The transformation is the Contagious Diseases (CD) Act during

 

 

The Victorian period witnessed a
significant amount of medical advancement that saved countless lives and
greatly developed society and medicine overall. The 1848 Public Health Act and
the introduction of chloroform in 1846 greatly developed Victorian society by regulating
greater hygiene upon society and the effective administration of anaesthesia on
patients.1
However, one controversial and debated medical transformation is the Contagious
Diseases (CD) Act during the 1860’s and its impact on society. During the
latter half of the Nineteenth Century, the British army and navy were exposed
to Venereal Diseases such as Syphilis and Gonorrhoea that affected their
fighting capabilities.2
VD was exacerbated upon the troops as they were discouraged from getting
married and thus sought sexual refuge in prostitutes.3
Prostitution was significantly high in army towns, ports, and London.4
In 1864 it was noted that one out of three sick cases in the army was due to VD.5

In an attempt to counter the
spread of VD upon the British troops, the British government prepared the first
CD Act in 1864.6 It
was passed through the House of Commons in June and given royal assent in July
in 1864.7
It gave great power to the police and doctors to take women/prostitutes they
suspected of having VD to the magistrate. If proven guilty, they could keep
them in the lock hospital for 3 months and if they refused, could detain them.
It was originally held up in 11 garrisons in England and Ireland. The 1866 CD
Act made it permanent and extended the time of treatment to 1 year and the 1869
CD act opened it up to 6 new towns.8
The reactions towards the acts varied significantly from support to opposition
that affected the strength of the acts and its impact on Victorian society.  

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

After its creation, the acts
witnessed a degree of support and some campaigned for its extension. Some of
these included many Tories, military men, aristocrats, physicians and members
of the Catholic Church.9
There were many arguments supporters made to why they believed it should be
extended. In terms of morality, the acts were regulating and minimising the
extent of prostitution in society.10
Statistically, the 1867 Harveian Medical Society of London report revealed
signs of moral and social improvements created by the acts and the weakening of
VD overall.11
The acts themselves held some previous credibility as it had already proved
successful in India and Malta.12
Finally, the acts were thought to be very beneficial for the British army and
navy, the prevention of VD was thought to be vital for the strength of British
fighting capabilities. The supporters pushed further by organising a campaign
for the extension of the acts. 1866 saw the creation of the Association for promoting
the extension of the Contagious Diseases Acts and worked to educate the public about
the benefits of the acts.13
Overall, the supporters seemed to gain a degree of success as they managed to
get the acts extended through the 1866 and 1869 enhancements of the CD Act.

Despite gaining some initial
support, there was also some initial hostility and opposition towards the acts.
From the beginning of the acts figures like Florence Nightingale opposed the
acts and organised a VD committee to oppose the establishment of the acts.
Others like Harriet Martineau and the British Medical Journal all originally
opposed the acts, but their campaign was weak in numbers.14
The secrecy of the creation of the acts was seen by some as the reason the acts
was originally passed, but as the years went on people became more aware of
what the acts consisted off. Other features such as the police abusing the
powers they were given by the acts and being brutal towards women they
suspected of having VD placed the CD acts in the light of the public.15
Many different groups of society had different issues with the CD Acts.
Religiously, the opposition was given by Quakers, Presbyterians, Protestants
and some members of the Catholic Church.16
They argued that the acts were legalising/legitimising prostitution by
labelling it as a social necessity.17  Liberal politicians like James Stanfield
argued within the House of Commons the moral issues of the acts of legalising
prostitution and attacked the strength of the statistical report of the CD acts
against VD. Feminists such as Josephine Butler argued that the acts were double
standards against women as men were not subject to the examination of VD, only
women.18
Alongside this, the acts were seen to be giving too much power towards men
against women, as the police were given substantial power against women and a man
had the capability to proclaim a woman of having VD. Eventually, the media
began to come on board as the Times and Daily news began to label the act as a
civil rights violation.19 

One significant impact these acts
marked was the effect of the repeal campaign and organisation of society
against the CD acts. Figures such as Butler worked tirelessly by travelling
3,700 miles and attending 99 meetings to promote the repeal of the CD acts in
1870.20
1869 witnessed the creation of two associations promoting the repeal of the
acts: The national association for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act
and the Ladies National Association.21
They held many public meetings and petitions over the CD acts resulting in
gaining 2,000,000 signatures on 10,000 petitions between 1870 and 1881.22
This all led to the act being devolved in 1883 and finally repealed in 1886.23
It demonstrates the power of social agitation towards government legislation
but the repeal of the acts was a big success towards the feminist cause. The CD
acts had united women under the LNA and allowed them success in other areas as
women entered the field of business, medicine and, admission into Oxford and Cambridge.24

Digital Output: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh_191DJ88k

Josephine Butler
1838-1906

Josephine Butler was a massive
inspirational and influential figure for the feminist cause during the
Victorian period. Born in 1838, she worked vigorously towards the emancipation
of women and consolidation of their civil and human rights. After the death of
her 6 year old daughter in 1863, Butler threw herself into her political work,
working towards fighting for the rights of women.25
She immediately began to work on helping children that were subjugated to
prostitution and agitated parliament to change the age of consent from 13 to
16.26
As mentioned, Butler also worked towards the repeal of the Contagious Diseases
Acts where she was witnessed as the leader of the crusade.27
She not only held many public meetings and petitions but also aided in the
creation of the first effective feminist agitation movement through the Ladies
National Association.28
Finally, Butler also worked towards equal education for women.29
She pressurised Cambridge University to allow increased admission for women
which resulted in women gaining access to Oxford and Cambridge and enhanced the
prospects of education for women. It also led to the creation of the all-women
college at Newnham and in 1867 Butler was appointed the president to the North
of England Council for the Higher Education of Women. In 1906 Butler passed
away but her name was known by many, Millicent Fawcett called her ‘the most
distinguished women of the Nineteenth Century’ and she was witnessed as the
pioneer for women’s rights. Despite this initial recognition, Butler has been
forgotten, partly due to the immense work of the suffragettes that overshadowed
her work. Nonetheless, Butler is clearly a massive influential figure on the
feminist cause during the Victorian era.30

