Prostitution and Victorian Social Reform: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Prostitution and Victorian Social Reform

1st Edition

By Paul McHugh


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In the mid-nineteenth century many parts of England and Wales were still subjected to a system of regulated prostitution which, by identifying and detaining for treatment infected prostitutes, aimed to protect members of the armed forces (94 per cent of whom were forbidden to marry) from venereal diseases.

The coercive nature of the Contagious Diseases Acts and the double standard which allowed the continuance of prostitution on the ground that the prostitute 'herself the supreme type of vice, she is ultimately the most efficient guardian of virtue', aroused the ire of many reformers, not only women’s rights campaigners.

Paul McHugh analyses the social composition of the different repeal and reform movements – the liberal reformists, the passionate struggle of the charismatic Josephine Butler, the Tory reformers whose achievement was in the improvement of preventative medicine, and finally the Social Purity movement of the 1880s which favoured a coercive approach. This is a fascinating study of ideals and principles in action, of pressure-group strategy, and of individual leaders in the repeal movement’s sixteen year progress to victory.

The book was originally publised in 1980.

Table of Contents

Preface 1. Introduction 2. Regulating Prostitution 3. The Attack on the Acts Launched 4. Defeat and Regrouping 5. The Repeal Campaign in Action – Organisation and Methods 6. The Role of Women in the Repeal Movement 7. Religion and the Repeal Campaign 8. The Liberal Strategy 9. Political Connections and Alliances in the Repeal Campaign 10. Conclusion. Appendices

About the Series

Routledge Library Editions: Women's History

Reissuing seminal works originally published between 1928 and 1992, Routledge Library Editions: Women's History offers a selection of scholarship covering women's roles, gender battles, feminism and other issues through the ages. Topics include women in the World Wars, prostitution in Victorian times, the history of abortion, women's roles in the Stuart era and women's place in the household and in work.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
HISTORY / Social History