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Josephine Elizabeth Butler

1828-1907. Social reformer. She was first concerned with the promotion of educational facilities for women, but after 1866, first in Liverpool and thereafter in other places, notably Winchester, she supported refuges for all kinds of destitute women. Her life soon centered on an attempt to remove all forms of sexual exploitation of women. In general she objected to the hypocrisy of different standards of sexual morality for men and women, and led two major campaigns for reform. The first was for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts of the 1860s which, in attempts to control disease, virtually provided a form of officially recognized prostitution in seaports and garrison towns and subjected many women to ignominious harassment. She formed the Ladies National Association for Appeal in 1869, and while she could not easily be described as an evangelical, her technique of parliamentary and extraparliamentary opposition owed much to the example of some of the earlier evangelical social reformers. Repeal was achieved in the 1880s. Her other great campaign was to promote legislation to raise the age of consent and to stamp out organized prostitution, especially the procurement of young girls. Her campaign received somewhat flamboyant support from W.T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, and Bramwell Booth. In 1885 a famous procurement was carried out and publicized by Stead. Legislation, including the raising of the age of consent to sixteen, which had long been filibustered, was quickly passed. Criminal prosecutions of Stead and Booth followed, and Stead was imprisoned.

See biography by M.G. Fawcett and E.M. Turner (1927).