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Media: 4 reels of 35mm microfilm
Coverage Dates: 1864-1926

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Overview

 Claiming it was the best way to protect men from women infected with venereal disease, Parliament passed the Contagious Diseases Act in 1864. This legislation allowed police to arrest women suspected of being prostitutes and bring them in for compulsory checks for venereal disease. If suffering from sexually transmitted diseases, the women were placed in a locked hospital for up to three months. Many of the women arrested were not prostitutes but they still were brought to the police station to undergo the humiliating medical examination. The Contagious Diseases Act of 1866 allowed a special police force to order women to undergo fortnightly inspections for up to a year. By 1869, the Contagious Diseases Act required the official registration of prostitutes; increased inspection stations; and increased locked hospital incarceration from three months to nine.

Feeling that these laws were unfair and one-sided, since they ignored the role of men in the spread of disease, at its yearly meeting in 1870 the Society of Friends urged members to work for the Act’s immediate repeal. In 1873 the Friends Association for Abolishing Regulation of Vice was established. The Association argued against the acceptance and tolerance of prostitution, the sanction of male vice, and the violation of the civil rights of the prostitute.

Legislators had not counted on the powerful social and political resistance of the moral reform movement, and the acts were suspended in 1883 and repealed in 1886.

The Association was renamed the Friends Association for the Promotion of Social Purity (often called the Social Purity Association) in 1910 and continued to function until 1926. At that time, because of the existence of the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene, a second organization was no longer necessary.

The records of the committee consist of its minutes, supplementary documents, rough minutes, annual reports, pamphlets, and printed tracts.

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