Synopses & Reviews
A new biography of Nancy Astor, American socialite and social crusader who blazed a trail through British society amid two World Wars
In 1919, Nancy Astor became the first female Member of Parliament elected to the House of Commons—she was not what had been expected. Far from a virago who had suffered for the cause of female suffrage, Lady Astor was already near the center of the ruling society that had for so long resisted the political upheavals of the early twentieth century, having married into one of the richest families in the world. She wasn't even British, but the daughter of a famous Virginian family, and fiercely proud of her expatriate ancestry. But her moral drive was strong, and she would utilize her position of privilege and influence to blow a bracing American wind into what she regarded as the stuffy corners of British politics.
This account charts Nancy Astor's incredible story, from relative penury in the American South to a world of enormous countryside estates and townhouses, and the most lavish entertainments, peopled by the great figures of the day—Churchill, Chamberlain, FDR, Charlie Chapin, J. M. Barrie, and Lawrence of Arabia were all part of her social circle. But hers was not to be an easy life of power and pure glamour; it was also defined by principles and bravery, war and sacrifice, love, and the most embittered disputes.
With glorious, page-turning brio, Adrian Fort brings to life this restless, controversial American dynamo, an unforgettable woman who left a deep and lasting imprint on the political life of a nation.
"Born in Virginia just after Reconstruction, little Nannie Keen (1879 1964) could never have guessed that one day she would shake hands with some of the world's most powerful rulers, including Churchill and Stalin. In this fast-paced, exhaustively detailed, and crisply told biography, Fort (Prof: The Life and Times of Frederick Lindemann) traces Nancy's life from her early education to her disastrous first marriage to Bob Shaw, her move to England, and her fortunate meeting with Waldorf Astor. After the two wed, Lady Astor became a scion of high society. From her 'strong but loving mother,' Nancy learned to never be subservient to a man, and she put that lesson to work during her successful career as the first woman in the House of Commons, elected in 1919. Fort eloquently observes that Astor's strong intuition and deep intelligence suited her well for the challenges of serving the interests of her constituency, despite her lack of experience as a forceful debater; her real success lay in 'her reaching Parliament at all, showing women all over the Western world that it could be done.' Fort's compulsively readable work is an inspiring tale of an energetic woman far ahead of her time tirelessly working to pave the way for future generations. 8-page b&w photo insert, family tree. Agent: Peters, Fraser & Dunlop (U.K.). (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
ADRIAN FORT was educated at Oxford, where he was a Clarendon Fellow. He practiced as a lawyer and became involved with politics before pursuing a financial career. He has published many articles on financial and economic matters and has broadcast frequently on the radio. His previous books include Prof: The Life and Times of Frederick Lindemann and Archibald Wavell: The Life and Times of an Imperial Servant.