Josephine Butler was once described as ‘the most distinguished Englishwoman of the nineteenth century’.
She was the leader of a national women’s political campaign in Victorian England, at a time when women did not have the vote. She campaigned on behalf of prostitutes and abused and trafficked women from 1869 until her death in 1906. Against all the odds, she succeeded in repealing a law which allowed prostitutes to be sexually assaulted by police surgeons on a regular basis.
Josephine Butler’s dramatic life story is far more sexually graphic than any Victorian novel. She went into brothels, prisons and the ‘lock’ hospitals where women were examined and treated against their will. She stood up to cruel and coldly calculating authority figures such as the Superintendant of the Morals Police in Paris, the Minister of Justice in Rome and the Public Prosecutor in Brussels. It is also a great love story – the marriage of Josephine and George Butler was blissfully happy and an invaluable source of support to her.
This story is not well-known. It has never been the subject of a film or major TV programme. Patron Saint of Prostitutes tells this story.
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Updated 24 November 2020