GWR (Great Western Railway) today named one of its new Intercity Express Trains after Nancy Astor, the first woman to take her seat as an MP in the House of Commons.
The naming ceremony took place at Paddington, exactly 100 years since the by-election result announcing her being elected as Member of Parliament in the seat previously held by her husband.
She was nominated as part of GWR’s search for 100 Great Westerners. Her name will now be carried by one of the new Intercity Express Trains, joining other named trains in the fleet.
Following the naming ceremony at Paddington Station invited guests, including several members of the Astor family, boarded the special Nancy Astor train service to Plymouth in time to attend the unveiling of a statue on the Hoe at 13:30.
To view a video of the naming ceremony click here.
Great Western Railway Human Resources Director, Ruth Busby, said:
“I know how challenging it can be to be one of the few women in a male-dominated environment. It requires resilience, determination and hard work to have your voice heard.
“I can’t begin to even imagine how much more challenging that would have been in 1919. But Nancy has shown that where one woman goes, many can follow. 100 years on there is still much to do to achieve full gender equality. But I am proud that GWR are providing, quite literally, a moving recognition for a woman who went first, who broke down barriers and allowed other women to follow.”
Leader of the Nancy Astor Statue Campaign, Alexis Bowater, said:
“100 years ago the people of the West Country voted in the first woman to take her seat in Parliament, changing equality, democracy and hope forever. We are so proud that Great Western Railway has been working with us and supporting this celebration of democracy and recognising Nancy Astor and all those other first great westerners from Devon who changed the face of history.
“It is a wonderful legacy to leave beyond 28th November a permanent reminder of their courage and achievement with a train and a statue in perpetuity celebrating 100 years of women in Parliament and the day Plymouth changed the world.”
Dr Jacqui Turner, historical advisor to the campaign from the University of Reading, leading the Astor 100 programme, said:
“The election of Nancy Astor changed British democracy forever. For the first time, a woman was able to directly influence the parliamentary debate and the writing of the laws of her own land. A responsibility she willingly shouldered for all women.
“Today, she continues to make history and we hope the train renaming, statue unveiling and other activities involved in the Astor 100 project will inspire further changes in politics, where equality is yet to be achieved a century after her election.”
Nancy Astor’s granddaughter, the Hon Emily Astor, said:
“I don’t know our grandmother would ever have thought a train would be named after her. But we feel she would be both flattered and appreciative and her father absolutely delighted.”