Nancy Astor (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Born a Virginian, Astor was the first woman to sit in the British House of Commons. Always a controversial figure because of her outspoken views on almost every subject from temperance to race relations, she was a zealous campaigner for the rights of women and children.
Nancy Witcher Langhorne was born on May 19, 1879, in Danville, Virginia. Her mother, Nannie Witcher Keene, was of Irish descent; her father, Chiswell “Chillie” Dabney Langhorne, had been a soldier in the Confederate army. Ten of their eleven children were born in Danville, a moderate-sized Southern city notable for its tobacco markets and cotton mills. Nancy was the third of five surviving daughters.
Although various members of the Langhorne family had distinguished themselves in Virginia politics since the eighteenth century, the Civil War and Reconstruction had devastated the Southern aristocracy. Chillie (pronounced Shillie) Langhorne was forced to take a number of menial jobs and eventually decided, when Nancy was six years old, to move to Richmond, the state capital, to better his situation.
It was several years before his luck turned, but Chillie was eventually able to make a fortune contracting laborers for the railroad. In 1892, he bought a country house, Mirador, and settled down to lead the life of a Virginia gentleman. Hunting, riding, and gracious hospitality were considered more...
(The entire section is 2043 words.)
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