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Notable Suffragettes With Derbyshire Connections

Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon

Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827-91) was one of the foremost founders of the women's rights movement in Britain. She was born in Whatlington, near Battle, Sussex, died at nearby Robertsbridge, and was connected to the Hastings area throughout her life.    

Barbara was the extra- marital child of Anne Longden, a milliner from Afreton Derbyshire and and the Whig politician Benjamin (Ben) Leigh Smith (1783–1860), the only son of the Radical abolitionist William Smith. The Derbyshire connection which led Benjamin to visit Alfreton, was the Nightingale family. One of Benjamin's  four sisters. Frances (Fanny) Smith, married William Nightingale (née Shore) were the mother and father of  Florence, the nursing pioneer and statistician.   


Benjamin's father had wanted him to marry Mary Shore, the sister of William Nightingale but instead he met Anne on one of his visits to his sister and niece in 1826. Benjamin and Anne had several more children and moved from Sussex to America and then to Hastings, living together but never marrying until Anne's death in  the Isle of Wight in 1834.

Barbara, whose upbringing is described as unconventional, became a prominent leader in the movement for the education and political rights of women who was instrumental in founding Girton CollegeCambridge.

In 1857 Barbara Smith married an eminent French physician, Eugène Bodichon, continuing, however, to lead the movements that she had initiated on behalf of English women. In 1854 she had published her Brief Summary in Plain Language of the Most Important Laws Concerning Women, which had a useful effect in helping forward the passage of theMarried Women’s Property Act. In 1866, cooperating with Emily Davies, she proposed a plan for the extension of university education to women, and the first small experiment, a college at Hitchin, developed into Girton College, Cambridge, to which Bodichon gave liberally of her time and money. She studied under the English artist William Henry Hunt, and her watercolours showed originality and talent. Source:

Barbara Bodichon (8 April 1827 – 11 June 1891) was an English educationalist and artist, and a leading mid-19th-century feminist and women's rights activist.

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