Sunday, May 6, 2007

Women of Grace and Courage-Josephine Butler

In the times we live in we often find it difficult to believe that nearly two hundred years ago women had no power, no rights and no security. And this situation was seen as right and proper by most in society.

Josephine Butlers crusade for women's rights began with a tragedy, when her beloved daugher Eva fell to her death in front of her horrified eyes. Eva was only 6 years old and as to be expected Josephine and her husband George would never recover from this tragedy.

Rather than take the role of morbid grief, which was the norm in Victorian times, Josephine instead looked outside of her grief and reached out to those in most need. She didnt have to look far, to see the misery of lives blunted by despair. Rather than take the usual 'do gooder' role, Josephine stepped away from convention and opened her own home to these poor, destitute and often dying women.

Coming from a political family Josephine did more than simply help these desperate women she also changed the law when the law was in total contradiction of her Christian principles. Even though the Victorians were known for their sexual repression Josephine was not so hypocritical to allow the blame of sexual folly to fall solely on the woman. So when the 'Contagious Diseases Act' was put into practice this aroused Josephine's fine sense of justice and she became one of only a few women to speak honestly and openly about the biggest taboo!

The law was so unfair that any man anywhere could accuse a woman of immoral behaviour and the accused woman, no matter if she were innocent would then have to undergo a 'virginity test' with the outcome that the woman's reputation was ruined. Josephine travelled all over England to speak out against this injustice with the outcome that this particular law was repealed in 1886.

Josephine Butler with the full support of her husband went on to challenge the growing white slave trade as well as continuing to train women who had once been prostitutes so that they too could contribute to society in a postive way.

Josephine Butler did more than just wring her hands at life's injustices, she was the voice of the shamed...and at times she was their only voice.