Biography: Barbara Leigh-Smith Bodichon (1827-1891) was the illegitimate daughter of the radical MP Benjamin Smith and Anne Longden, a milliner. Her artistic training was broad including the tutelage of Cornelius Varley, William Henry Hunt and art classes taught by Francis Cary at the Bedford Ladies’ College, London. Through her life-long friend, the artist, Anna Mary Howitt she met members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt.
Her life was dominated by two great passions, art and politics. She was a tireless campaigner for social justice and women’s rights beginning in the 1850s when she took up the caused of married women’s property rights. In 1854, she published her Brief Summary of the Laws of England Concerning Women, which was later used to promote the passage of the Married Women’s Property Act 1882. In 1858, she set up the English Women’s Journal, concerning employment and equality issues for women. In 1866, with Emily Davies, she came up with a scheme to extend university education to women. The first small experiment in this proposal took place at Hitchin and developed into Girton College, Cambridge, to which Mrs. Bodichon gave liberally of her time and money.
She married Eugene Bodichon, a French physician and ethnographer in 1857 and spent half of each year in Algiers with her husband where she focused on her painting, and half the year in London working on social reform. She traveled broadly, painting wherever she went. She kept up a rigorous exhibition schedule all her life including the Royal Academy, the Dudley Gallery, The Grosvenor Gallery and several solo exhibitions at Gambart’s French Gallery in Pall Mall, London.