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The Eliza Armstrong case

white slavery trope

Description

The Eliza Armstrong case was a major scandal in the United Kingdom involving a child supposedly bought for prostitution for the purpose of exposing the evils of white slavery. While it achieved its purpose of helping to enable the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, it also brought unintended consequences to its chief perpetrator, William Thomas Stead. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliza Armstrong case [Jun 2006]

William Stead (journalist)

William Thomas Stead (July 5, 1849 - April 15, 1912), English journalist, was born at Embleton, Northumberland, the son of a Congregational minister.

He went to school at Wakefield, but was early apprenticed in a merchant's office at Newcastle-on-Tyne; he soon gravitated however, into journalism, and in 1871 became editor of the Darlington Northern Echo. In 1880 he went to London to be assistant editor of the Pall Mall Gazette under John Morley, and when the latter was elected to Parliament, he became editor (1883-1889).

Up to 1885 he had distinguished himself for his vigorous handling of public affairs, and his brilliant modernity in the presentation of news. He introduced the interview, made a feature of the Pall Mall extras, and his enterprise and originality exercised a potent influence on contemporary journalism and politics. His enthusiasm, however, carried him too far when, in 1885, he entered upon a crusade against child prostitution by publishing a series of articles entitled the Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon. In order to demonstrate the truth of his revelations, he arranged the 'purchase' of the thirteen-year old daughter of a chimney sweep, Eliza Armstrong. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Thomas_Stead [Jun 2005]

Criminal Law Amendment Act and gross indecency

In 1860s [United Kingdom], the age of consent was twelve years old. Some people such as Josephine Butler and Barbara Bodichon were concerned that young girls were being sold to brothels. They became involved in the campaign against the white slave trade and in 1875 the House of Commons agreed to raise the age of consent to thirteen.

Campaigners were not satisfied with this change and continued to argue for further reform. In 1885 William Stead and Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army joined forces to expose what they believed was an increase in child prostitution. In July 1885, Stead purchased Eliza Armstrong, a thirteen year-old daughter of a chimney-sweep, to show how easy it was to procure young girls for prostitution. Stead published an account of his investigations in the Pall Mall Gazette entitled Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon.

In September, William Stead and five others were charged with unlawfully kidnapping a minor and committed for trial at the Old Bailey. Stead was found guilty and was imprisoned for three months in Holloway Gaol. As a result of the publicity that the Armstrong case generated, Parliament in 1885 passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act that raised the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen, strengthened existing legislation against prostitution and proscribed all homosexual relations. --http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Lconsent.htm [Jun 2005]

see also: white slave - law - public - private - decency

White slave trade

The term the white slave trade was first used in the 1830s and referred to female prostitution. Some national figures such as Josephine Butler, Catherine Booth and William Stead, thought the government should take action to reduce prostitution in Britain. They were particularly concerned with the issue of child prostitution and called for an increase in the age of consent from twelve to sixteen. In 1875 the campaigners had their first success when the House of Commons agreed to raise the age of consent to thirteen.

In 1885 William Stead and Bramwell Booth of the Salvation Army joined forces to expose the growth in child prostitution. In July 1885, Stead purchased for 5, Eliza Armstrong, a thirteen year-old daughter of a chimney-sweep, to show how easy it was to procure young girls for prostitution. Stead published an account of his investigations in the Pall Mall Gazette entitled Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon.

In September, William Stead and five others were charged with unlawfully kidnapping a minor and committed for trial at the Old Bailey. Stead was found guilty and was imprisoned for three months in Holloway Gaol. As a result of the publicity that the Armstrong case generated, Parliament in 1885 passed the Criminal Law Amendment Act that raised the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen, strengthened existing legislation against prostitution and proscribed all homosexual relations. --http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/REwhite.htm [Jun 2005]

The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon

On 6 July 1885, the Pall Mall Gazette, one of England's premier daily newspapers, began a series titled "The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon." The series was an instant sensation; it not only rocked English society to its foundations, but sent shockwaves throughout Europe, through France and Belgium, and into the United States. The public outcry that followed forced Parliament to enact specific legislation and led to the establishment of local organizations and international networks which survive to the present day. The topic of "The Maiden Tribute" was white slavery-the abduction, sale, and organized rape of English virgins.

As the title suggests, "The Maiden Tribute" successfully linked in the public mind two basically unrelated topics-prostitution and slavery. The title was itself an odd admixture of Christian legend and Greek folklore, combining temple prostitution in ancient Babylon with the tale of the Minotaur. According to Greek mythology, every seventh year the people of Athens were compelled to sacrifice seven virgins to this "frightful monster, half man, half bull, the foul product of unnatural lust." But in "The Maiden Tribute," London had become the modern Babylon:

This very night in London, and every night, year in and year out, not seven maidens only but many times seven, selected almost as much by chance as those . . . flung into the Cretan labyrinth, will be offered up as the Maid.
--Pall Mall Gazette , Monday, 6 July 1885

[...]

Whether or not white slavery actually existed or represented a significant factor in prostitution will not be argued here. Many Victorians were convinced that white slavery existed, while many others were just as certain that it did not; what is of concern is the dialogue itself. The issue is essentially one of definition: acceptance of the white slavery idea depends a great deal upon how one defines it. For example, what the modern feminist might call white slavery the anthropologist benignly labels "the exchange of women." Claude Levi-Strauss identifies the exchange of women as "a fundamental principle of kinship," with women acting as the units of exchange by which men established kinship ties and avoided constant warfare; hence Levi -Strauss argues that the traffic in women is nothing less than the foundation of civilization. Alternatively, Marxists draw upon the concept of white slavery as a means of blurring the distinction between sexual and economic exploitation; the earliest use of the term actually refers to the exploitation of wage laborers by industrial capitalism. It is in this sense that Karl Marx argues that "prostitution is only a specific expression of the general prostitution of the labourer," and hence casts the capitalist as white slaver.

via http://userwww.sfsu.edu/~epf/1996/wslavery.html [Jun 2005]

see also: 1885

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