Papers of Nancy Astor

Scope and Content

The collection consists of two main groups of Nancy Astor's papers. Political correspondence 1919-1945 contains letters in and out, as well as parliamentary papers, prospective legislation and other publications. Subjects covered include elections and local affairs in Plymouth; children's education and welfare and the creation of nursery schools; Christian Science; health; pensions; protection and support of the family; temperance; tours to Canada and the United States; unemployment; women's suffrage and work during the two world wars. General/Personal correspondence 1900-1964 contains letters from family, friends and eminent people in the UK, Europe, Canada and the United States. Sundry papers include unclassified files relating to Plymouth, non-parliamentary and parliamentary speeches, articles and messages, invitations and royal visits, political diaries and other diaries. There is also a large collection of bound newspaper cuttings: American 1919-1940; British 1908-1964.

Administrative / Biographical History

Nancy Astor (ne Langhorne) was born in Danville, Virginia on 19 May 1879. She died on 2 May 1964. Her first marriage to American Robert Shaw in 1896 was not successful and they divorced in 1903. In 1906 she married Waldorf Astor and they settled at Cliveden, Bucks. When her husband succeeded his father as Viscount Astor in 1919 Nancy took his place as the Conservative MP for Plymouth (Sutton Division), becoming the first woman to sit in the House of Commons. She campaigned in particular for women's causes and for temperance and was known for her sharp wit.


The collection is arranged in the order in which it was received. The political correspondence consists of a series of chronological blocks of files, each series arranged in a separate alphabetical sequence by subject and date. The general/personal correspondence is also divided into blocks by type, then chronologically, and then alphabetically by correspondent.

Access Information

Open to all researchers. No reader's ticket is required but an appointment is necessary. Check for contact details and opening hours.

Acquisition Information

The main collection of Nancy Astor's papers was presented to the Library of the University of Reading on 10 January 1973 by the Astor Trustees.


Description prepared by Bridget Andrews from an original by Frances Miller.

Other Finding Aids

At Reading University Library and the National Register of Archives: typescript listing at file level. Sheaf index in name order, referring to the subject files available in the Political files up to 1939. Card index to general letters arranged alphabetically by name.

Alternative Form Available

Selected material available on microfilm from Adam Matthew Publications, 8 Oxford Street, Marlborough Wilts SN18 1AP, UK. Tel: (01672) 511 921, fax: (01672) 511 663, email:

Related Material

The papers of Waldorf, Viscount Astor are also held in the University of Reading Library Archive Department (MS 1066). Copies of letters from Irene Dana Gibson, Nancy Astor and others, to their sister Phyllis (Mrs R W Brand), and other family letters for the period 1897-1935 are also held (MS 2422).