Skip to main content

Josephine Butler

1828 – 1906

Josephine Butler was a pioneer of feminism. Born in Northumberland to an aristocratic family, she grew up among social reformers and went on to fight sexist double standards. She fought for years for women and girls to have equal opportunities in education. Josephine also fought against the trafficking of vulnerable women.

Her views made her unpopular with more traditional people in Britain at that time. When she spoke out in public meetings, she was often heckled. On several occasions, her critics threw stones at her, and tried to set fire to the buildings where she was speaking.

In 1863, Josephine’s six-year-old daughter had fallen to her death in front of her. This tragic event is what fired Josephine to be so brave and outspoken. Josephine said losing her daughter made her want to spend her whole life helping people ‘even more wretched’ than herself.

Ways to get involved

Creative Writing exercises

Try out some creative writing exercises, inspired by Josephine Butler

View workshops

Explore the secret archive

The archive includes fascinating images from Josephine’s lifetime

View archive
Back to top