Josephine Elizabeth Butler was an English feminist and social reformer in the Victorian era. She campaigned for women’s suffrage, the right of women to better education, the end of coverture in British law, the abolition of child prostitution, and an end to human trafficking of young women and children into European prostitution. Butler’s Christian feminism is celebrated by the Church of England with a Lesser Festival.
About Josephine Butler in brief
Josephine Elizabeth Butler was an English feminist and social reformer in the Victorian era. She campaigned for women’s suffrage, the right of women to better education, the end of coverture in British law, the abolition of child prostitution, and an end to human trafficking of young women and children into European prostitution. Butler’s Christian feminism is celebrated by the Church of England with a Lesser Festival, and by representations of her in stained glass windows of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral and St Olave’s Church in the City of London. Her final campaign was in the late-1890s, against the Contagious Diseases Acts which continued to be implemented in the British Raj. Her name appears on the Reformers Memorial in Kensal Green Cemetery, London, and Durham University named one of their colleges after her. After her death in 1906 the feminist leader Millicent Fawcett hailed her as \”the most distinguished Englishwoman of the nineteenth century\”. Josephine Grey was born on 13 April 1828 at Milfield, Northumberland. She was the fourth daughter and seventh child of Hannah and John Grey, a land agent and agricultural expert, who was a cousin of the reformist British Prime Minister, Lord Grey. She married George Butler, an Anglican divine and schoolmaster, and the couple had four children, the last of whom, Eva, died falling from a banister. At about 17 she went through a religious crisis, which probably stemmed from an incident in which she discovered the body of a body of her riding out while out riding. She became disenchanted with the church and remained critical of any single strand of Christianity, and later wrote that she did not even touch the fringe of her soul’s deep discontent.
In 1869 she became involved in the campaign to repeal the ContAGious Diseases Act, legislation that attempted to control the spread of venereal diseases through the forced medical examination of prostitutes. While investigating the effect of the Acts, Butler had been appalled that some of the prostitutes were as young as 12, and that there was a slave trade of youngWomen and children from England to the continent for the purpose of prostitution. She wrote more than 90 books and pamphlets over the course of her career, most of which were in support of her campaigning, although she also produced biographies of her father, her husband and Catherine of Siena. Butler fought child prostitution with help from the campaigning editor of The Pall Mall Gazette, William Thomas Stead, who purchased a 13-year-old girl from her mother for £5. The subsequent outcry led to the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 which raised the age of consent from 13 to 16 and brought in measures to stop children becoming prostitutes. She also formed the International Abolitionist Federation, a Europe-wide organisation to combat similar systems on the continent. In 1833 John was appointed manager of the Greenwich Hospital Estates in Dilston, near Corbridge, Northumbersland, where the family moved to the area, where John acted as Lord Grey’s chief political agent. In this role John promoted his cousin’s political opinions locally, including support for Catholic emancipation, the abolish of slavery, the repeal of the Corn Laws and reform of the poor laws.