Train retraces Lady Astor’s journey from constituency to Parliament during 100th anniversary celebrations03 December 2019
A train named after the first female MP to take her seat in UK parliament will retrace her historic journey between London and her constituency.
A Great Western Railway train, The Nancy Astor, will be officially unveiled on Thursday 28 November to mark 100 years since Viscountess Astor took her seat in parliament as MP for Plymouth Sutton.
Passing through Reading on the train’s inaugural voyage from London Paddington to Plymouth, the train will retrace Lady Astor’s journeys between her constituency in Devon, her country retreat at Cliveden near Maidenhead, and London.
VIPs, including members of the Astor family, historians and ministers, will join the celebrations onboard the train before a bronze statue of Lady Astor is unveiled on Plymouth Hoe by sculptor Hayley Gibbs and a special guest.
Dr Jacqui Turner, historical advisor to the campaign from the University of Reading, who is also leading the Astor 100 programme of activities to mark the centenary, said: “The election of Nancy Astor changed British democracy forever. For the first time, a woman was able to directly influence the parliamentary debate and the writing of the laws of her own land. A responsibility she willingly shouldered for all women.
“Nancy Astor made history when she won the hearts, minds and most importantly votes of the people of Plymouth to be elected MP in 1919. Today, she continues to make history and we hope the train renaming, statue unveiling, and other activities involved in the Astor 100 project will inspire further changes in politics, where equality is yet to be achieved a century after her election.
“Astor100 goes beyond the memorisation of Nancy Astor as an individual. 2019 marks a century of women MPs and we hope that the achievements of one individual will facilitate a wider celebration of what she represented and the avenues she pioneered for women who followed.
“It also amplifies the demand for continued progress towards political equality – with the resignation of so many women MPs in the last few weeks it is clear that we are not there yet.”
Dr Turner’s research of the Astor Papers, held at the University of Reading Special Collections, has uncovered previously unseen letters and documents that chart Nancy Astor’s career and life. The research demonstrates the courage and resilience Astor showed in standing alone for almost two years in a hostile House, establishing a platform on which women continue to build today.
Great Western Railway Managing Director, Mark Hopwood, said: "Nancy Astor is one of our Great Westerners, nominated by our customers we are delighted to be naming one of our new Intercity Express Trains on the centenary of this important moment in history.
“Great Westerners are chosen because of the contribution they have made to our region and the impact they have had on the communities we serve, whether from the past or modern day. The Railways helped to change the fabric of society and we are proud to have the Nancy Astor train join our fleet and to see her operating on our new timetable linking communities and promoting women across our network."
For more details of the Astor100 campaign and the train naming ceremony visit https://www.ladyastorstatue100.co.uk/.
For more information on Lady Astor’s influence on British politics and beyond, visit http://research.reading/ac.uk/Astor100