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Josephine Butler: A guide to her Life, Faith & Social Action

Author: Rod Garner
Published By: Darton, Longman and Todd (London)
Pages: 107
Price: £6.95
ISBN: 978 0 232 52747 6

Reviewed by Ursula Franklin.

Josephine Butler had a passion against injustice born in her when a child through the influence of her father. In 1852 she married and moved from Glendale, Northumberland to Oxford.  Her daughter Eva died when she fell down the stairs when she was five years old. Josephine was devastated, but she eventually used this grief as identifying with the “‘poor groaning world’ where so many young and innocent lives were cut short’

On moving to Liverpool, she established her own refuge, the ‘Butlers House of Rest’.  She was unusual in that she did not judge or insist on moral reform in return for the help that she gave.  She began to write and campaign for better education for women and for a fair wage. Josephine was elected the President of the North of England Council for the Higher Education of Women, from which she eventually resigned to campaign against legislation that subjected prostitutes to medical procedures that violated their human rights.

The book is written with great enthusiasm and sensitivity, but it feels very parochial.

It depicts Josephine as a woman of faith and action with a strong sense of social justice, and therefore aims to stimulate the reader by developing a similar interest in social justice.  It abounds with quotations from Julian of Norwich and Peter Wilby who wrote in 2008 about the huge gulf between the children of privileged households and the poor. The book is very worthy, but I found it irritatingly Victorian in presentation and somewhat archaic in style.  It might well be interesting to use in a small discussion group.

Ursula Franklin

Pastoral deacon: Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford

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You are reading Issue 48 of Ministry Today, published in March 2010.

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