BUTLER, Josephine Elizabeth  [1828-1906]

Josephine Butler is considered by many to be one of the most radical and important social reformers of the nineteenth century. In January 1866 she moved to Liverpool when her husband, George, took up the post of Headmaster of Liverpool College. Three years earlier their 5 year old daughter, Eva, had died when falling from a bannister at their home. The loss had had a terrible debilitating effect on Josephine and on arriving in the city she sought to deflect her grief by helping those in society who she believed were enduring even greater pain than herself. Her endeavours took her into the sprawling corridors of the Liverpool Workhouse on Brownlow Hill and contact with the many impoverished prostitutes numbered amongst its inhabitants. Administering directly to individual's welfare she also became a leading figure in the successful campaign for the abolition of the Contagious Diseases Act. This legislation, aimed at controlling the spread of venereal diseases in the armed forces, allowed for the forcible examination and detention of women suspected of having venereal disease in certain ports and garrison towns. She was a passionate Christian and whilst abhorring what she saw as the sin of prostitution she perceived the women to be the victims of male oppression.

All of the Butler’s Liverpool homes have been demolished, at 280 South Hill Road, 348 Park Road, and 390 Park Road.


The Wikipedia entry for Josephine Butler is very thorough. For a more detailed account the biography by Jane Jordan is excellent Josephine Butler [John Murray 2001]