Women in the House of Commons

WOA Reference Collection

In 1918 some women over the age of 30 got the vote.  It was also the year that, a separate law was passed - the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act - which allowed women to stand as candidates and be elected as MPs.

The following year the first woman MP took her seat in the House of Commons.

The first woman MP

The first woman to be elected to the Commons was a Polish Countess, Constance Markievicz, in the general election of 1918. However as a member of Sinn Fein, she did not take her seat.

The first women to take her seat was Nancy Astor (Viscountess Astor), after a by-election in December 1919. She was elected as a Conservative for the Plymouth Sutton constituency after her husband, Waldorf Astor, the former MP, was elevated to the peerage.

She held the seat until she stood down in 1945.  Although she had never been involved in campaigns for women’s suffrage, she was a great supporter of the women’s movement once in Parliament.

Her husband also worked to promote the admission of women to the House of Lords during the 1920s.

Related information

House of Commons Information Office factsheet on Women in the House of Commons