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Josephine Butler and the “Ladies Campaign” against the Contagious Diseases Acts

19th September 2018 · 7:00pm - 8:30pm

In person | Virtual event

 Josephine Butler and the “Ladies Campaign” against the Contagious Diseases Acts

This talk by Dr Jane Jordan is third in the series Prostitution, Pimping and Trafficking, curated by Deborah Lavin.

When in 1869 the British Government extended the scope of the 1864 and 1866 Contagious Diseases Acts, which sought to prevent the spread of syphilis in the Army and Navy by forcibly examining women ‘suspected of being common prostitutes’ and incarcerating any found infected, Josephine Butler became the respectable figure-head for the national CD Acts repeal campaign. The wife of the headmaster of Liverpool College, Butler was already active in “prostitute rescue work” and her practical efforts, ministering to dying prostitutes from the Liverpool city slums, informed her wider feminism. Throughout the political campaigns to abolish the CD Acts in Britain and its colonies, to raise the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16, and to stamp out trafficking for the purposes of prostitution, Butler’s position was uncompromising: any state regulation of prostitution enslaved disenfranchised women for the benefit of men, the lawmakers. And all throughout the 16-year campaign against the CD Acts, Butler urged women of all classes to join her in open war against Victorian gendered ideology and the sexual double standard.

Dr Jane Jordan wrote the critically acclaimed biography, Josephine Butler (John Murray, 2001; Continuum, 2007) and co-edited the five-volume anthology of Butler’s writings, Josephine Butler and the Prostitution Campaigns (Routledge, 2003) with Ingrid Sharp. Jane is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Kingston University where she teaches Victorian Literature; she co-founded the Victorian Popular Fiction Association in 2009. Jane’s current research project re-examines Josephine Butler’s collaboration with W.T. Stead whose notorious exposé of the organised trade in child prostitution in the metropolis was published in the Pall Mall Gazette, July 1885.

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