The Women Churchillians and the Politics of Shame

  • Julie V. Gottlieb


As one of only a handful of women MPs, Labour’s Edith Summerskill worked closely with the other women in the House, including Conservatives such as Mavis Tate and Lady Nancy Astor. In her memoirs Summerskill recalled that Astor never tired of telling her fellow women MPs “what a very unpleasant time she endured as the first woman in the House,” accusing Winston Churchill of snubbing her because she was a woman in what he considered a Man’s House, an attitude consistent with his opposition to women’s suffrage. Indeed, Astor’s favourite story was how after many years she asked Churchill why he had cut her, to which he retorted: “When you came into the House I felt that you had entered my bathroom and I had no sponge with which to defend myself.’ She replied, ‘You’re not handsome enough to have worries of that kind.”1 Of course, there was much else besides different views on women’s rights that nourished Churchill and Lady Astor’s enmity. They were vigorously opposed on questions of foreign policy (at least up to 1940), she the hostess of the Cliveden Set, he the arch anti- appeaser who never quite managed to lead his own set from the political wilderness he occupied in the 1930s while he would, in due course, lead the nation and become the figurehead of the anti-Nazi war.


Prime Minister Foreign Policy British Woman Collective Security Sexual Politics 
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Copyright information

© Julie V. Gottlieb 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie V. Gottlieb
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SheffieldUK

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