Records of the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 AMS
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
      English French German Hindi Italian
  • Physical Description
      163 A boxes, outsize items, 4 albums, PC 6.14

Scope and Content

The archive consists of:

GB 106 AMS/A - Administrative records (1897-2006): Executive Committee minutes; Minutes of Sub-committees; Minutes of Annual General Meetings; Financial records; Constitutional and organisational papers; Correspondence; Papers relating to the Josephine Butler Collection.

GB 106 AMS/B - Enquiries and Campaigns (1824-1999): Memorial of the Contagious Diseases Acts; Canvassing Parliamentary candidates regarding solicitation laws; Ten Towns Enquiry; Solicitation (papers and publications on amending solicitation laws eg Street Offences Act 1959); Venereal diseases; Procuration; Armed Forces; Seamen in ports; Sexual morality; Women in the Colonial Office / Colonies Service Committee; Traffic in Women; Employment of Women Police; Russian Women's Hostel in Shanghai; Executive Committee Correspondence; Sexual offences and age of consent; Prostitution; Mrs Bligh Scrutton's papers; Female circumcision; Human rights (majority of papers relate to Human Rights Year 1968); Women's Action Group; Correspondence and reports of W Moody; Press cuttings

GB 106 AMS/C - International work : India (1867-1979): Acts, Regulations and Parliamentary Papers; Correspondence and papers of Henry J Wilson; 1893 Cantonments enquiry; Secretary's India files 1913-1925; Meliscent Shephard: correspondence 1928-1946; Organisation of the work in India 1929-1937; Papers relating to work in Bombay (1878-1934), Ceylon (1899-1955), Madras, Mysore, Delhi, Calcutta (1929-1939); Association for Moral and Social Hygiene in India (1943-1979)

GB 106 AMS/D - International work : other countries (1869-1970): Papers concern the international work of the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene in opposing the state regulation of prostitution (apart from India). Material consists of fact-finding (reports, enactments and press cuttings) and action (memoranda, articles and correspondence). Countries: Africa, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, British Guyana, Canada, China, Colonies, Congo, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Ireland, Ethiopia, Germany, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Mui Tsai in Hong Kong and Malaya, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel [Palestine], Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Rangoon (Burma), Romania, Seychelles, Singapore and Malaya, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tangier, Turkey, Uganda, USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics), United States of America, Uruguay, West Indies

GB 106 AMS/E - Papers relating to the International Abolitionist Federation (1876-1999): Minutes of meetings of the International Committee and of the Executive Bureau of the International Abolitionist Federation; Reports; Papers relating to Congresses of the Federation and other related conferences; Correspondence concerning the publication of Congress proceedings; Papers relating to Constitutional reform; Publications

GB 106 AMS/F - Other organisations (1948-1997): Papers relating to: Anti-Slavery Society for the Protection of Human Rights and their relations with Minority Rights Group, Interights, Liberty, Human Rights Network; British Council of Churches; British Federation against the Venereal Diseases; British Social Biology Council and British Social Hygiene Council (both formally the National Council for Combatting Venereal Diseases); Commonwealth Countries' League; Commonwealth Secretariat; European Parliament; International Council of Women; Mothers' Union; National Council for Voluntary Organisations; National Council of Women; Status of Women Committee; United Nations including the United Nations Status of Women Commission and United Nations Association (UNA) Women's Advisory Council (WAC); Wel-Care; The Women's Council (co-operating with Women of Asia); Women's Freedom League; Women's National Commission; Papers relating to French organisations; publications

GB 106 AMS/G - Photographs (c 1850-1997): Portraits of Josephine Butler; Representations of Josephine Butler; Photographs of the Butler family; Individual portraits; Group portraits; Photographs of buildings associated with Josephine Butler

GB 106 AMS/H - Memorials and centenaries (1882-1983): Josephine Butler Centenary Memorial at Westminster Abbey in 1928; Josephine Butler Memorial Appeal and setting up the Josephine Butler Fellowship; post-centenary memorials (Chrystal MacMillan Memorial, Centenary Dinner of Association for Moral and Social Hygiene, 150th anniversary of birth of Josephine Butler in 1978); Alison Neilans's anniversary and memorials

GB 106 AMS/I - Publicity (1947-2006): Papers relating to the Josephine Butler Society publications 'Newsletter' and 'News and Views'; papers relating to articles written about the Josephine Butler Society in journals or newspapers; material concerning radio and television broadcasts about the Josephine Butler Society or film proposals about the life of Josephine Butler

