About KM

Kate Marsden was a Victorian nurse who, in 1891, trekked thousands of miles across Russia to help Siberian leprosy sufferers.

On her return, she became one of the first women to be elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and for a while was feted for her adventures and able to raise significant funds to aid the plight of the lepers.

But people took against her; the veracity of her journey was called into disrepute, as well as her management of the funds she was raising, and as a result of a smear campaign led by American translator Isabel Hapgood, KM was unable to ever really restore her reputation or succeed at any other philanthropic projects she initiated. She died in 1931 and was buried in an unmarked grave.

I have been interested in KM, as my namesake (though we are not related), since the 1980’s, after being given a copy of her travel account On Sledge and Horseback to Outcast Siberian Lepers. I’ve travelled to Siberia twice, read hundreds of newspaper articles, and transcribed over 250,000 words from letters written at the time. My aim is, eventually, to write a book that successfully conveys the triumphs and tragedies of KM’s extraordinary life. You can read more about my research here (including why most of the content on this blog is currently inaccessible).

One of the unexpected joys from this process has been meeting and connecting other people interested in KM. If you’re one of these (whether an academic, explorer or just someone curious), do get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.

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Kate Marsden (the 21st century one)
September 2019

“Highly Commended” Bradt Travel Guides New Travel Writer of the Year (2016, 2020)

PS: In April 2014, I ran the London Marathon for the charity Lepra, in recognition of the work Kate Marsden (the first) did over 100 years ago. You can read more about Lepra’s continued fight against leprosy, and donate, here.

13 comments

  1. Jacki Hill-Murphy

    Hello! It is lovely to see your website. I leave on 21st July to recreate Kate Marsden’s journey across Siberia and then I will be returning in winter to deliver the ‘Kate Marsden Ambulance’ to the hospital in Vilyuisk. It has been a massive undertaking. http://www.pinkgingerfilms.com
    Do stay in touch and perhaps you would like to link this site to my journey where you can follow progress and be there to wave us off in London. Jacki

    • Kate

      Hi Jacki! That’s such exciting news and thanks so much for getting in touch, will be really interested to hear how you get on. VKM’s blog has been a bit neglected since I originally set the framework up, but was planning to refocus on it this year – shall now do so with renewed vigour. Good luck and god speed!

      • Jacki Hill-Murphy

        Is your name actually Kate Marsden? I was hoping to reach out to anyone with this name and get them involved. can you come to the departure in London or Bristol and do you know any more Kate Marsdens? J

    • Kate

      Hi Jarm, lovely to hear from you. Yes, I am stilllllll working on her story as well as juggling lots of other stuff, so not quite sure when (but not if) it’ll ever come to fruition. Keep in touch! Kate.

  2. Tony Mitchell

    Hello Kate. I am Vice Chairman of Uxbridge Local History Society, and until last week I had never heard of your namesake or her exploits. I attended a ‘Monument Consecration’ on 3rd September at her grave in Uxbridge & Hillingdon Cemetery. It now has a new and expensive headstone. The ceremony was attended by the Bishop and a colleague from the Russian Orthodox Church in London, the Vicar of All Saints Church in North Hillingdon, The Parish Priest from the Catholic Church in Uxbridge, the First Secretary of the Russian Embassy, representatives from various interested guilds and societies, a Siberian TV crew, and a few people from the town in Siberia. The new headstone was paid for by the Vilyuisk Ulus, Sakha Republic, Yakutia. I took several photos which I could send to you if you let me know your email. Regards, Tony Mitchell

  3. Noreen Kirchhoff

    I have been giving history talks on the Columbian Expo of 1893. In researching the possible effects the Fair had for women, I ran across Kate Marsden, and have been caught up in her life ever since. I am a history major, taught middle school for 30 years, and started doing history talks when I retired. Would love to know how your book is coming along. Isabel Hopgood is a villain I cannot figure. That is why I would be interested in your take in your book.

    • Kate

      Hi Noreen! Thanks so much for getting in touch. You’re right, IFH is a really interesting character, and her motivations for taking on KM are deep. I’ll drop you an email… K.

  4. Heather

    I host a podcat, Women of HERstory: A Podcast, and I am writing an episode about Kate right now! Your site has been an amazing source of information!

  5. Brianna

    Hi Kate! I am an assistant researcher on the Emily Harris in NZ and Australia project and Kate Marsden makes an appearance in Emily’s diaries while she’s in Nelson and we’ve found some photos of Kate Marsden from around that time! Would love to hear from you!

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