She was born in 1937 and educated at Presidency College, Kolkata which was then affiliated with the University of Calcutta, Somerville College, Oxford, and New Hall, Cambridge. The larger part of her working life was spent at Jadavpur University, where she was a professor of English. She is married to the economist, Amiya Kumar Bagchi.
In 1988 she became the Founder-Director of the School of Women's Studies at Jadavpur University, in which capacity she led the activities of the centre until her retirement in 1997. She is also one of the founder members of the feminist organisation Sachetana in Kolkata.
She initiated and spearheaded the pioneering Bengali Women Writers Reprint Series edited by the School of Women's Studies, Jadavpur University, which continues to bring out new editions of writers such as Jyotirmoyee Devi. She was also Chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Women until April 2008.
- Literature, Society, and Ideology in the Victorian Era (edited volume), (1992)
- Indian Women: Myth and Reality (edited volume), (1995)
- Loved and Unloved: The Girl Child in the Family (with Jaba Guha and Piyali Sengupta)(1997)
- Gem-like Flame: Walter Pater and the 19th Century Paradigm of Modernity (1997)
- Thinking Social Science in India: Essays in Honour of Alice Thorner (co-edited with Krishna Raj and Sujata Patel)(2002)
- The Trauma and the Triumph: Gender and Partition in Eastern India (co-edited with Subhoranjan Dasgupta) (2003)
- The Changing Status of Women in West Bengal 1970-2000: The Challenges Ahead (edited volume), (2005)
- Freedom in an Idiom of Loss
- "Partition Through A Woman's Eye", article about Bagchi's academic work on gender and partition in eastern India. 
- "Gender Justice", Bagchi on gender perspectives in law reform, ADB Review, 2005 
- "The Woman Shaped by Mother", Article on Bagchi's co-edited volume on Indian women's personal narratives 
- "The Devi Cult and the Girl Child". Article on the girl child drawing on Bagchi's co-edited volume on the girl child in Bengal