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John Jeffries - Nancy Astor

by MartinM 

Posted: 03 August 2004
Word Count: 507

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John Jeffries – the first space tourist

John Jeffries was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1745. After graduating from Harvard, he became a doctor, and in the late 1760s became aligned with the patriot cause. However, when war came, he sided with the Loyalists – those who supported the king against the rebels. Boston in particular was not a safe place for a Loyalist to stay, so in 1775, he left for Halifax, Nova Scotia, and later for England.

He purchased a commission in the Royal Navy, serving as a ship’s surgeon on the HMS Raleigh, operating off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. While there, word reached him that his wife had died, so he made his way to the port of New York – the headquarters of the British Naval forces, sold his commission, and sailed back to England to care for his children.

After they were settled, he hoped to return to government employment; but having left the military in time of war, no openings were available to him. Instead, he went into private practice, and became wealthy, specialising in providing medical services, particularly obstetric and gynaecological services to the American Loyalist community in London.

In October 1784 he witnessed the flight of Jean-Pierre-Francois Blanchard in a balloon. He approached Blanchard, and offered to fund a flight in return for being taken on as a passenger. After a trial flight, they set off from Dover in January 1785 and landed in Ardres in northern France 35 miles away, after a flight of three hours, having discarded all the ballast and several items of clothing.

Nancy Astor - the sitting MP

In 1906, Nancy Langthorne married Waldorf Astor. In 1919, he became 2nd Viscount Astor on the death of his father, and therefore had to vacate his parliamentary seat of Plymouth Sutton. She stood for election and won. On 1 December 1919, she took her seat, and was introduced by Lloyd George and Arthur Balfour.

The introduction of a new MP by the current and one previous Prime Minister was unusual, and it would be nice to think that this represented the full acceptance of women’s participation in politics. However, a scan through history books shows many references to Nancy Astor, and most are carefully worded as above – ‘Nancy Astor, the first woman to take her seat in the British Parliament’.

The reason for the wording, and the Prime Ministerial endorsement, was that Nancy Astor was not the first woman elected to Parliament. That distinction goes to another woman who married into a titled family - Constance Markiewicz (nee Gore-Booth), whose husband was a Polish-Ukrainian landowner. She was elected as member for St Patrick’s Dublin about a year earlier. However, she was a Sinn Fein MP, and refused to take the oath required of her, which stated ‘I Constance Markiewicz, do swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George, his heirs and successors, according to law. So help me God.’

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Comments by other Members

anisoara at 19:04 on 04 August 2004  Report this post
Hi Martin --

This is good clean writing, but I wonder who it is for. I can't see it standing alone, and I assume that it is part of something larger.


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