Bodichon, Barbara Leigh Smith, 1827-1891

Alternative names
Birth 1827-04-08
Death 1891-06-11

Biographical notes:

Barbara Bodichon (nee Leigh Smith) was born on 8 April 1827 at Whatlington, Sussex, sister of the Arctic explorer, Benjamin Leigh Smith (1828-1913). She was educated privately and studied political economy, law and art at Bedford Square Ladies College, London, becoming a painter of some renown. After receiving an endowment from her father, she established her own progressive school in London, later known as the Portman Hall School. During the 1850s, she concentrated on the campaign to remove women's legal disabilities and restrictions, publishing A Brief Summary, in Plain Language, of the Most Important Laws concerning Women in 1854 and Women and Work in 1857, the year in which she married Eugene Bodichon, a French physician.

She went on to form a committee with the intention of reforming the law to give married women rights to own property. In 1856, a petition with 26,000 signatures was presented to the House of Lords, which led to the Married Women's Property Bill passing its first and second readings in the House of Commons in 1857. In 1858, Bodichon and her friend, Bessie Rayner Parkes, purchased The Englishwoman's Journal , which was published nationwide to inform women about the rights movement. In 1865, Bodichon co-drafted a petition on women's suffrage, which was presented to the House of Commons by John Stuart Mill in 1866.

With Emily Davies, she was instrumental in the foundation of Girton College, Cambridge, the first residential college for women. Following a serious illness in 1877, Bodichon was left paralysed and was no longer able to take an active role in the suffrage movement. She died on 11 June 1891 at Robertsbridge, Sussex.

From the guide to the Barbara Bodichon collection, 1882, (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)


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