Archives of the Josephine Butler Society

We recently received a collection of archives from the Josephine Butler Society. Founded by Josephine Butler (1828-1906) herself in 1869, the Society was first known as the Ladies National Association. It was set up to oppose the Contagious Diseases Acts of 1864, 1866 and 1869. These Acts were passed in order to reduce the increasing rates of venereal disease and numbers of prostitutes commonly found within the vicinity of military barracks. Controversially, the 1869 Act forced any women suspected of being a prostitute to be examined and if found to be infected to be quarantined in a ‘Lock Hospital’ for up to three months. The LNA campaigned against such measures which criminalised and disproportionately blamed women. In 1886 the Contagious Diseases Acts were repealed.

The LNA also campaigned against child prostitution and the trafficking of women to brothels in Europe; in 1885 their efforts were rewarded when the Commons passed an Act to increase the age of sexual consent to 16 and introduced measures to suppress brothels and prevent trafficking. In 1915 the LNA amalgamated with the British Branch of the International Abolitionist Federation (IAF) – which was also founded by Josephine Butler – to become the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene (AMSH). The society adopted Josephine Butler’s name in 1962. Today the Society still acts as a pressure group campaigning against the legalisation of prostitution, the trafficking of women and the marginalization of those vulnerable to being forced into this profession. Its values are ‘social justice’ and ‘equality of all citizens before the law’.

Detail showing memorial notices from Josephine Butler Society archives
Detail showing memorial notices from Josephine Butler Society archives

The collection donated to Glasgow Women’s Library includes copies of the Society’s monthly publication, The Shield, reports relating to the Contagious Diseases Acts and the various Commissions set up to investigate and review them, memorial notices relating to Josephine Butler, copies of The Dawn, vigilance records, pamphlets, correspondence, and press cuttings and notes relating to police women within Scotland. The full collection has been listed and is in the process of being catalogued.

If you would like to see any items from this collection please contact the Archivist. [provide contact link] We are very grateful for this donation and for the volunteers who have helped to re-house and sort it.


  • Posted 27th May, 2012 at 3:22 am | Permalink
    Ian Leader-Elliott

    I am currently researching the life of Mrs E M King, who was prominent in the anti CD Act campaign in 1870-71 – frequently published in The Shield. It seems likely that she had a falling out with Josephine Butler. Is there any record in your collection of correspondence between E M King and Butler, or any correspondence at all over E M King’s signature?

  • Posted 28th May, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink
    Laura S

    Hello Ian,

    Thank you for your enquiry. I have checked our records but I cannot find any reference to correspondence between Josephine Butler and E M King. The papers of Josephine Butler are held by the University of Liverpool Special Collections and Archive. It is possible they might contain information relating to your enquiry. I will send you an email with their contact information.

    Best wishes,

  • Posted 9th February, 2014 at 4:15 am | Permalink


    I am researching the repel of the Contagious Disease Act campaign and looking for pamphlets by Josephine Butler that outline some of her speeches.

    I don’t know if you can help but if you can then it would be greatly appreciated!


    • Posted 11th February, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Hi there – I’ve passed your enquiry on to the Collections team, and they should get back to you soon.

  • Posted 26th January, 2017 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I’m currently researching on the work of the LNA in the British colonies from 1890-1905. I wondered if there features much in The Shield archives on this topic, as I’m aware the LNA undertook major campaigning for the repeal of the C.D. Acts still in force in India, and sought to prevent their introduction in the newly self-governing colonies (Australia, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand).

    Best wishes,

    • Posted 26th January, 2017 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Hello – I’ve forwarded your enquiry on to our collections team, and they’ll be in touch presently with any information we can provide.

  • Posted 21st October, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Permalink
    Trev Broughton

    Is there a digitized version of The Shield? hope you can help

    • Posted 22nd October, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Hello – unfortunately not a lot of our collection is digitised at the moment, however, I’ve passed your enquiry on to the collections team.

  • Posted 15th May, 2020 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
    Hannah Mahony

    Hello I am currently researching Josephine Butler’s efforts in repealing the Contagious Diseases Act for my MA and was wondering if you had any digitised copies of her leaflets or letters?
    Many thanks!

    • Posted 15th May, 2020 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Hello – we, unfortunately, don’t have a lot of the collection digitised, but I will pass your enquiry on to the collections team to double check.

  • Posted 8th June, 2021 at 2:03 pm | Permalink
    Nea Ristimäki


    I am writing my thesis about the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, and am trying to get access to some of Josephine Butler’s pamflets. Is any of her pamflets digitized? How could I get acces to Butler sources?

    Kind regards,

    • Posted 10th June, 2021 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Hi Nea! The best thing to do is send an email to with the details of what you want to access, and we can pass this to our collections team.

  • Posted 13th September, 2021 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
    Susan Wray

    I am in Durham for the first time. I did not know there was a Josephine Butler College. I live in Great Malvern and years ago had a friend (Hestia Evers) who lived down the road. She was related to Josephine Butler and told me about her and how her daughter died so young. Hestia had a most beautiful plaster cameo of Josephine Butler above her fireplace. Hestia was brought up in a castle in Scotland. She was married to Elliot Evers. I am interested to know there is a Josephine Butler Society.

    • Posted 21st September, 2021 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Thanks for getting in touch – what a great connection to hear about!

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  • […] conducting research for my masters in gender history at the University of Edinburgh. They hold the collection of the Josephine Butler Society, who was a prominent feminist of the mid to late nineteenth century. It was an absolute windfall […]

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