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Durham University

Josephine Butler

Our History

Josephine Butler College opened in 2006. Like almost all the other Durham Colleges, it is a mixed community of undergraduates, postgraduates and staff. For descriptions of Durham's colleges click here. We are named after the 19th Century social reformer, Josephine Elizabeth Butler, who played a major role in improving the conditions for women, both in terms of public health and education. She has been described as one of the most important early members of the feminist movement.

Who was Josephine Butler?

Born Josephine Grey on 13th April, 1828 in Milfield, Northumberland to John Grey (a cousin of Earl Grey, after whom Grey College is named) and his wife Hannah (nee Annett), Josephine met George Butler, then a classics tutor at the University of Durham, and married him in 1852. They played a number of different roles over the coming years: George as an educator became principal of Liverpool College and helped found what was to become Liverpool University. Josephine, following the tragic death of her daughter, aged 5, became involved in a variety of public campaigns, notably for women's rights, most famously campaigning for the repeal of the contagious diseases act. She was one of the signatories to the petition for women's suffrage submitted to parliament in 1866 and became president of the North-East Council for Promoting the Higher Education of Women and was instrumental in founding Newnham College, Cambridge as a college for women.

She wrote extensively throughout her life, including an important biography of St. Catherine of Siena and books on constitutional and women's affairs. She died on 30th December, 1906 in Wooler, Northumberland and is buried in the churchyard of St. Gregory the Great Church in Kirknewton.

Around 400 students are in residence. As with the other colleges, students remain as members of the college for their entire time at Durham University (and, we hope, will join the Alumni Association to maintain links with us thereafter).

Student rooms are available throughout the Academic Year, so that you (and all your possessions) can stay in Durham from October to June, including the Christmas and Easter vacations. Typically undergraduate students take a 38 week let and postgraduates a full 50 week let, though if students wish to extend their letting period, that is often possible.

The College is purpose-built with special provision for people with disabilities. Because it is self-catering, it may be particularly suitable for students with special dietary requirements.

If you have any queries please email the College Secretary,