Theresa May unveils Nancy Astor statue in Plymouth

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

A statue honouring the first female MP to sit in Parliament has been unveiled a century after she was voted in.

Nancy Astor was elected to represent Plymouth Sutton in Devon for the Conservative Party on 28th November, 1919; a seat she held until
stepping down in 1945.

In honour of the pioneering MP, former Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled a bronze statue on Thursday 28th November on the Hoe in Plymouth, near Lady Astor’s former family home. Lady Astor was also commemorated with a Great Western Railway train named after her which travelled from London Paddington to Plymouth.

Mrs May told the hundreds-strong crowd she was ‘honoured’ to be unveiling the statue and was ‘especially pleased to do so, as our country’s second female Prime Minister’.

Her successor, Boris Johnson, also visited the statue where he was joined by Rebecca Smith, the Conservative candidate for Plymouth Sutton.
Mrs May told the crowd: “When Nancy Astor became the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons, 100 years ago, our country and our democracy were changed for the better.

‘Her arrival in parliament ushered in a new era, finally giving a voice to a huge swathe of the population, who for too long had been missing from our politics and our law-making.”

The statue was sculpted by artist Hayley Gibbs after £125,000 was raised through Crowdfunding by the Nancy Astor Statue Appeal, led by former TV presenter, Alexis Bowater.

A quote by Lady Astor is engraved into the plinth, which says: “Real education should educate us out of self into something far finer; into a selflessness which links us with all humanity.”

Mrs May said: “For two years, she was the only woman in a house which, quite simply, was not designed for women.

‘A place of honourable gentleman, of smoking rooms, and with no ladies loos.

‘But she ignored the jeering, the patronising, and the bawdy jokes, and began to make the House of Commons an easier place for the many, but still too few, women who followed her.

‘Plymouth and the whole country should be proud of the great strides Nancy Astor made for equality and representation.”

Photographs © Poppy Jakes

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