Emily Dugan’s “Men Only, you must be joking” article today (16/10/2007) in the U.K. Independent Newspaper repeats the common error of referring to Nancy Astor as the “First female member of parliament.” This distinction actually belongs to Constance Gore-Booth, The Countess Markiewicz , who in the December 1918 general election, was elected for the constituency of Dublin St Patrick’s as one of 73 Sinn Féin MPs. This made her the first woman elected to the British House of Commons.
She did not take her seat and along with the other Sinn Féin TDs formed the first Dáil Éireann. She was also the first woman in Europe to hold a cabinet position (Minister of Labour of the Irish Republic, 1919–1922).
When her husband Waldorf Astor went “upstairs” to the House of Lords, Nancy Astor decided to stand in Plymouth Sutton in his place. She won the election in November 1919, beating her main rival, Liberal Isaac Foot – the father of Michael Foot who of course went on to lead the Labour Party.
Thus, Lady Astor, became the first women to take her seat in the House of Commons. Incidentally, her maiden speech on the evils of excessive drinking could probably be dusted off and re-used today!
You don’t expect this error in a newspaper which like its Irish namesake is ownded by Tony O’Reilly!