Barbara Bodichon collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Barbara with her brother Benjamin Leigh Smith

Administrative / Biographical History

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.


The correspondence is arranged chronologically

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia by Clive Holland, Garland Publishing, London (1994) and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia by William Mills, San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and Victorian and Encyclopaedia Britannica volume 3 (1953) and Girton college

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

Copyright restrictions apply to most material. The copyright may lie outside the Institute and, if so, it is necessary for the reader to seek appropriate permission to consult, copy, or publish any such material. (The Institute does not seek this permission on behalf of readers). Written permission to publish material subject to the Institute's copyright must be obtained from the Director. Details of conditions and fees may be had from the Archivist.


Further accessions possible