Elisabeth Jesser Reid

( 1789 - 1866 )

College founder

Elisabeth Jesser Reid was a slavery abolitionist and founder of Bedford College, London.

Read more in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Elisabeth Jesser Reid

Elisabeth Jesser Reid © Royal Holloway, University of London

Elisabeth Jesser Reid was the daughter of a wealthy ironmonger who used her inheritance to further humanitarian causes. Reid was a prominent supporter of slavery abolition, and befriended the American abolitionist Sarah Parker Remond, who was the first black woman to undertake a public lecture tour in Britain.

In 1849 Reid founded Bedford College as the country's first higher education college for women. The college was a radical institution with the ambition of broadening women's cultural and intellectual life, rather than simply providing a vocational training. 

At her insistence, the governing body of the college included women - making Bedford the first British institution to be part managed by women. Early students of the college, which was located in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, included Sarah Parker Remond and the women's suffrage campaigner Barbara Bodichon. Bedford College became a constituent member of the University of London in 1900. 

Affiliated with

Bedford College, London