Mrs Isabella Lucy Bishop (née Bird), FRGS (1831-1904), was a remarkable traveller, writer, photographer, horsewoman and natural historian. In 1892, she became the first woman inducted into the Royal Geographical Society and she was elected to membership of the Royal Photographic Society in 1897. Travelling in China in 1897, she visited the China Inland Mission centre at Paoning-fu (Langzhong) and met Dr W.W. Cassels (later Bishop of Western China). Afterwards she sent him a cheque for £100 towards founding the Isabella Bird Hospital, pictured below.
Among other travel books, Bird is the author of ‘The Yangtze Valley and Beyond’ (1899) and ‘Chinese Pictures: Notes On Photographs Made in China’ (1900), both containing many of her photographs – some of these can be viewed on the Royal Geographical Society Picture Library site. More of her photographs and papers are held at the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh – a city she made her home when not on the road. Isabella Bird was fascinated by China and, when she died in Edinburgh, aged 72, her bags were packed for a return trip.
Interest in Isabella Bird was revived when some of her travel books were republished by Virago Press in the 1980s. She is the subject of the BBC radio programme Great Lives – Meg Rosoff on Isabella Bird.