Nancy Astor, Plymouth and the Power of Women | Research Festival 2020
  • Jill Craigie Cinema, Roland Levinsky Building, University of Plymouth, PL4 8AA

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Nancy Astor is a renowned figure in Plymouth’s history, as the first female MP to take her seat in 1919. Born in Virginia, USA, Nancy had a key role in shaping Plymouth and it, too, shaped her. 

But how did Nancy’s life, and her time in Parliament, relate to the women and children of Plymouth?

The Institute of Social, Policy and Enterprise Research (iSPER)’s research initiative, #CHITCHAT?, delved into the stories of Nancy Astor and other key women in the city’s legal and political history, to produce a documentary film illuminating aspects of the last century that have otherwise not been showcased. 

For close to 100 years, Plymouth had a female MP in at least one constituency at all times, a proud legacy of Nancy’s time in Parliament but also a bank of women with stories to share.

This event draws upon key research by our academics and partners across the city to present the documentary. You will also have your chance to share your stories of Plymouth and help uncover the past, through initiatives such as The Hoe Neighbourhood Forum-led Heritage Lottery funded project '100 Years of Plymouth Powerful Women', working to evolve a digital heritage trail across the city celebrating those Powerful Women.


Programme

18:30 | Welcome address

19:00 | A Returned Pilgrim: Nancy Astor and Plymouth – Documentary film produced by Time Lock

20:00 | Discussion and Q&A with University of Plymouth researchers and documentary filmmakers 


Who is this event for?
This event will be of most interest to those who work in community and heritage groups; who share an interest in the history of Plymouth, its place in the UK and the history of its women; educators in local schools and colleges, and students of history or heritage.

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Today's events

A Returned Pilgrim: Nancy Astor and Plymouth

November 2019 marks the centennial anniversary of Nancy Astor becoming the first woman to be elected MP and then take her seat in the House of Commons. This achievement has a national and international significance for those interested in women’s roles however, Nancy Astor is also of particular interest to the community of Plymouth itself. 

Professor Judith Rowbotham reflects on Nancy Astor’s life and work in a documentary that includes contributions from Dr Jacqui Turner, University of Reading, Lesley Abdela, who founded the 300 Campaign group in the 1980s, and Alexis Bowater, founder of the Lady Astor 100 Statue campaign which has successfully worked to erect a statue to Nancy Astor on Plymouth Hoe, with the unveiling set for 28 November 2019.

Virginia-born, Nancy Astor (1879–1964) came to Plymouth for the first time in 1908, and over the next years, as an active canvasser for her husband Waldorf,first elected to Parliament from Plymouth in 1910, she became intimately acquainted with Plymouth in a way very different to usual political wives eventually being requested to stand by the voters of Plymouth historically electing her in 1919. 

She saw herself as a Plymothian from shortly after her first visits, until the end of her life. This documentary will show how Plymouth’s problems and needs shaped her political views and work.

As an MP, from within the House, she was able to influence both parliamentary debate and shaping of the laws of the land. Responsible for the first Private Member’s Bill put to the House by a woman, she fought to ensure the Intoxicating Liquor (Sale to Persons Under 18) Act 1923 was passed and its provisions remain law today. But to understand Nancy Astor the MP, it is essential to take a socio-legal perspective at the Plymouth context in which she operated as this provided the impetus for her political activity.

Time-Lock continues the approach it first utilised for the international award winning ‘How do you fix a town like Plymouth’ (2018). Rob Giles returns to the successful formula of story-telling by utilising historical accounts, archive materials, interviews and dramatisations to produce another visually engaging,rigorously researched and fascinating period documentary from a uniquely local perspective.

Our speakers

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