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Bessie Rayner Belloc (1829–1925)

Author of Historic nuns

Includes the names: Bessie Rayner Parkes

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Elizabeth "Bessie" Rayner Parkes was born to a Unitarian family in Birmingham, England, Her father was Joseph Parkes, a lawyer, and her mother was Eliza Priestley, granddaughter of the scientist Joseph Priestley. Her parents held radical liberal political ideas and were friends of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. The family moved to London in 1832 and Bessie attended a Unitarian school in Warwickshire. In 1846, she met Barbara Leigh-Smith (later Bodichon), and the two women became close friends, travelling together in Europe and writing several pamphlets on women's rights, including Remarks on the Education of Girls (1856). With Barbara Bodichon, Bessie founded The Englishwoman’s Journal in 1858, a periodical they ran in partnership, and formed the first-ever Women's Suffrage Committee in 1866. Among Bessie's literary and artistic friends were Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anna Jameson, George Eliot, Matilda Hays, Adelaide Procter, Isa Craig-Knox -- with whom she edited the women's newspaper The Waverley Journal -- Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In 1867, Bessie married Louis Belloc and converted to Roman Catholicism. The couple went to live in France and had two children who grew up to be the noted writers Hilaire Belloc and Marie Belloc-Lowndes. Widowed suddenly in 1872, Bessie Rayner Parkes Belloc returned to England but did not return to women's rights activism. She continued to write poems, essays, and books, including A Passing World (1897).
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