GB 106 AMS/J - Josephine Butler miscellanea (1873-1993): Manuscript material by Josephine Butler; Printed material by Josephine Butler; Material relating to death of Josephine Butler; Articles about Josephine Butler; Material about the Grey Family; Representations of Josephine Butler; Play and screenplay about Josephine Butler; Audio cassette

GB 106 AMS/K-L Objects and Paintings are uncatalogued

GB 106 AMS/M - Publications (1847-1960) (Please note that publications can be found throughout this collection): Acts and statutory instruments; various pages from House of Commons Parliamentary Debates: Hansard; 3 volumes 'Social Evil Extracts'; 3 volumes of reports, press cuttings, flyers and posters

GB 106 AMS/N - Press cuttings (1950-1970) (Please note that press cuttings can be found throughout this collection): These press cuttings are uncatalogued

This catalogue includes material previously referenced as 3/AMS2 and 3/JBS/2.

This archive contains many publications. Any duplicates have been removed and can be consulted in The Women's Library Printed Collection. A note to this effect is made in the archive description.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Association for Moral and Social Hygiene was established in 1915 following the amalgamation of the Ladies' National Association and 'British Continental and General Federation for Abolition of Government Regulation of Prostitution' (which later became the International Abolitionist Federation). Josephine Butler founded the Ladies' National Association in the 1860s when she led her campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts in Great Britain. These Acts applied to certain garrison towns and seaports, and attempted to preserve the health of servicemen by arrest and compulsory medical examination of women found within these areas who were suspected of being there for immoral purposes. The Acts were repealed in 1886. Josephine Butler also made contact with abolitionists in Europe and established the International Abolitionist Federation in Mar 1875. The Association for Moral and Social Hygiene is a gender-equality pressure group independent of any political party, philosophical school or religious creed. Its aims were: To promote a high and equal standard of morality and sexual responsibility for men and women in public opinion, law and practice; To secure the abolition of state regulation of prostitution, whatever form it may take, and to secure the suppression and the punishment of third party profiteering from prostitution (eg brothel-keeping, procuring); To examine existing or proposed legislation dealing with health (eg treatment of venereal disease) and public order (solicitation laws) and to oppose any laws or administrative regulations which are aimed at or may be applied to some particular section of the community; To study and promote such legislative, administrative, social, educational and hygienic reforms as will tend to encourage the highest public and private morality; To keep these principles continually before Government departments. Its basic principles were: social justice; equality of all citizens before the law; a single moral standard for men and women. It produced its own journal 'The Shield'. Sir Charles Tarring held the Chair at the first Executive Committee meeting on 5 Nov 1915. Helen Wilson was first honorary secretary and Alison Neilans, assistant secretary. Neilans later became General Secretary, a position she held until her death in 1942. Like its predecessors, the Association continued to oppose state regulation of prostitution. This was seen in its campaigns to repeal the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Acts in the First and Second World Wars (Sections 40D and 33B respectively), and against 'solicitation laws' by introducing Public Places (Order) Bills, Street Bills and Criminal Justice Bills between the 1920s and 1940s. It also made representations to the Wolfenden Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution 1954-1957 and was very critical of the Street Offences Act 1959, which was in part a product of the report emanating from that Committee. The Association became concerned with a wide range of issues relating to sexuality: for example, sex education, sex tourism, sexual offences and age of consent, traffic in women and children, and child prostitution. In 1962 the Association changed its name to the Josephine Butler Society.

The Josephine Butler Society (1962-fl.2008) was formed in 1962 when the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene was renamed. Its objectives were: To promote a high and equal standard of morality and sexual responsibility for men and women in public opinion, law and practice; To promote the principles of the International Abolitionist Federation in order to secure the abolition of state regulation of prostitution, to combat the traffic in persons and to expose and prevent any form of exploitation of prostitution by third parties; To examine any existing or proposed legislation on matters associated with prostitution or related aspects of public order and to promote social, legal and administrative reforms in furtherance of the above objectives. Its basic principles were: social justice; equality of all citizens before the law; a single moral standard for men and women. (Taken from membership and donation form 1990). The Josephine Butler Society was a pressure group not a rescue organisation. It wished to prevent the exploitation of prostitutes and marginalisation of those who could be forced into this activity by poverty and abuse, and it believed these problems should be addressed by changes in the law. It believed that more should be done to prevent young people from drifting into prostitution, to help those who wished to leave it, and to rehabilitate its victims. Its work in the early 21st century took two main forms: to make representation to various departments of the UK Government on prostitution and related issues an; to liaise and network with other agencies both statutory and voluntary who worked in related areas. As at 2008 it was still active.

