For years, there have been several records of women who stood on behalf of the vulnerable and whose demands and campaigns for different issues affecting society helped greatly to save the mental health, social lives, and physiological health of a group of people.
These women were highly courageous. They were daring and unrelenting in their struggles for the rights of the group of people they chose to save and protect.
One of these great women, who lived in the 1800s, gave most of their existence to a struggle to ensure that everyone in society is treated right, irrespective of their social status, background, or present predicaments. Is the great woman filled with motherly love? She’s known as Josephine Elizabeth Butler.
Join us as we go back in history to look into the life journey of Josephine Butler in this article.
Who Is Josephine Elizabeth Butler?
Josephine was a feminist and social reformer who campaigned against the suffering and maltreatment of the female gender. She also campaigned and fought for women’s rights to receive quality education. She demanded the abolition of child prostitution and child trafficking in Britain.
Josephine Elizabeth’s Early Life
She was born in April 1828. She was raised in Milfield, Northumberland, into an influential family. Her parents are Hannah Grey and John Grey. Her father was an agricultural expert and also an agent for lands. He was appointed to manage the Greenwich Hospital Estates in Dilston, near Corbridge in Northumberland. It was during this appointment that Josephine’s family moved over to this place.
Her father was also an influential politician. He always entertained various politicians as guests in his home. His children got acquainted with these politicians who often visited. He introduced his children to a lot of them; he also educated them on everything revolving around politics and societal stances.
He treated all his children equally and made them feel comfortable around him. His ideologies towards politics and life had a huge influence on Josephine in particular. Her mother was more connected to religious activities, so she raised her children by the standards of Christianity. In her journey through life, Josephine used the teachings imbibed on her and her siblings by both parents to live a good and successful lifestyle.
Josephine Elizabeth Children
In 1852, she gave birth to her first son, George Grey Butler. After that, her second son came in 1854, and he was called Arthur Stanley. In 1857, she gave birth to her third son, Charles Butler. In 1859, she gave birth to her last child who was named Evangeline. Unfortunately, she lost two of her kids, Arthur and Evangeline, at a young age.
These losses took a toll on her and caused her health to deteriorate. For this reason, the Butler family moved away from Oxford to Clifton.
Ten years later, George Butler was appointed to be the headmaster of Liverpool College. The family relocated yet again to Liverpool.
Josephine Elizabeth Husband
In 1852, Josephine got married to George Butler. George was a scholar and a cleric. He was a Fellow of Exeter College at Oxford. He was also supportive of his wife’s liberal reform movement and campaigns.
Josephine Elizabeth Social Works
When the Butlers finally relocated to Liverpool, where George Butler worked as a headmaster, the couple continued with their social work of providing shelter in their homes for the homeless women and prostitutes who were suffering from terminal diseases.
Over time, they had a large influx of women with needs all over the city, so they decided to establish a hostel to accommodate these women. They used funds from other well-to-do men and women in society to provide for these women in their care. They extended and expanded to reach vulnerable and helpless women in other cities.
In 1869, Josephine started a new campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts of 1866 and 1869, passed into law by the government to reduce general diseases in the armed forces. Police were mandated to arrest women who resided at military towns and seaports who they thought were all sex hawkers and forced them to go for examination for venereal diseases.
Josephine Butler went all over the cities of the country, condemning the acts of the government and campaigning seriously against it. A lot of people were rather surprised at the courage of a woman speaking to the public on matters of sex. People thought Josephine to be an ally to sex vendors. But she never minded about these thoughts the society had about her.
In 1883, her campaign program became a success when the government decided to look into it and suspended the Contagious Diseases Acts. She also ensured that the age for consent to marriage was moved from 13 to 16 years.
In 1875, Josephine assisted in founding the International Abolitionist Federation (IAF), once referred to as the British and Continental Federation for the Abolition of Prostitution. This organization was founded to support the struggle for the abolition of the state regulation of prostitution and a kick against the international trafficking of women. The IAF became active in the European colonies, Americans, and some mandated areas. According to the IAF, the solution to this problem was to empower women by giving them quality education and well-paid jobs and educating them on moral values.
Josephine Elizabeth Butler wrote several newspaper articles and essays for her noble cause. The most famous work she did in 1896, called ‘Personal Reminisces of a Great Crusade,’ appeared on various media platforms and promoted women’s rights, gender equality, and social reform.
She was one woman who took the courage to speak up for vulnerable women, especially sex workers, which was a rare thing to do in her days. She spoke up for women and assisted them to be better humans, which influenced her society.
To this day, Josephine Butler’s work is still very relevant and has been countlessly used as a debate within the feminist community.