1 http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/h/health-and-medicine-in-the-19th-century/

2
Malcom, E. (1999). Troops of largely diseased women’. VD, the contagious
diseases acts and moral policing in late nineteenth-century Ireland. Irisih Economic and Social History, 26(1).
10.1177/033248939902600101. Pp2

3 Sigworth, E. M.; Wyke, T. J.
(1980). “A Study of Victorian Prostitution and Venereal Disease”. In
Vicnius, M. Suffer and Be Still: Women in the Victorian Age. Methuen &
Co. pp.88/89

4
Bartley, P. (20000;1999;). Prositution:
Prevention and reform in England, 1860-1914 (1st ed.) London:
Routledge. pp- 3

5
Walkowitz, J. R. (1982). Prostitution and
Victorian society: Women, class and the state. Cambridge: Cambirdge
University Press. pp 49

6
Fisher, T. (1997). Prostitution and the
Victorians. Stroud: Sutton. pp 83

7
Malcom, E. (1999). Troops of largely diseased women’. VD, the contagious
diseases acts and moral policing in late nineteenth-century Ireland. Irisih Economic and Social History, 26(1).
10.1177/033248939902600101. Pp1

8 Malcom,
E. (1999). Troops of largely diseased women’. VD, the contagious diseases acts
and moral policing in late nineteenth-century Ireland. Irisih Economic and Social History, 26(1). 10.1177/033248939902600101.
Pp1

9
Walkowitz, J. R. (1982). Prostitution and
Victorian society: Women, class and the state. Cambridge: Cambirdge
University Press. pp 80

10 Hamilton, M.
(1978). Opposition to the Contagious Diseases Acts, 1864-1886. Albion: A Quarterly Journal
Concerned with British Studies, 10(1),
14-27. doi:10.2307/4048453. Pp 19

11
Walkowitz, J. R. (1982). Prostitution and
Victorian society: Women, class and the state. Cambridge: Cambirdge
University Press. PP 79

12 https://revisitingdickens.wordpress.com/blog-page-two/

 

14
Walkowitz, J. R. (1982). Prostitution and
Victorian society: Women, class and the state. Cambridge: Cambirdge
University Press. Pp 75/77

15
Malcom, E. (1999). Troops of largely diseased women’. VD, the contagious
diseases acts and moral policing in late nineteenth-century Ireland. Irisih Economic and Social History, 26(1).
10.1177/033248939902600101. Pp11

16
Malcom, E. (1999). Troops of largely diseased women’. VD, the contagious
diseases acts and moral policing in late nineteenth-century Ireland. Irisih Economic and Social History, 26(1).
10.1177/033248939902600101. Pp8

17
Bartley, P. (20000;1999;). Prositution:
Prevention and reform in England, 1860-1914 (1st ed.) London:
Routledge. PP 12

18 Hamilton, M.
(1978). Opposition to the Contagious Diseases Acts, 1864-1886. Albion: A Quarterly Journal
Concerned with British Studies, 10(1),
14-27. doi:10.2307/4048453. pp 17

19 Hamilton, M.
(1978). Opposition to the Contagious Diseases Acts, 1864-1886. Albion: A Quarterly Journal
Concerned with British Studies, 10(1),
14-27. doi:10.2307/4048453. pp 22

20 Mathers, Helen (2014). Patron Saint of Prostitutes: Josephine
Butler and the Victorian Sex Scandal. Stroud, Gloucestershire: The History
Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-9209-4.81-84

21 D’Itri, Patricia Ward (1999). Cross Currents in the International Women’s Movement, 1848–1948. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling
Green State University Popular Press.ISBN 978-0-87972-782-6. 31

22 Hamilton, M.
(1978). Opposition to the Contagious Diseases Acts, 1864-1886. Albion: A Quarterly Journal
Concerned with British Studies, 10(1),
14-27. doi:10.2307/4048453. Pp 23

23
Bartley, P. (20000;1999;). Prositution:
Prevention and reform in England, 1860-1914 (1st ed.) London:
Routledge. PP 12

24 Hamilton, M.
(1978). Opposition to the Contagious Diseases Acts, 1864-1886. Albion: A Quarterly Journal
Concerned with British Studies, 10(1),
14-27. doi:10.2307/4048453. Pp 25

25http://www.josephinebutler.org.uk/a-brief-introduction-to-the-life-of-josephine-butler/  

26 http://spartacus-educational.com/Wbutler.htm

27
Judith 93

28
Fisher 95

29
Woodward, J. (2011). Josephine butler: A guide to her life, faith and social
action – by Rod Garner: History and sociology of religion. Reviews in Religion and Theology, 18 (1),
10.111/j.1467-9418.2010.00741.x. pp65-66

30
Julie Bindell (2006) https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2006/sep/21/art1