Feast of Josephine Butler (May 30)   1 comment

Above:  One of Josephine Butler’s Political Handbills

Image in the Public Domain

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JOSEPHINE ELIZABETH GREY BUTLER (APRIL 13, 1828-DECEMBER 30, 1906)

English Feminist and Social Reformer

The feast day for Josephine Butler–suffragette, advocate for educational equality for males and females, and activist against human trafficking–in The Church of England is May 30.

Josephine Elizabeth Grey came from a politically active family.  Her mother, Hannah Annett Butler, descended from Huguenots, an oppressed population.  Our saint’s father, John Grey, was an antislavery activist.  His cousin, Charles Grey, the Second Earl Grey, was the leader of the Whig Party and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1830 to 1834 whose government abolished slavery in the British Empire.  Our saint, born on April 13, 1828, married George Butler, an academic and later the Canon of Winchester, in 1852.  The couple had four children.

Josephine became politically and socially involved after the death of her six-year-old daughter in 1863.  Our saint channeled her grief into social reform–initially regarding women’s suffrage and the fight against child prostitution.  She was partially responsible for Parliament increasing the age of consent from 13 to 16 years.  After the Butlers moved to Liverpool in 1866 Josephine began her work related to the rehabilitation of prostitutes.  The Contagious Diseases Acts (1864, 1866, and 1869) allowed for the arrest of women suspected of being prostitutes at naval stations and in garrison towns.  Those laws also mandated the medical examination of these suspects and, upon diagnosis of venereal disease, their hospitalization.  Our saint created a scandal by speaking and writing openly about this “unladylike” topic in Victorian England.  She argued that the Contagious Disease Acts were not only ineffective as public health measures but also in violation of the constitutional rights of suspects.  Parliament suspended the laws in 1883 and 1886.  Josephine also lobbied European governments no longer to license brothels, frequently hubs of human trafficking, including the sale of children, and founded the International Abolitionist Federation (in 1877) to combat human trafficking.  Supporters of her international anti-human trafficking crusade included William Lloyd Garrison and Victor Hugo.

Our saint also advocated for the educational equality of males and females.  Her lobbying of the administration of Cambridge University led to the founding of Newnham College for women in 1871.  Butler also served as the President of the North of England Council for the Higher Education of Women, starting in 1867,

Our saint, aged 78 years, died on December 30, 1906, at Wooler, Northumberland, England.  She had not lived long enough to see women gain the right to vote, but she had left the world better than she had found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; FATHER OF MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOWER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Josephine Butler, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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One response to “Feast of Josephine Butler (May 30)

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  1. Pingback: Feast of Horatius Bonar (July 31) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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