Josephine Butler to the Miss Priestmans

Archive Unit
  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 3JBL/34/22
  • Former Reference
      GB 106 4367
  • Dates of Creation
      c.3 May 1895
  • Physical Description
      1 item

Scope and Content

Written from Balham

'I hope to leave for Switzerland in a few days. I hope there to recover the use of my brain' (see letters dated 18 Apr and 19 Apr about her physical distress affecting her head).

Tells them of the appeal of the German women who want to be advised about their best mode of action against the men's repressive policy [see also letter of 2 May Josephine Butler to Mr Edmondson]

'You will see in the next 'Dawn' a letter which I am ashamed to publish but am forced to do so, from women of Norway written under the influence of Dr Getz, a German.' (This was issued as a Supplement to the Jul issue of the 'Dawn' 1895).

Also that the women of Norway and Sweden will not let Mrs Willard and Lady Somerset decide for them at the great World's Women's Christian Temperance Union meeting in Jun 'whether they or I am right!' But neither of them have any grasp of the subject. She knows now that 'our Cause has not gained but is suffering sadly from the union with it of the World's Women's Christian Temperance Union and my own position is rendered painful and difficult'. The German men are 'very insolent...unconsciously so perhaps. To them I am 'an old woman who sets her own opinion against the whole of German male wisdom'. Mrs Andrew and Dr Bushnell have decided to 'give their lives to this work'

'My son George has returned to his office work, but is not quite strong yet'

This is a reference to the serious accident which befell George at the end of Apr 1894, from which he was only beginning to recover. Charles should now be on the Pacific; he has got engaged to a 'good dear young woman'. This was Margaret Talbot, and he hopes to come back in a year to claim her.

'You will see in the 'Dawn' a beautiful letter from Dr Elizabeth Blackwell on this subject'

See the 'Dawn', May 1895, p 13. A letter with the heading: 'The true attitude of women physicians in regard to venereal diseases' and signed Elizabeth Blackwell MD

'... On the other hand I have great encouragement. My 'Letter of Warning' has brought again to the front some of our dear old workers men, of England, who write to me with great warmth and kindness ...'

For note on this letter ('Letter of earnest appeal and warning') see letter of 4 Apr 1895.

'We have been obliged to let the Germans fix the whole programme for Colmar'. This was the International Federation Conference to be held at Colmar (Alsace) in Sep 1895.

Administrative / Biographical History

The article in 'The Dawn' had the title 'Women arming for the battle' and began by stating that 'Under this title the Dawn published some communications from Norway relating to the work of Norwegian women in the cause of social purity'

The 'communications from Norway' may be found in the 'Dawn' Feb 1895 p 7 introduced by Josephine Butler under the title 'Women arming for battle'. It is written by a staunch supporter of the anti state regulation, Ida Welhaven, and tells of the battle that raged in Norway over Dr Getz' Project de loi. The position at present is victory for Dr Getz but the struggle continues.

(see letters of 25 Jun 1894 and 27 Dec 1894, both from Josephine Butler to the Priestmans)

For references to Dr Getz see:

1893 Manifesto of Ladies' National Association 13 Jan 1894, 20 Apr; 26 Apr; 23 Jun; 27 Dec '... and now they [women of Norway and Denmark] decline to hear from me any more and have thrown themselves upon Miss Willard and Lady Somerset, to decide at the great World's Women's Christian Temperance Union meetings in Jun whether they or I am right!'

This was the beginning of the complete break between Josephine Butler and the World's Women's Christian Temperance Union as represented by the American, Miss Willard, and Lady Henry Somerset.

The great meeting of the World's Women's Christian Temperance Union was held at Grindelwald in Jun; Josephine Butler had meant to go but was prevented by illness (she felt divinely prevented!). Her views on it are to be found in a letter she wrote to Miss Forsaith from Beatenberg dated 5 Jul 1895.

Biog: Dr Getz, Miss Willard, Lady Henry Somerset, Dr Elizabeth Blackwell, Dr Bushnell and Mrs Andrew, Margaret Talbot, Amelie Humbert, Countess Jarlberg, Miss Esmans, Mrs Selma, Ida Welhaven