Melissa Hardie-Budden

Melissa Hardie-Budden ( - )
Maiden name
Married name

Works in our collections

Short biography

An author, cultural historian, bibliophile, and antiquarian, Melissa Hardie-Budden was the founder and director of the Hypatia Trust.

Full biography

Speak louder. Be brave. To be too quiet is evidence of disinterest

Melissa Hardie

Born in Houston, Texas, Hardie-Budden was the daughter of James Edward Witcher and Vera Henrietta Wagner. Her academic qualifications were AB (Boston); SRN (St Thomas’ Hospital, London), PhD (Edinburgh).

A main lineage from her paternal grandmother (Christiana Melissa Cole) was Cornish, attaching as kinsmen the families of St Aubyn, Bodrugan, Arundell, Vyvyan, and others still extant today. Her latter years as a writer were considerably enlightened by an intense study of family history and related subjects. Married to Dr Philip Budden, a retired dental surgeon, they had an aggregated family of five daughters.

Her dedication to humanistic research and her bibliophilic impulses combined in several of her long-term endeavours. She ran Deborah Books on Richmond Hill, London, a bookshop dedicated to women writers, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Following her move to Cornwall in 1984, she established her initial library project, The Jamieson Library of Women's History, in 1986 at Newmill, Penzance. Throughout this time, she published books as The Patten Press, which would go on to become Hypatia Publications, the publishing arm of the Trust. In her lifetime, over 50 books were published across the two imprints.

Hardie-Budden founded The Hypatia Trust in 1996, to oversee the permanent loan of a major collection of women’s literature (some 10,000 volumes) to the University of Exeter. Over the years, she developed the Trust into an international documentary and educational organisation dedicated to making visible – through research, publication and exhibition –women's achievements in Cornwall and beyond. 

Her work as director of The Hypatia Trust continued to involve the collection, curation, and distribution of various collections of books and archive material to universities across the world. Along with the initial loan to the University of Exeter, various collections from The Hypatia Trust are now held at the University of Bonn, the Autonoma University in Barcelona, and the University of Exeter at Falmouth. Further donations have been made to the special collections of the Universities of Leeds and York, the Glasgow School of Art Library, the Newlyn School of Art, and the Newlyn Archive Centre, Cornwall. The Elizabeth Treffry Collection on Women in Cornwall - the only collection of its kind and on which this website is based - found a permanent home at the Morrab Library, Penzance in 2018.

Although the focuses of own research and writing ranged broadly, she remained committed to the rich cultural and social histories of Cornwall and to the hidden histories of women. Hardie-Budden performed the extensive biographical and bibliographic research needed to initiate this website over several years. Her hope in this work was to create a Bibliotheca Cornubiensis Femina in the 21st century, a sequel to Boase and Courtney's 19th century endeavour, listing and recognising all known publications by women of Cornwall, historical and contemporary. 

In her books and articles, she wrote extensively on Thomas Hardy, the cultural history of Newlyn and its art gallery, and botany in nineteenth-century Cornwall, as well as on the Cornish heritage of the Brontë sisters, the Land Army in Cornwall, and Elizabeth Armstrong Forbes. She also contributed profiles on Elizabeth Armstrong Forbes, Emily Stackhouse, Violetta Thurstan to the New Dictionary of National Biography. A full bibliography is available from the Hypatia Trust on request.

Hardie remained as the director of the Trust for 25 years, until her death in 2022. She was recognised for her work as an Honorary Fellow of the English department of the University of Exeter in Cornwall and received an MBE for her services. Her legacy lives on in the Hypatia Trust's continued work as well as through the Gardener's House Project, which will continue to transform education, community, and research in the place she called home.

Photograph of Melissa Hardie
Image caption
Melissa Hardie
Date of birth
20 April 1939
Place of birth
Houston, Texas
Date of death
05 July 2022
Place of death
Truro, Cornwall
Collection (people)
Person (listed)
Person (listed)
Person (listed)