By Richard Symonds (auth.)

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Extra info for Inside the Citadel: Men and the Emancipation of Women, 1850–1920

Sample text

The majority report was The Allies of Josephine Butler 41 brief and complacent. The Acts, it said, had worked admirably. Indeed it indicated that it would have recommended that the system should be extended throughout the country if there had not been such strong opposition on moral grounds from ignorant people, particularly expressed through Nonconformist bodies. Stansfeld's report was argued in much more detail and with great effect. As a barrister he was experienced in dealing with the evidence of witnesses and knew how that of the police was obtained.

In light of this report on the one hand and the impact of the repealers in by-elections on the other, the Home Secretary introduced a Bill under which the Acts would be repealed and the age of consent raised from 12 to 14. Penalties would be provided on keepers of bawdy houses. Prostitutes could be imprisoned for soliciting and detained in hospital if found to be affected by contagious disease. The repealers' friends in Parliament supported the Bill as did at first the National Association. Mrs Butler, however, persuaded the latter to 40 Sapping the Foundations reverse its position on the grounds that the system of compulsory examination of women was shut out at one door only to be admitted by another.

What Stansfeld did was to marshal that evidence with devastating efficacy. This was to be one of the rare occasions when Parliament preferred the minority to the majority report of one of its committees. The minority position was fortified by a unanimous vote in its favour by the General Committee of the National Liberal Federation. ' He faced powerful opposition from three key ministers, the Secretary for War, Lord Hartington; the Secretary for the Navy, Lord Northbrook; and the Home Secretary, Sir William Harcourt.

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