A Mid-Victorian Feminist, Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon

Sheila R. Herstein, Author Yale University Press $25 (205p) ISBN 978-0-300-03317-5
Born in 1827 into a family of liberal Unitarians, Bodichon was a pioneering activist whose friends included John Stuart Mill, George Eliot and such feminists as Elizabeth Blackwell, Bessie Parkes, Adelaide Procter and Anna Mary Howitt. She agitated on behalf of the Married Women's Property Act in the mid-1850s (it was finally passed in 1870); wrote extensively about women's legal and economic positions in British society; helped found the first women's publication, the English Woman's Journal, in 1858; supported female suffrage from the earliest petitions of 1865; and gave generous financial support to help her friend Emily Davies establish Girton College for Women at Cambridge in 1873. Wealthy and free from the constraints that bound most women, Bodichon nonetheless devoted her life to helping her less fortunate sisters. Her ideas were radical and her behavior unconventional, but she was a political pragmatist who always deferred to her more conservative colleagues in order to gain wider support. Although the author, an associate professor at City College in New York, provides an adequate summary of Bodichon's achievements, the book seems sketchy and unfocused, without the detail necessary to give a full sense of her subject's personality. January 15
Reviewed on: 01/01/1986
Release date: 01/01/1986
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