Barbara Bodichon

Artist, Feminist, Writer

Barbara Bodichon
Barbara Bodichon. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Barbara Bodichon Facts

Occupation: artist, landscape watercolorist; writer, cofounder of Griton college; feminist activist
Known for: George Eliot's "Romola" may have been modeled after Barbara Bodichon
Dates: April 8, 1827 - June 11, 1891
Also Known as: Barbara Leigh-Smith Bodichon, Barbara Leigh-Smith, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, Barbara Leigh Bodichon, Barbara Leigh Smith

About Barbara Bodichon

Barbara Bodichon's father was a Unitarian minister, Liberal MP, and wealthy landowner.

He never married Barbara's mother, a milliner's apprentice, though they lived as man and wife until she died when Barbara was seven. He treated his daughter, both educationally and financially, as he would treat a son. She was a first cousin of Florence Nightingale.

In 1849, Barbara Bodichon began the study of art at the Ladies' College in Bedford Square. In 1852, she opened Portman Hall School in Paddington with Elizabeth Whitehall.

Barbara Bodichon also became involved in women's rights activism. She published a pamphlet, "A Brief Summary in Plain Language of the Most Important Laws Concerning Women" in 1854. For the 1856 Married Women's Property Act bill, she organized to gain petition signatures.

In 1857, she married Dr. Eugene Bodichon, a French physician, despite her misgivings about marriage. From that point on she spent most winters in Algeria and most summers on suffrage work in England.

She traveled to the American South in 1857-58 and saw firsthand the slavery there, noting parallels between American slavery and the position of women.

She helped to edit, produce, and provide financial backing for the feminist publication, The Englishwoman's Journal.

She continued to speak on women's suffrage and to publish pamphlets on women's rights: "Women and Work" (1857), "Enfranchisement of Women" (1866), and "Objections to the Enfranchisement of Women" (1866).

In 1872, Barbara Bodichon published American Diary, a story of her trip to America and her observations about slavery and women's rights.

She helped raise money for Girton College, with her friend Emily Davies.

Barbara Bodichon was left paralyzed in 1877, and no longer played an active part in the suffrage and women's rights movements. She died in 1891, leaving a large bequest to Girton College.

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