While Nancy Astor's 1919 victory at the polls—making her the first female member of British Parliament—figures prominently in narratives of women's political progress in Britain, the taunt thrown at her while she was campaigning at the Barbican earlier that year, “It's your face that is carrying you through!” figures nowhere in discussions of women's entry into formal political life there. Astor's rejoinder, “No, it's the heart behind it,” points to a tension in her candidacy and subsequent political career that is characteristic of modern celebrity: between the superficial and the genuine, the artificial and the authentic. This text describes how a “film star” and “a personality,” rarely seen by contemporaries as a politician in any masculine sense, successfully publicized the democratic elements of her persona in order to make privilege more palatable in the age of universal suffrage.
“It's Your Face That Is Carrying You Through!”: Class, Gender, and Celebrity in Nancy Astor's 1919 Campaign for Parliament
Laura E. Nym Mayhall is an associate professor at the Catholic University of America, the author of The Militant Suffrage Movement: Citizenship and Resistance in Britain, 1860–1930 (Oxford University Press, 2003), and coeditor, with Ian Christopher Fletcher and Philippa Levine, of Women's Suffrage in the British Empire: Citizenship, Nation and Race (Routledge, 2000). She is currently writing a book entitled Aristocracy Must Advertise: Rebranding Privilege in Britain, 1880–1950.
Laura E. Nym Mayhall; “It's Your Face That Is Carrying You Through!”: Class, Gender, and Celebrity in Nancy Astor's 1919 Campaign for Parliament. Feminist Media Histories 1 October 2016; 2 (4): 64–83. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2016.2.4.64
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