Josephine Butler

Josephine Butler

Josephine Elizabeth Butler (13 April 1828–30 December 1906) was a Victorian era English feminist who was especially concerned with the welfare of prostitutes. She led the long campaign for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts from 1869 to 1886.

Family life

Josephine Elizabeth Grey was born in the village of Dulwich, London [4] and was the seventh child of John Grey [1785-1868, b. Millfield, Glendale] and Hannah Eliza Annett [b. 1792, Alnwick, Dilston, d. 15 May 1860] . The couple married in 1815 [5] . John Grey, son of George Grey [d.1793] and Mary Burn, was an internationally respected agricultural expert, and the cousin of the reformist British Prime Minister Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and a slavery abolitionist himself. He played a significant role in Catholic emancipation, and also worked for the Reform Act 1832. In 1833 he was appointed manager of the Dilston Estate [Greenwich Hospital] , near Corbridge, Northumberland, and the family moved there. He lost most of his savings in the fall of 1857, with the failure of the New Castle Bank [6] .

Josephine married George Butler [b. 1819-21, Harrow, Middlesex] , a scholar and cleric, in 1852 and gave birth to four children: George G. [b. 1853, Oxford] ; Arthur Charles [b. 1855, Oxford] ; Charles Augustin Vaughan [1857, Clifton, Gloucestershire] ; Evangeline Mary. [b. 1859--1864] , Cheltenham] [7] . The Butlers had strong radical sympathies, including support for the Union in the American Civil War.

Their only daughter, Evangeline died in 1863 [8] . This led Josephine to seek solace by ministering to people with greater pain than her own. Against her friends' and family's advice, she began visiting Liverpool's Brownlow Hill workhouse which led to her first involvement with prostitutes.


Josephine was, from her 20s on, very active in feminist movements. This was particularly spurred by the accidental death of her six-year-old daughter Eva in 1863 when the Butlers were living in Cheltenham, where George served as vice principal at Cheltenham College. In 1866 George Butler was appointed headmaster of Liverpool College, and the family moved to Liverpool. Josephine now became involved in the campaign for higher education for women, and in 1867 together with Anne Jemima Clough, later principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, she was instrumental in establishing the North of England Council for Promoting the Higher Education of Women. However, she had also been very closely involved with the welfare of prostitutes; as a passionate Christian, she abhorred the sin, but she also regarded the women as being exploited victims of male oppression, and she attacked the double standard of sexual morality. So when a national campaign was begun in 1869 to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts, she was an obvious woman to lead it.

Contagious Diseases Act

The Contagious Diseases Acts had been introduced during the 1860s (1864, 1866, 1869) as a form of state regulation of prostitution, in order to control the spread of venereal diseases, especially in the British Army and Royal Navy. This gave magistrates the power to order a genital examination of prostitutes for symptoms of VD, and detain infected women in a lock hospital for three months to be cured. Refusal to consent to the examination led to imprisonment. An accusation of prostitution by a police officer was sufficient to order an examination; women so accused often lost their livelihoods, and notoriously, one woman committed suicide.

Butler's description of this at a public meeting - she had been known to refer to the procedure as "surgical rape" - caused Hugh Price Hughes, Superintendent of the West London Mission, who was thanking her formally on the platform, to leave the stage in tears [ [ Predicaments of Progressive Methodism] -- Christopher Oldstone lecturing on Hugh Price Hughes] -- something most unusual in those days and commented upon widely at the time.

The various Acts only applied to certain specified areas -- ports and garrison towns -- but in 1869 a campaign had been mooted to extend their operation over the whole of the British Isles. This led to vehement opposition from Christians, feminists and supporters of civil liberty and to the setting up of the Ladies' National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts; soon afterwards the scope of the campaign was broadened to include male supporters. Josephine threw all her energies into the campaign despite vilification and occasional physical assault, and the Acts were finally repealed in 1886.

In 1885 she was drawn into another related campaign led by the campaigning editor of the "Pall Mall Gazette", William Thomas Stead. He had published a series of articles entitled "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon" exposing the extent of child prostitution in London. As a result of this campaign, the age of consent in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was raised from 13 to 16 that same year.

Josephine was also very active in spreading the campaign internationally, and travelled to the French Third Republic and Switzerland where she met with hostility from the authorities, and strong support from feminist groups. As a result of her efforts, international organisations including the International Abolitionist Federation that she was a founder of, were set up to campaign against state regulation of prostitution and the traffic in women and children. Also, in 1897 in British Raj India, new Contagious Diseases Acts were imposed by the British government, and she led a new campaign against this.

Meanwhile George had retired from Liverpool College and been made a Canon of Winchester Cathedral, and he died in 1890. Josephine continued campaigning until the early 1900s, and died in 1906.


