Josephine Butler to 'Dear Friend' [Miss Priestman]

Scope and Content

Written from Wimbledon. She will keep Friday 29 May for the LNA Meeting and hopes the 'Friends' will come to it also [see note]. She would prefer not to sign the Dilke protest [see note] 'unless there seems to be a very great absence of women's signatures. Mr Stead has been to consult her 'on the wide question of the morality of public men and the equal standard'. JB dislikes 'the personal element both in this and Parnell's case' which to many 'appears like a relentless persecution'. She would press for a great Conference of the Churches who would uphold 'equal morality for men and women and equal treatment of the male and female offender'.

Administrative / Biographical History

'Friday the 29th I will note as the day'

The Annual Meeting of the LNA was held in the Memorial Hall Farringdon St on 9 May 1891.

From an account given in the 'Sentinel' (Jul 1891, p119) we are told that 'Mrs Josephine Butler who showed traces of the heavy season of affliction through which she had passed, presided'. Among the speakers were Rev J Dymock, Rev JH Lynn, WT Stead.

'I should like much to go to the Friends' familiar meeting and Tea also. I like Friends and I like tea so much' The Friends Association held their annual meeting in May every year and JB always attended when possible for her. It was held at their Headquarters, Devonshire House, Bishopgate St. This year it was held on 21 May but JB was absent through illness (Sentinel - Jun 1891 p.90).

'I should prefer not signing the Dilke protest'

The personal element both in this [i.e. Dilke's] and Parnell's case weakens the cause. (On this see JB to Mrs Tanner 5 Dec 1890 Note).

For note on Parnell see letter of JB to Mrs Tanner 5 Dec 1890 and JB to son Stanley 17-23 Feb 1889.

Sir Charles Dilke like Parnell brought his political career to a close by his involvement in a divorce case in 1885. The opinion of his most recent biographer, Roy Jenkins, is that 'he was, in all probability innocent of that of which he was accused and that brought about his downfall'.

JB's warning against 'the personal element' was only too much justified. In Roy Jenkins 'Sir Charles Dilke' we read: ''The Times' refused to print a word of any of his speeches, to review his books or mention him in any form'. This indeed appears as JB says 'like relentless persecution'

'I do hope Miss Annie is improving'

The two Priestman sisters who lived together at Bristol were Mary (1831-1914) and Anna Maria (1829-1914). They died within a few days of each other. Most of the letters written by JB to the sisters were just addressed to 'Dear Friend' but however they were addressed they were certainly shared by both sisters and their interest in and support of the Cause never failed JB.

Biog: Sir Charles Dilke; WT Stead; CS Parnell