"Has been a lifesaver so many times!"
- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
"Exactly the help I needed."
- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
"The best place for brainstorming ideas."
- Michael Majchrowicz, student @ University of Kentucky
Josephine Butler, the daughter of John and Hannah Grey, was born in 1828. Her father was a strong advocate of social reform, and played a significant role in the campaign for the 1832 reform act. Josephine grew up to share her father’s religious and moral principles and his strong dislike of inequality and injustice.
In 1852, Josephine married George Butler. George had similar views to that of Josephine. In there first five years of marriage they had four children. In 1863, Eva, Josephine’s only daughter, fell to her death in front of her. Josephine was devastated by the death of her six-year-old daughter and was never fully able to recover from this family tragedy. In an attempt to cope with her grief, Josephine became involved in charity work. This involved Josephine visiting the local workhouses and rescuing young prostitutes from the streets.
Josephine Butler lived at a time when women had few rights or opportunites. In the 19th century society, women certianly did not have the right to vote, most were not educated and they were often exploited in many different ways. Josephine took on the fight against all these types of injustice, especially on behalf of those who were most vulnerable such as young girls who had to sell themselves to live. It was this together with campaigns to reform the way in which prostitutes were treated by officals, that made her so unpopular with many established figures. But it is also what made her a godsend to hundreds of thousands of oppressed women.
In 1869 Josephine Butler began her campaign against the contagious disease act. These acts (as heather pointed out) had been introduced in the 1860’s in an attempt to reduce venereal disease in the armed forces. Butler objected in principal to laws that only applied to women. She stated “these acts are used by the country as a tyranny of the upper classes against the lower classes, as an injustice practiced by men on women, and as an insult to the moral sense of the people.buter had considerable sympathy for the plight of prostitutes who she believed had been forced into this work by low earnings and unemployment. Mrs. Butler came to see prostitution as being the result of a social structure in which there were gentlemen who had the means to purchase what they wished, and women who had nothing but there bodies to sell. As the years went by, the word “gentleman” became, to Josephine, a private term of abuse.
Josephine toured the country making speeches criticizing the contagious diseases acts. She was an outstanding speaker, an attracted large audiences to hear her explain why these laws needed to be repealed. Many people were shocked by the idea of a woman speaking in public about sexual matters. Josephine’s husband was severely criticized for allowing his wife to become involved in the campaign, but he continued to support her.
Josephine also became involved in a campaign against child prostitution. In 1855, Mrs. Butler joined together with Florence Booth
of the Salvation Army and W.H. Stead the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, to expose what had become known as the White Slave Traffic. The group used the case of Eliza Armstrong, a 13-year-old daughter of a chimney sweep, who was bought for 5 pounds by a woman working for a London Brothel. As a result of the publicity that the Eliza Armstrong case generated, parliament passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act that raised the age of consent from 13 to 16 years old.
After the Contagious Diseases Act was repealed in 1886, Josephine spent most of her time writing, and she died in 1906.
View Full Essay