Personal Papers of Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon

Scope and Content

The papers of Madame Bodichon are dispersed. A number are held at Girton, having reached the College as gifts, mainly from the Leigh Smith family, and by purchase. The bulk of the papers at Girton consists of letters from Emily Davies to Bodichon for the period 1865-1887. Early letters relate, on the whole, to the activities of the Langham Place Circle, the English Woman's Journal, and the Kensington Society, later letters to the foundation and day-to-day organisation of Girton College. Among the miscellaneous papers is a travel journal kept by Barbara Bodichon with accompanying sketches. There are also photographs, drawings, sketches and biographical articles and, at GCPP Bodichon 11, photocopies of correspondence by and pertaining to Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon from the papers of Norman Moore (1847-1922, physician, an important figure in BLSB's life whom she and Eugene first befriended in 1869).

Administrative / Biographical History

Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827-1891) was the eldest child of the liaison between Anne Longden and Benjamin Leigh Smith, MP for Norwich, 1838 and 1841-1847. Born in Sussex, her childhood was spent between family homes in Hastings and London. From an early age she travelled widely, including an unchaperoned European tour with Bessie Parkes in 1850, and made a first trip to Algiers, which was influential in her life and art, in 1856. She was a cousin of Florence Nightingale and a friend of, amongst others, George Eliot, Emily Davies and Bessie Parkes. In 1857 she married a French doctor, Eugene Bodichon, a resident of Algeria, and for many years thereafter divided each year between Algeria and Britain.

Barbara Bodichon was an artist, a prolific painter of landscapes, her principal exhibitions taking place between 1850 and 1872 at the Royal Academy, the Society of Female Artists and the French Gallery, Pall Mall and other galleries. A leader of the campaigns for women's work, suffrage, legal rights and education, she founded Portman Hall School and published 'A Brief Summary of the Most Important Laws Concerning Women' in 1854, published 'Women and Work' in 1857 and, with Bessie Parkes, founded the English Woman's Journal in 1858. She was also instrumental in the foundation of Girton College in 1869.

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide scholars by appointment only.

Please cite as Girton College Archive, Cambridge, Personal Papers of Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, GCPP Bodichon

Acquisition Information

Acquired by Girton College by gift, chiefly from the Leigh Smith family, and also by purchase. Also, in the case of the Moore family papers at GCPP Bodichon 11, the original letters were loaned by the Moore family and photocopied by Girton College Library staff on the Library's premises in 1995.

Other Finding Aids

As at Sep 2008 an online catalogue was available at

Alternative Form Available

The Bodichon papers held by Girton College as at 1986 were microfilmed in that year by Harvester Microform Research Publications Company.

Archivist's Note

Collection Description taken from JANUS in Sep 2008 as part of Genesis 2008 Project

Related Material

A collection of 395 volumes from the library of Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon was purchased by Helen McMorran, Librarian of Girton College, in 1954 and presented by her to the Library. Letters concerning the purchase are catalogued at GCPP Bodichon 10. Further volumes from BLSB's library were purchased by the College in 2005.

Location of Originals

The originals of the Moore family letters are held in a private collection.


Pam Hirsch, 'Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon: Feminist, Artist and Rebel', Chatto and Windus, 1998. Girton College, 'Barbara Bodichon 1827-1891: Centenary Exhibition' [exhibition catalogue of BB's paintings], 1991. Sheila R Herstein, 'A Mid-Victorian feminist: Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon', Yale University Press 1985. Hester Burton, 'Barbara Bodichon, 1827-1891', John Murray, London 1949. Many of the letters are reproduced in Barbara Stephen 'Emily Davies and Girton College' Constable and Co., 1927 and Ann Murphy and Deirdre Raftery (eds) 'Emily Davies: Collected Letters 1861-1875', University of Virginia Press, 2004.