Nearly 400 people voted in the Winchester Heritage Open Days special election, and this morning the City of Winchester Electoral Services duly declared that Josephine Butler, Social Reformer is Hampshire's most Extraordinary Woman.
Not only was Josephine Butler a social reformer, she was also a pioneering feminist, daring to speak out publicly, and achieved huge social and legal reforms at a time when women did not even have the right to vote. She fought hard to eradicate child prostitution and sex trafficking across the world and successfully campaigned to repeal the Contagious Diseases Act which discriminated against prostitutes.
Many Victorians were shocked that a woman would speak in public about sexual matters and, as a result, Josephine was shunned by many of her liberal friends.
Millicent Fawcett however described her as ‘the most distinguished Englishwoman of the nineteenth century’, so perhaps it is not surprising that she was voted as the most extraordinary woman in our ballot.
Our special election and supporting pop-up exhibition was just one of hundreds of events taking place across the country which celebrated the stories of remarkable women who have brought about change, made a difference or left a legacy that should be cherished. Hampshire is blessed to have so many remarkable women, past and present, who have enriched our lives in some way or who have made a major contribution to society, either locally or at a national level. Many of the names in our exhibition would have been familiar to visitors such as Jane Austen, others such as Beatrice Shilling, maybe less so.
Our aim with both the ballot and exhibition was to enlighten and entertain all ages by providing a glimpse into the lives of the women we chose. It was not a conclusive list and we encouraged visitors to tell us of any other extraordinary women of Hampshire who we may have overlooked and who should be acknowledged.
We would still be delighted to hear via our website from visitors, as we are currently exploring options to make this a permanent exhibition and are also looking for support to produce a book to accompany this very successful and popular exhibition.
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank again Winchester Electoral Services for loaning us the voting equipment, to Smith & Ouzman for kindly printing the ballot papers and to Winchester City Council for funding the exhibition.