De juiste partij. Klasse, sekse en de macht van Nancy Astor


  • Hanneke Hoekstra


Female pathways to power do not always follow the meritocratic routes of education and talent. In 1918, Nancy Astor wrote history when she became the first female member of the House of Commons. Her political success was, however, in many respects not at all a logical consequence of the feminist fight for political rights. Nancy Astor was an American nouveau riche who had campaigned for the British Conservative Party, the traditional party of the British aristocracy. Employing a biographical method, the author argues that the political culture of the old order was instrumental for women in gaining influence on the level of party elites, often privileging the distinctions of class and of birth over gender. The Conservative Party looked backward rather than forward; its depended on the informal mechanisms of networks of friends and family and the intense social life of the British elite. Within these circles, women had a distinctive though gendered role legitimized by the position of their husbands or families.They could exercise significant social power as hostesses to political social occasions. Nancy Astor was a well-connected political hostess with impressive extra-parliamentary powers. She was able to continue and expand her role within the House of Commons, the moment women were granted the vote.