Elizabeth Baigent small

Dr Elizabeth Baigent

Kate Marsden (1892) Image in public domain

Kate Marsden (1892)

Two recent publications by Elizabeth Baigent, SCIO’s senior tutor, bring to a close her long-running research interest in a famous—or infamous—Victorian woman traveller.  Kate Marsden was a nurse who in the 1890s travelled to the far reaches of Siberia to bring relief to neglected lepers there and who subsequently raised money to found a hospital in Siberia which for many decades treated leprosy patients and then patients with mental health problems. Acclaimed by some as a selfless and fearless heroine, labouring in the name of Christ for the poor and outcast, she was accused by others of being a self serving imposter who spent charity funds on herself, a lesbian and/or the mistress of a Russian general, and a social climber who used her work to curry favour with the great and good, including the British royal and Russian imperial families.  Whatever the truth of the matter in this extraordinary story, Marsden’s actions and the reactions they provoked in others tell us much about how women were viewed in Victorian and Edwardian society.  Elizabeth Baigent’s present research centres on an earlier woman traveller, Marianne Starke, also a nurse, but best known as a writer of guide books to a formula later taken up by John Murray and Karl Baedeker.

For article and book chapters see
E. Baigent, ‘Travelling bodies, texts, and reputations: the gendered life and afterlife of Kate Marsden and her mission to Siberian lepers in the 1890s’, Studies in Travel Writing 18.1 (2014), 34–56;

E. Baigent, ‘”One could never reckon up all her misstatements!” Lies and deception in the life and texts of Kate Marsden, traveller to Siberia in the 1890s’, in Women, travel writing, and truth, ed. C Broome Saunders (2014), 11–29;

E. Baigent, ‘Kate Marsden’, in Geographers: Biobibliographical Studies, eds. H. Lorimer and  C.W.J. Withers (2008), 63–92.