Josephine Butler And The Feminist Movement

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While efforts toward women’s civil rights had been made in previous centuries, large scale movements known as feminism began to truly gain ground in the 19th century. The beginnings of feminism, commonly defined as work toward the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes, are often attributed to Mary Wollstonecraft in her book The Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792. The ideas spread by Wollstonecraft inspired many more prominent figures and works to emerge throughout the 1800s. The feminist movement was especially prevalent in Great Britain, where women such as Josephine Butler and writings like A Room of One’s Own and The Subjection of Women worked and spread awareness. While women’s political rights in 19th century Great Britain were improving, the social attitudes worked in the opposite way to confine women even more to household and domestic roles. Josephine Butler was one of the most prominent feminists of the 19th century. She and Elizabeth Wolstenholme worked together to form the Married Women’s Property Committee and later the Ladies’ National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act (Denton). The Married Women’s Property Committee directly led to Parliament passing the Married Women’s Property Act in 1882, allowing British women to own their own property for the first time (Denton). Before this act, all of a woman’s wealth and property was possessed by her father and transferred to her husband upon marriage. Butler

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