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  • Published: 22 February 2024
  • ISBN: 9781473590366
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 416

Trailblazer

The First Feminist to Change Our World




Acclaimed historian, Jane Robinson brings out of the shadows one of Victorian Britain's most influential but forgotten women. First wave feminist, founder of Girton College, Cambridge, and connected to everyone, from Florence Nightingale to Gertrude Jekyll, George Eliot to DG Rosetti.

‘Jane Robinson is brilliant at putting the women back into history and her biography of Barbara Leigh Bodichon, a Victorian feminist we should all be grateful to, is as entertaining as it is necessary.’ - Daisy Goodwin

You have probably not heard of Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon but you certainly should have done.

Name any 'modern' human rights movement, and she was a pioneer: feminism, equal opportunities, diversity, inclusion, mental health awareness, Black Lives Matter. While her name has been omitted from too many history books, it was Barbara that opened the doors for more famous names to walk through. And her influence owed as much to who she was as to what she did: people loved her for her robust sense of humour, cheerfulness and indiscriminate acts of kindness.

This is a celebration of the life of the founder of Britain's suffrage movement: campaigner for equal opportunity in the workplace, the law, at home and beyond. Co-founder of Girton, the first university college for women, a committed activist for human rights, fervently anti-slavery, she was also one of Victorian England's finest female painters.

Jane Robinson's brilliant new book shines a light on a remarkable woman who lived on her own terms and to whom we owe a huge debt.

  • Published: 22 February 2024
  • ISBN: 9781473590366
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 416

About the author

Jane Robinson

Jane Robinson is also the author of Hearts and Minds: The Untold Story of the Great Piligrimage and How Women Won the Vote and Bluestockings: the Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education. She was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Yorkshire before going to Oxford University to study English Language and Literature at Somerville College. She has worked in the antiquarian book trade and as an archivist and is now a full-time writer and lecturer, specialising in social history through women's eyes. She is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, member of the Society of Authors, and founder member of Writers in Oxford. She is married with two sons and lives in Buckinghamshire. Ladies Can't Climb Ladders is her eleventh book.

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Praise for Trailblazer

‘Jane Robinson is brilliant at putting the women back into history and her biography of Barbara Leigh Bodichon, a Victorian feminist we should all be grateful to, is as entertaining as it is necessary.’

Daisy Goodwin

As a long-serving head of the pioneering ‘College for Women’ I thought I had the measure of our flamboyant co-founder. I was wrong. Barbara Bodichon, artist, educator, influencer and more, was a driving force for an age of reform. Full of fab facts and inspiring incidents this book tells the remarkable story of a social outsider whose clear-sighted vision, disregard for convention, selfless support for others, and relentless pursuit of justice was game-changing for women's inclusion in political, professional and public life.

Susan J, Smith FBA, Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge 2009-2022

Lively and well researched ... [Bodichon] was a vital cog in the wheel of social change for women. Her energy is contagious.

Ysenda Maxtone Graham, The Times

Through skillful storytelling and a warm-hearted narrative style, she makes high-mindedness, endeavour and idealism seem both compelling and, in its deep and intellectual friendships even romantic ... One of the many engaging features of her book is the affection in which she holds her characters ... What a lot we have to thank Barbara Bodichon and her circle for. She was a charismatic but self-effacing woman so she would at the very least have been perplexed by the idea of being a role model. But I can't think of a better one for today.

Lucy Lethbridge, Literary Review

Jane Robinson’s new biography reads like a Who’s Who of Victorian political and artistic society ... You close this book with a new character in your mental list of great Victorians:

Sussex Life

Stylishly written, and rich with entertaining anecdotes, Robinson’s biography reanimates this almost forgotten, generous and visionary woman.

Rebecca Wallersteiner, The Lady

What an amazing biography Jane Robinson has written of this incredible social trailblazer and feminist pioneer, an account that both elucidates and entertains. Historical facts, political struggles, a life full of both challenges and fun. Truly brilliant.

Morning Star

Jane Robinson’s admiration of [Barbara’s] achievements, and her incisive and immersive approach to writing her life story, ensures that her subject catches the sun.

Emelyne Godfrey, Times Literary Supplement