How a muckraking journalist got the age of consent raised to 16 in Victorian England
In 1875 the age of consent in Victorian Britain was raised from 12 to 13, but it was only after the public outrage that followed an investigative expos� into prostitution a decade later that it was raised to the current age of 16.
The words emblazoned in large print on top of the Pall Mall Gazette in the first week of July 1885 - NOTICE TO OUR READERS, followed by "A Frank Warning", set the tone for a week-long report titled The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon, exposing the lurid underworld of London's child prostitutes.
It was referred to as a "veritable slave trade".
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The story of an actual pilgrimage into a real hell...”
WT Stead Investigative Jurnalist 1849 - 1912
The most shocking account focussed on a 13-year-old virgin, who was bought for the night by undercover journalist William Thomas Stead - posing as a client.
Her name was Eliza Armstrong. She was bought for �5 - the equivalent of around �527 today. She was taken to a midwife to "procure the certification of her virginity" who remarked - "The poor little thing… She is so small."
She was then brought to a brothel and drugged, and the paper's readers were led to believe the worst. She let out "a helpless, startled scream like the bleat of a frightened lamb", Stead wrote.
He described his undercover experience as: "The story of an actual pilgrimage into a real hell…"
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