Elizabeth Jesser Reid (25 December 1789-1 April 1866) was a philanthropist, political activist, and pioneer of women’s education. Now best remembered for founding Bedford College, the first institution of higher education for women in the United Kingdom, Reid was also active in the transatlantic abolition movement. Reid was connected to a wide network of social reformers, political radicals, and leading writers, artists and intellectuals of the mid-nineteenth century in Britain, Europe and the United States. Her associates included the influential Martineau family, nursing and public health pioneer Florence Nightingale, and American anti-slavery activists Harriet Beecher Stowe, Lucretia Mott, and Sarah Parker Remond, who took classes at Bedford College. Reid’s correspondence thus offers a window into debates over women’s education, the ideals and practicalities of reform work, the ways in which upper class radical women balanced public work and private lives, and the interconnectivity of social and political causes in the Victorian era.
This electronic archive contains Elizabeth Jesser Reid’s personal correspondence held in the archives of Royal Holloway, University of London, the largest collection of Reid’s papers. The majority of the collection is letters to Reid from four correspondents:
- Elizabeth Anne (Eliza) Bostock, trustee of Bedford College and close friend of Reid
- Henry Crabb Robinson, chronicler of British radical intellectual life in the first half of the nineteenth-century
- Anna Brownell Jameson, art historian and literary critic
- Mary Clarke (Madame Julius Mohl), writer and salon hostess
The rest of the collection consists of a few letters from Reid, others from miscellaneous correspondents, and “autographed” letters from very famous correspondents, possibly grouped by Reid herself. You can navigate the archive by Collection, or by searching titles and descriptions using the search bar above. The “About” page contains more information about the archive and key figures within it.
The digitized letters should be used for personal research only. The images should not be published or reproduced for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you would like to inquire about publishing images in the collection, or would like further information about the Reid Papers, please email archives[at]rhul.ac.uk.
Elizabeth Jesser Reid’s Correspondence Networks: A Digital Archive was created by Dr Katie McGettigan, Lecturer in American Literature, and Annnabel Valentine, College Archivist, at Royal Holloway, University of London. The project was generously supported by Royal Holloway’s Humanities and Arts Research Institute and Centre for Victorian Studies.
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