Josephine Butler to her mother in law, Mrs George Butler

Scope and Content

Photocopy of letter. Written from Newcastle. Has heard through her husband that she was unwell [see letter of Rev. George to JB a few days before the date of this letter] and hopes she will soon be restored. She is returning to Leeds the next day to pick up Charles [youngest son] and return home. Says she has been 'about on a sort of preaching tour on behalf of a question of social importance of a rather sad and painful kind' [see note]

Her brother Charles from Dilston has just been down from Dilston to see her [see note]. She finds the opening of a New Year a solemn time; she looks forward this year more than she ever did 'to the great jubilant year of Christ's coming.'

Administrative / Biographical History

'I have been about on a sort of preaching tour ...' - This indirect method of approach to her work, begun in the above quotation and expanded in guarded terms in the rest of the paragraph, was only to be expected at a time when even mention of sex (let alone a discussion of it) was banished from ordinary mixed or feminine society

'I speak mostly in the Quaker meeting houses' - Opposition to the CD Acts of the 1860s began amongst individuals such as the Rev Dr Hooppell, the Principal of a Nautical College at South Shields, and one or two doctors who protested that the Acts were useless from a practical point of view. As a body, the Society of Friends supported the Abolitionists against the Regulationists. When JB was called upon by Miss Wolstenholme to take a lead in the campaign for Abolition of the Acts (they knew each other well by having worked together in the education for women programme which culminated with the founding in 1869 of the North of England Council for the Higher Education of Women) she therefore did not refuse. The Society of Friends and then most of the Nonconformist bodies were JB's biggest supporters especially in the Midlands and the North

'Charlie' - This was JB's youngest son; his health was a constant worry to his mother

'The sisters' - The three unmarried daughters of Mrs Sarah Maria Butler (mother of Rev George) were Emily, Gertrude and Ellen. In 1876 they lived with their mother who had been a widow since 1853

'My dear brother Charles came down from Dilston to see me to-day' - Charles Grey succeeded to the management of the Greenwich estates in Northumberland at the retirement of his father John Grey in 1863. The old man retired to live at Lipwood House not far off and Charles occupied the family house at Dilston. See also note on Dilston in letter Jan or Feb 1854

Biog: Charles Butler (son); Charles Grey (brother); Arthur Butler (brother in law); Mrs Butler (Sarah Maria) mother of her husband The Rev George