Blanche Edith Baughan was born on 16 January 1870 at Putney, Surrey, England. She was the youngest of six children of Ruth Catterns and her husband, John Baughan, a scrivener. Her father died when she was 10 years old.
Baughan was one of the first women to attend Royal Holloway College when it opened to students studying for University of London degrees. She left in 1891 having gained the first first-class honours BA degree in Classics awarded to a member of the college. Soon after graduating Baughan became involved in social work in the slums of Shoreditch and Hoxton, in east London. Much of her spare time between 1893 and 1898 was spent writing the poems that were collected in her first volume, Verses (1898).
In the 1890s Baughan visited Germany, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. On her return, she had the responsibility of nursing her mother, then a psychiatric invalid. (For fear of having inherited this illness, Baughan never married.) She must have had some assistance, for she was able to undertake a position teaching Greek to Adeline, Duchess of Bedford, and to some of her friends. Baughan's brief association with the aristocracy at a time when her memory of the slums was still vivid highlighted the vast gulf between rich and poor in England and set her in the direction of social reform. She had already been actively involved in the suffrage movement since her student days. However, Baughan's main interest at the time was to further her literary career.
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