Sarah Parker Remond: One of the first black women in higher education

In celebration of Black History Month, we are highlighting the story of African-American anti-slavery campaigner, lecturer and doctor Sarah Parker Remond, one the first black females to study at the pioneering Bedford College for Women.

Sarah Parker Remond
Sarah Parker Remond

Born in Massachusetts, USA, in 1826, Remond was an international activist for human rights and women’s suffrage. Her entire family were committed to the abolition of slavery, and Remond became a high-profile speaker across the USA, making her first speech at the age of 16.

Remond encountered racism early on in life, being excluded from high schools in Massachusetts and Rhode Island because of her skin colour. On her lecture tours, she often endured poor accommodation because of discrimination.

In 1858, Remond came to England as an agent of the American Anti-Slavery Society to gather support for the cause. While in London, she attended Bedford College, the first institution to offer higher education for women in the UK.

The College, founded in 1849 by Elisabeth Jesser Reid, was originally located in Bedford Square. In 1909 the College moved to Regent’s Park, where it established the campus that is now home to Regent’s University London.

Remond studied French, Latin, English literature, music, history and elocution at Bedford College for two years, before going on to study nursing.

She was a founder member of the Ladies’ London Emancipation Society in 1863 and is thought to be the only black woman among 1,500 signatories to a female-only petition on votes for women in 1866.

In 1867 Remond moved to Florence, Italy, where she qualified as a doctor and went on to practise medicine for the next 20 years.  She married relatively late in life, at the age of 50, and died in 1894, aged 68, in Rome, where she is buried.