Kate Marsden

Kate Marsden was a Victorian nurse who trekked thousands of miles across Russia to visit its leprosy colonies.

On her return, in 1892, 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 people with leprosy.

When she returned she wrote a book about her journey, On Sledge and Horseback, and describes in great detail the fear and ‘terror of the awful disease’ she found in the depths of Russia in the late 19th century.

Here are some extracts from her book:

The poor lepers are so looked down upon as the very dregs of the community, that, even those wishing to befriend them, have fallen into the way of thinking that the worst is good enough for them.

They live like animals, and with animals, for even the cows dwell in the same hovel.

In this place the lepers eat, cook, sleep, live and die. If one of them dies the body is kept in the hovel for three days.

My catalogue of leper miseries as seen with my own eyes, must now come to an end, lest I weary the reader with scenes in which in most of their dreadful aspects, greatly resemble each other.

Now over 100 years later, a different Kate Marsden from Cookham is following in the footsteps of her namesake. She wants to make a difference for people affected by leprosy.

She has already travelled the Trans-Siberian route in honour of her heroine, and is now running the London Marathon for Lepra in 2014.

Read about both Kate Marsdens on their dedicated blog victoriankatemarsden.wordpress.com and you can visit the more recent Kate Marsden's fundraising page.