wealthy Bostonian, in 1897. They had a son before divorcing in 1903. While traveling to England she met millionaire Waldorf Astor, whom she married in 1906. They had five children.

Nancy Astor was well known as a vivacious hostess at their English estate, Cliveden. When her husband inherited his father's title he entered the House of Lords, and Nancy Astor won his vacated seat in the House of Commons in 1919. She was the first woman to serve in Parliament and held her seat for twenty-six years. She advocated shorter working hours, pensions for widows, improvements in health care for mothers, and equal employment for women. She also supported temperance, which was not popular with her party. She was known for being fiery, outspoken, and confrontational.

In the years before World War II, the Astors were accused of pro-German sentiment, which proved to be false. While her husband served as mayor of Plymouth during the war, Vicountess Astor restored her reputation as she worked to raise morale and construct shelters in the city after it was hit by German bombing raids. She did not run for reelection to Parliament in 1945. Nancy Astor was proud of being a Virginian, and in 1926 she and her husband donated to the commonwealth a portrait of a woman believed to be Queen Elizabeth I to inspire Virginia's women to work for the benefit of their state.