Josephine Butler to her sister Harriet Meuricoffre

Scope and Content

Incomplete letter [first page or pages missing]. Very unlike Josephine, expressing a mood of deep despair. As an example of how they 'are being beaten', she tells of the great Deputation of 150 MPs to Bruce (Home Secretary) to urge the extension of the Acts and points out the added dangers resulting from Cardwell's new army reforms involving the creation of 66 new military centres [see note]. The tyranny oppressing them is the tyranny of Parliament against which the people have vainly petitioned, protested and even threatened.

Administrative / Biographical History

[Beginning of Jun 1872]

Date of letter: Deputation of 150 Members of Parliament to the Home Sec. (Mr Bruce) 11 May 1872. The withdrawal of Bruce's Bill was 15 Jul. Date of letter between those two dates.

For note on Bruce's Bill see letter of [early Mar 1872] JB to Mrs Wilson

'anxiety about Edgar's fever' ... 'and that Genoa air is giving him a little strength.' - Edgar was the husband of JB's sister Mary Ann (family pet name 'Tully'). He died Oct 1873. Genoa was the home of his niece Edith who was married to a Swiss banker Ludwig Leopold. She kept open house for all her large circle of relations.

'The idea of your going to Switzerland' - The Meuricoffres had a home in Naples and another, La Gardonne, near Geneva, on the edge of the lake. At that date there were 4 surviving children.

'I could show you ... what a forlorn hope we are leading on with our hearts almost breaking.' - For a full exposition of Bruce's Bill see 'A letter on the subject of Mr Bruce's Bill ... by JE Butler 12 Mar 1872' Also 'A few words addressed to true hearted women' signed by JE Butler 18 Mar 1872

'There is a great likelihood of a General Election in the Autumn.'

See note on this subject in circular letter of JB for the various Branch Associations of the LNA May 1872

'Fanny' This was Frances, one of JB's older sisters m. to Rev George Smyttan and at this date a widow.

'150 Members of Parliament went in a great Deputation to the Government and requested that the Acts might be extended.'

'11 May 1872 Deputation of 150 MPs to Home Secretary with memorials from medical men, in support of his Bill.' (Rough Record 189)

In her circular letter for the various Branch Associations of the LNA May 1872 JB points out the advantages to be gained in any future election from studying the list of the names of these members.

'The new Army reforms. 66 new military depot centres have been created.' See note on 'Mr Cardwell's new Army Bill of 1871' in a letter from JB addressed to the 'Repealers of the Contagious Diseases Act' 12 Mar 1872

'After wearing out our lives in a 3-year's struggle' - In 1869 the opposition to the CD Acts began with a protest from doctors in the North followed by a meeting at Bristol where a congress for Social Science was being followed. Then came the Manifesto of the ladies led by Josephine Butler, which included most of the prominent women of the day. It was published 31 Dec 1869 in the 'Daily News'.

From that time the movement had grown into a force to be reckoned with; and hopes were high among the Repealers that Parliament would yield to the barrage of memorials, petitions etc. poured on them. The intense depression shown by JB in this letter showed the extent of their hopes.

'In that ship when I was apparently dying.' -In 1864 JB took her son Stanley to convalesce after diphtheria to her niece's home at Genoa (Edith Leopold daughter of JB's eldest sister). When the boy was better they took a steamer to Naples to stay with her sister Hatty Meuricoffre, who had one of her homes there. A bad storm arose reducing JB to a state of unconsciousness and the doctor said the only chance of saving her life was for her to be put on shore. By what seemed a miracle the captain sighted the mail boat going the other way. The party was trans-shipped and landed in Leghorn and Josephine slowly crept back to life. (An account of this given by her sister is in 'Josephine Butler: autobiographical memoir', ed. by GW & LA Johnson, pp 54-55).

'Charles Grey' - JB's elder brother who succeeded to the management of the Greenwich estates in Northumberland when his father retired in 1863.

'I told him all about Marion'

This was the tale of one of the girls JB had taken into her care in the early days of her time in Liverpool. 1867, '68. For further accounts of her work among 'fallen women' and the 'Home of Rest' she started for 'dying Madgalenes'. See 6 letters copied into a book by Edith Leopold, dated 1867.

Biog: Edith Leopold; Edgar Garston; Harriet Meuricoffre; HA Bruce (later Lord Aberdeen); Lord Lorne (eldest son of 8th Duke of Argyll); Mr Birrell; Mr Whitwell Wilson