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Forget feel-good diversity—women MPs have made a practical difference

Through hard graft, the women of Westminster have steadily transformed the lives of women across the country

By Rachel Reeves   May 2019

Trailblazer: Nancy Astor campaigning during the 1919 by-election. Photo: Shutterstock

Nancy Astor entered parliament a century ago with a singular mission: to improve the lives of women. She was the first woman to take up a seat in the Commons, and while the symbolic importance of that fact has registered, what’s less appreciated is how vital her gender was for her practical work. She worked—as Labour’s Ellen Wilkinson later put it—“like a terrier” to give a voice to the thousands of women who wrote to her every week.

Fortunately,…

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