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☾ Josephine Butler

Hello! We are back with another rendition for Women Empowerment week! We hope you’re loving learning about all of the amazing women in history and the bravery, courage, selflessness and persistence they demonstrated in fighting against cultural and societal limitations to make the modern day, especially for us women, what it is today! Living in the 21st century is something I feel we as women can often take for granted, don’t get me wrong, its not perfect; however, so many of these incredible women fought for the rights we have today, facing imprisonment and struggling for many years going unheard, for their future generations.

So next up is Josephine Butler! Once described as “the most distinguished Englishwoman of the 19th century”. She played a pivotal role in British history representing women and children, particularly the protection of children and fighting for women’s rights becoming Britain’s first anti-prostitution campaigner! She was born in 1828 in Northumberland, her father was a strong figure in politics advocating for social reform and campaigning against the Slave Trade.

She campaigned heavily against Child Prostitution and contributed to forcing the hand of parliament to raise the age of consent from 13 to 16, which was instrumental in protecting young girls from sexual abuse and expose the scandal of children being trafficked between Belgium and Britain and the trade in underage girls in London.

She also took a great interest in women’s education, her main movement was the steps she took to force the authorities at Cambridge University into providing further education courses for women. Her work succeeded and lead to the foundation of the all-women college at Newnham. She was later appointed president to the North of England Council for the Higher Education of Women in 1867.

Continuing along the women’s rights, path, Josephine was the leader of one of the first national women’s political campaign, representing women who were “despised by polite society” also considered “fallen women”. She took in prostitutes and cared for them in her own home with the support of her husband who shared very similar political views. She began fundraising enough money to open her own “house of rest” to support the reforming of these women and their children. This lead to the knowledge of the “Contagious Diseases Act” which enabled police to arrest and forcibly examine them internally with the aim of identifying and preventing the spreading of Sexually Transmitted Diseases and therefore, detaining the infected women where they would spend 3 months in a secure hospital. There were instances of women being detained, who were not prostitutes and being forced into the sex trade. It was decided that men would be inspected as they would resist.

Butler immediately began a campaign against this Act calling it “Steel Rape” and began the fight for women and the rights to their bodies. After 15 years of fighting her first fight, the Acts were suspended in 1884.

Josephine also fought a European campaign against state regulation of prostitution, enforced by ‘morals police’ (from 1874 until her death in 1906).

She fought a Belgian trafficking campaign, which resulted in the trial and imprisonment of brothel-owners and traffickers (1879-80).

She had a major role in William Stead’s campaign against child prostitution in London, ‘The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon’(1885).

She led a campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts in India (from 1887 until her death).

She exposed the trafficking of women to Europe and stood up to cruel and coldly calculating authority figures such as the Superintendent of the Morals Police in Paris.

So, it is fair to say, that Josephine Butler was selected as an inspirational woman from history however her full story, including her tireless campaign work for the rights of women, deserves to be even more widely known. She too also, was a religious woman and believed that “everyone is equal under God” – religious or not, we can relate to that. She faced so much battle in her campaigns, physically and in society, one MP called her “worse than the common prostitute” but this did not deter her, she did not care what they thought, she knew her mission.

Josephine is an unsung hero, carrying out a lot of her work around a similar time to the Women’s Suffragette movement, but being a mother herself, she is an absolute inspirational queen, dedicating her life to protecting women and children, changing laws and doing pivotal work to improve the future that we now live in today!

I hope you have enjoyed reading and are feeling proud to learn about this heroic woman!

Love & Light

☾ The Spiritual Mamas x

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