The Armstrong Girl
by Cathy Le Feuvre
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Lion Books
Released: July 1, 2015
Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
In November, 1885, Victorian England was scandalized by a court case which lifted the veil on prostitution and the sex trade. In the Old Bailey dock was the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, which had recently published a series of articles on the sex trade; a reformed brothel keeper; and the second-in-command of The Salvation Army, Bramwell Booth. The group was accused of abducting a 13 year old girl, Eliza Armstrong.
They had, in fact, set up the scheme to expose the trade in young women. The resulting scandal triggered the raising of the Age of Consent in Britain from age 13 to 16. Many MPs and other men in positions of power were furious, and the campaigners were indicted under the 1861 Abduction Act. William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, would later be acquitted, but others went to prison, martyrs for justice. The Armstrong Girl is the story of that scandal, and of those who fought for this essential change in the law.
The Armstrong Girl tells how the practice of buying young girls for prostitution was exposed in 1885 in Britain. The author explained how a series of newspaper articles exposed this human trafficking, how this helped push through legislation that raised the age of consent from 13 to 16, and the resulting court case. There's also some background on the major players. The author quoted from the newspaper articles, the transcripts from the court cases, and from personal letters.
William Stead wanted to expose a topic that was considered too obscene to talk about and not something that women and child should ever hear about. To do this, he felt he had to prove that a 13-year-old could be bought. He got a reformed former brothel-keeper to help him buy such a girl. They did everything that would have happened to someone bought for the sex trade, only she wasn't violated.
Stead's resulting newspaper articles launched a public outcry that brought about a change in the age of consent, but a lot of people weren't happy about it. Some of them convinced the girl's parents to take legal action against William Stead, his helpers, and some members of the Salvation Army who had taken care of the girl after she had been bought. William Stead had, technically, abducted the girl under the current laws. The transcripts from the court cases show just how one went about obtaining a girl and why those involved went to this extreme.
The book was interesting, easy to follow, and should appeal to a general audience. I'd recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
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