Sunday, 4 February 2018

Connie at 150

It used to be one of the stock quiz questions: who was the first woman elected to the UK parliament? The dive-in answer is Viscountess (Nancy) Astor, but in fact she was just the first woman to sit as a MP. Countess Markievicz beat her to it, but as a Sinn Feiner, refused to take her seat. That Markiewcz was in gaol at the time was also a complicating factor.

But even the correct answer conceals a more interesting fact, that the lady was born into the Ascendancy. Constance Gore-Booth (her Polish title was acquired through marrying a fellow art student before she was involved in the independence struggle), born 150 years ago today, was a member of one of the families who had ruled Ireland since the Plantations, and had been presented at court. So the first two women elected to Westminster were quite posh. Contrast that with the fight that working journalist Anne Clwyd had merely to be selected as a candidate by a constituency Labour party, as she related on this morning's Sunday Supplement, celebrating the centenary of the Act that introduced a measure of suffrage to Westminster elections.

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