Josephine Butler was not only a vehement feminist but a passionate Christian; she once said "God and one woman make a majority". In the Church of England she is celebrated with a Lesser Festival on 30 May. She is also represented in windows in Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, and St Olave's Church in the City of London.

In 2005, the University of Durham honoured her by naming Josephine Butler College for her. This reflects the fact that she was married to a Durham University lecturer, and was a local of the North-East [ [ Durham’s latest College salutes social reformer and women’s campaigner] ] .

Her connections to the UK city of Liverpool are also memorialized. One of the "Faculty of Business and Law" buildings of Liverpool John Moores University is named "Josephine Butler House" [ [ Josephine Butler House] ] . The building can be found opposite the famous Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool city centre.

Her house in Cheltenham, The Priory in London Road, was demolished in the 1970s. However, there remains a blue plaque on the apartment building which now occupies the site.

elected writings

* "The Constitution Violated" (Edmondson and Douglas. 1871)
* "Personal reminiscences of a Great Crusade" (Horace, Marshall and Son, 1896)
* "Une Voix dans le Désert" (1875)

Further reading

* Boyd, Nancy. "Josephine Butler, Octavia Hill, Florence Nightingale: Three Victorian women who changed their world", The MacMillan Press Ltd, 1982
* Caine, Barbrara. "Victorian Feminists". Oxford 1992
* Forster, Margaret. "Significant Sisters", Secker and Warburg, 1984
* Jordan, Jane. "Josephine Butler", John Murray, 2001
* Uglow, Jennifer. "Josephine Butler: from Sympathy to Theory (1828-1906)", in Dale Spender (ed.) "Feminist Theorists: Three centuries of key women thinkers" Pantheon, N.Y. 1983 pp. 146-164 ISBN 0-394-53438-7

ee also

*Millicent Fawcett
*History of feminism


4. Josephine E. Grey, born Kirknewton, Northumberland [1881 Census England & Wales, RG11/3642, Household #101.

5. Birth years for John Grey, Hannah Grey, Charles G. Grey [b. 1824-26] , Josephine Grey, George Butler obtained from the 1851 Census England & Wales [HO/107/2414/344/13.

6. Information on John Grey [Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 22, p. 639. See also: Josephine E. Butler, MEMOIR OF JOHN GREY OF DILSTON (revised 1874); Gent. Mag, 1868, pt 1, pp. 678-79; TIMES 27 Jan 1868:10.

7. Information on George & Josephine's children is from the 1861 Census England & Wales [RG9/1797/16/25.

8. Information on Evangeline Mary Butler, from England & Wales Birth/Death Index. Her name appears in Volume 6a, p. 259, July-Aug-Sept, 1864.

External links

* [ Josephine Butler Memorial Trust]
* [ Works at the Victorian Women Writers Project]
*gutenberg author | id=Josephine_E._Butler| name=Josephine E. Butler
* [ A paper on the life of Josephine Butler]
* [ The Josephine Butler Society Library]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Joséphine Butler — Josephine Butler Pour les articles homonymes, voir Butler. Josephine Elizabeth Butler[1] (1828 1906) est une militante feministe Anglaise.Le combat de Josephine Butler fut un modèle pour tous les mouvements abolitionnistes européens, regroupés en …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Josephine Butler — im Jahr 1851 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Josephine Butler — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Butler. Josephine Elizabeth Butler[1] (1828 1906) est une militante féministe anglaise. Le combat de Josephine Butler fut un modèle pour tous les mouvements abolitionnistes européens, regroupés en 1902 au sein de …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Josephine Butler College — Durham College Infobox Name = Josephine Butler College Motto = Comme je trouve As I find Colours = Named after = Josephine Butler Established = 2006 head name = Principal head = Mr Adrian Simpson Senior Tutor = Dr Jill Tidmarsh JCR Name = JCR… …   Wikipedia

  • Josephine — Joséphine Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Joséphine est un nom propre qui peut désigner : Sommaire 1 Prénom 1.1 Variantes linguistiques …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Josephine — ist ein weiblicher Vorname. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Herkunft und Bedeutung 2 Namenstage 3 Varianten 4 Bekannte Namensträgerinnen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Butler (surname) — Butler is a surname that has been associated with many different places and people. It can be either: * an English occupational name that originally denoted a servant in charge of the wine cellar, from the Norman French word butuiller . It… …   Wikipedia

  • Butler (Familienname) — Butler ist ein Familienname. Bekannte Namensträger Inhaltsverzeichnis A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Butler, Josephine — (1828–1906)    Philanthropist.    Butler was born Josephine Grey in Dilston, England. She married the Revd George Butler at the age of twentyfour. Early in her marriage she began to set up refuges for reformed prostitutes. She came to the notice… …   Who’s Who in Christianity

  • Joséphine — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Joséphine est un nom propre qui peut désigner : Sommaire 1 Prénom et patronyme 1.1 Variantes ling …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”