Bessie Rayner Parkes (later Belloc, 1829–1925) was a central figure in British women’s rights activism during the 1850s and 1860s. She was founding editor of the feminist English Woman’s Journal and one of the organisers of the pioneering 1866 petition for women’s suffrage. She lived long enough to witness some women gaining the vote in 1918, by which time her children, Marie Belloc Lowndes and Hilaire Belloc, were themselves public figures who had taken up opposing positions on women’s suffrage. This article takes as its starting point 1866, a pivotal moment in nineteenth-century agitation for women’s suffrage and in Parkes Belloc’s individual biography, before moving to a longer view of her feminist life before and after this date. It demonstrates the value of a biographical approach to exploring the diversity of perspectives and experiences of women within first-wave feminism and the suffrage movement.