Josephine Elizabeth Butler [née Grey] (1828-1906) was born on 13 Apr 1828 (7th of 10 children of John Grey and Hannah née Annett). In 1835 the Grey family moved to Dilston near Corbridge, Northumberland after her father's appointment in 1833 as agent for the Greenwich Estates in the north. On 8 Jan 1852 Josephine married George Butler at Corbridge, Northumberland. He had been a tutor at Durham University, and then a Public Examiner at Oxford University. In 1857 they moved to Cheltenham following husband's appointment as Vice-Principal of Cheltenham College. In 1866 they moved to Liverpool following husband's appointment as Head of Liverpool College. Josephine took up plight of girls in the Brownlow Hill workhouse and established a Home of Rest for girls in need. In 1868 Josephine became President of North England Council for Promoting Higher Education of Women, and in the following year she was Secretary of Ladies' National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts (extended by legislation in 1866 and 1869). In 1875 she established the International Abolitionist Federation in Liverpool. In 1883 the Contagious Diseases Acts were suspended. In 1885 the age of consent was raised to 16 which Josephine fought for. The Contagious Diseases Acts were repealed in 1886. From 1888 until Oct 1896, Josephine edited 'Dawn' a quarterly journal. From 1882-1890 Josephine lived in Winchester where Rev George Butler was appointed canon. In 1890 George Butler died. Josephine moved to London and continued campaigning against state regulation abroad. In 1894 she moved to her son's home in Galewood within Ewart Park near Milfield. In 1898-1900 Josephine edited and wrote 'Storm Bell'. In 1906 Josephine moved to Wooler where she died on 30 Dec and was buried at Kirknewton.


The archive has been arranged into 14 sub-fonds:

A - Administration

B - Enquiries and campaigns

C - International work: India

D - International work: other countries

E - Papers relating to the International Abolitionist Federation

F - Other organisations

G - Photographs

H - Memorials and centenaries

I - Publicity

J - Josephine Butler miscellanea

K - Objects

L - Paintings and drawings

M - Publications

N - Press cuttings

Almost 800 pamphlets were transferred to The Printed Collections, as part of the Josephine Butler Society Library. These pamphlets were a discreet collection within the archive and were not part of any files.

Access Information


This collection is available for research. A small number of files (13) are closed in accordance with the Data Protection Act. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Other Finding Aids

The Women's Library catalogue

Custodial History

This archive, together with the archives that make up Strand 3, was originally deposited by the Josephine Butler Society Library in 1957. In addition there have been are a number of accruals received since 1957 from the Josephine Butler Society

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds the Josephine Butler Library Collection of printed and published materials. This was formerly the library of the Josephine Butler Society and was deposited with The Fawcett Library through the then librarian's long involvement with the organisation.

Additionally, The Women's Library holds the Josephine Butler Autograph Letter Collection which can be consulted in microfilm format (3JBL).

Closely related papers held at The Women's Library include:

Records of the British Committee of the Continental & General Federation for Abolition of Government Regulation of Prostitution (3BGF); Papers of Henry Joseph Wilson (3HJW); Records of the James Stansfeld Memorial Trust (3JSM); Records of the Lancashire & Cheshire Association for the Abolition of the State Regulation of Vice (3LCA); the records of the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts (ref: 3LNA); the records of the National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts (ref: 3NAR); Records of the International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons: British National Committee (4BNC); Records of the British Vigilance Association (4BVA); the Records of the International Bureau for Suppression of Traffic in Persons (4IBS); the Records of the National Vigilance Association (4NVA); the papers of Richard F Russell, the general secretary of the International Bureau from 1957-1971 (4RFR); and Records of the Travellers' Aid Society (4TAS)

Papers related to Josephine Butler are also held in the following repositories: correspondence and diaries (1851-1905) are in Northumberland Record Office (ref: NRO.229); correspondence and papers (c1853-1906) are in Liverpool University: Special Collections and Archives; papers related to Benjamin Jowett and correspondence are in Oxford University: Balliol College Library; letters to Edith Rhoda and Arthur Stanley Butler etc (c1882-1906) are in the Royal Institute of British Architects Library (ref: BuFam/1/4, 2/4, 3/2, 4/2); further family correspondence is in St Andrews University Library and letters (c.1860-65) to Hannah and Emily Ford etc are in Leeds University, Brotherton Library.