Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827–1891)

Author of An American diary, 1857-8

Includes the names: Barbara Leogh Smith. Bodichon

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Barbara Leigh-Smith was the daughter of Benjamin Leigh-Smith, a Member of Parliament for Norwich, and Anne Longden, a 17-year milliner. The couple did not marry but lived openly together until Anne's death seven years later. Barbara and her four siblings were brought up by their father in Hastings and then in London. His home was a gathering place for fellow political radicals, which gave Barbara a chance to meet and make friends with them. Leigh-Smith was an advocate of women's rights and gave all his children the same education. When Barbara reached age 21, her father gave her £300 a year, making her financially independent. She used some of the money to start Portman Hall School, an experimental, co-educational progressive school in London. Barbara also campaigned for women's rights and the passage of the Married Women's Property Act and the law allowing civil divorce. In 1857, she married Eugene Bodichon, a French physician who shared her views and supported her campaigns. Barbara Bodichon hosted a salon in their home that attracted many of the literary and artistic figures of the day, including George Eliot, a close friend. In 1858, Barbara Bodichon and her feminist friend Bessie Rayner Parkes founded the journal The Englishwoman's Review, and in 1866, formed the first-ever Women's Suffrage Committee. This group organized a petition for votes for women that John Stuart Mill presented to the House of Commons on their behalf. With Emily Davies, she developed ideas for university education for women, out of which eventually grew Girton College of Cambridge University, to which Mrs. Bodichon gave generously of both time and money. Her most important writing was considered to be Women and Work (1857) which advocated equality of pay and opportunities for working women. Mrs. Bodichon was also a talented watercolor painter; some of her works are preserved at Girton College and at the Hastings Art Gallery.
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