Nancy Astor – letter and article on a unique glass ceiling breaker
The recent book “Mistresses of Cliveden” includes several chapters on one of the iconic house’s most colourful occupants, Nancy Astor.
Lady Astor, a Christian Scientist, was the first woman to take a seat in the British parliament and the book rightly reflects a complex character, whose life was a tapestry of hard-won achievements and hard-to-fathom traits.
I felt it would be helpful to put together an article that touched a little more on the role Lady Astor’s Christian Science faith might have played in her ability to break that centuries-old glass ceiling as Britain’s first woman Parliamentarian.
The result is my latest article in The News Hub.
Additionally, in a recent Wall Street Journal review of Natalie Livingstone’s book the focus was almost exclusively on the traits in Nancy’s nature, prompting me to offer the following thoughts to the WSJ:
Nancy Astor was one tough cookie. (“Scene for Scandal”, June 27)
She had to be! Can you imagine what it took to be the first woman in the Mother of all Parliaments after centuries of all-male membership?
Natalie Livingstone’s “Mistresses of Cliveden” says Astor leaned on her Bible to deal with the misogyny she faced in the House of Commons. And the author relates many legislative victories won by this “champion of women and children” whose Parliamentary battles “did much to bolster the women’s movement”.
But Astor’s character was complex. Like most of us on a spiritual journey there were deflections from the “straight and narrow path” pointed out by Jesus, flaws highlighted in Richard Davenport-Hines’ summary of Livingstone’s take on “Nancy”.
However, the prejudices associated with Lady Astor go against the grain of Christian Science, the faith she leaned on. If it were otherwise, I’d never have embraced Mary Baker Eddy’s writings.
I took to Eddy’s ideas precisely because they teach of God’s love for all and challenge the deep-rooted resistance we might feel to expressing such universal and impartial love. I badly needed that help as a Jew facing anti-Semitism in 1970s London, because my fear had turned to hatred.
Through studying the Bible in light of Eddy’s text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, I found myself empowered to do what Jesus urges – to love even our enemies. In a profound, prayerful moment I felt what it meant for God to love all humanity.
That dissolved my hatred and fear and led to permanent healing of a recurring sinusitis I’d long suffered from.
Like Astor was, I’m working out my salvation step by step. But that healing idea of an all-inclusive, divine Love is central to the Christian Science practice I know and love.