Kate Marsden


In continued celebration of International Women’s Day this blog will feature brief biographies of eight amazing women whose stories are remarkable and inspirational.  Their incredible journeys will be showcased throughout the month of  March.


 At Jerusalem, although many of the lepers receive the best attention that medical skill and nursing aid can contrive, I saw enough misery to strengthen my resolution.  At Constantinople the scene of horror appalled me, and I longed, with a fervency that cannot be described, for the swift help of Heaven…I may be called an enthusiast, or a woman who bids high for the world’s applause.  I care not what I am called, or what I am thought of, so long as the goal of my ambition be reached

—Kate Marsden

 First on my list is Kate Marsden.  A nurse and missionary, Kate journeyed from England to north eastern Siberia in the late 19th century.  Born in London, she served as a nurse in Bulgaria during the Russian-Turkish War where she experienced the horrors of leprosy.  After returning to England, and reading about the plight of lepers in India, Kate decided to set up a charity to help those afflicted with the disease.  She sought the patronage of Queen Victoria and Princess Alexandra, and then that of Empress Maria Feodorovna in St. Petersburg.   Having secured support for her mission, she headed east to investigate the living conditions and treatments for lepers.  At Constantinople she met a doctor who claimed that a particular curative herb existed in Siberia.  The elusive plant was an alleged secret of the people of Yakutia.  Encouraged by the idea, Kate returned to Russia and secured further support for an expedition to Siberia.  Her plan was to give aid to the lepers of Yakutia and to find the herb to cure leprosy.

 In 1891, armed with letters of endorsement from Queen Victoria, the Empress of Russia, Prince Ivan Golitsyn and the American Embassy in St. Petersburg, Kate Marsden struck out across pre-Revolutionary Russia.  She travelled by train from Moscow to Zlatoust in the Southern Urals and then by sledge and horseback.  Her journey took her through some of the country’s roughest terrain during the height of a bitter Russian winter.  Over the course of her journey she stayed with peasants, was guarded by soldiers, faced near death in her tarantass (a long four-wheeled Russian carriage without springs), risked injury from ‘untamed Siberian steeds’ that took fright when they sensed a bear, walked for miles, distributed sugar and tea to prisoners and, ultimately, met with lepers.

 On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers is the story of Kate Marsden’s extraordinary journey.  In her own words, and dedicated to Queen Victoria, it records for posterity one woman’s amazing efforts to aid the sick and vulnerable in the most inhospitable conditions. Even today, Yakutia is a place of extremes; in winter, temperatures dip to -72˚F, and soar to 98˚F in summer.

 Having gained the attention of the medical community and officials in Russia, her endeavours created the impetus needed to set up a colony near Vilyunst and helped to publicise the plight of leprosy.  Returning from her journey, she lectured in England and America and continued to raise funds.  Kate Marsden was awarded for her efforts by Empress Feodorovna of Russia and in 1892 she became one of the first women elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Geographical Society.  She was truly a remarkable woman!


 Our poetry anthology is now open to submissions.  We are looking for captivating and insightful poetry that reflects all things maiden, mother and crone.  Journey to Crone aims to celebrate women, female wisdom, and all stages of womanhood.  Submissions will be taken throughout the year until either the anthology is full, or late autumn.  The book will launch on 8th March 2013.

 Check out our submission and guideline pages for full details.

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