Held at Liverpool Cathedral’s Lady Chapel on 29 May, this year’s Josephine Butler awards were presented to three to organisations and three to individuals. Organised by Josephine Butler Trust, the awards started with Eucharist celebrating Josephine Butler’s life with the awards ceremony following a lunch.
Annual awards are made by the Trust to individuals and organisations whose life, work and mission reflects that of Josephine Butler. A distinguished Victorian social reformer, Josephine Butler is depicted in Lady Chapel Noble Women window. The first woman without a vote to bring about change to an Act of Parliament, she challenged attitudes to sexism. Engaged in opening opportunities for women in higher education, she also fought for fairer treatment of women who today we regard as sex workers. Much of this work being undertaken here in Liverpool.
The main Josephine Butler Award Of £5,000 of the Missionaries of Charity Homelessness Project on Seel St and the Annual Scholarship of £1,000 to Steve Atherton the Field worker in the Archdiocese notably for his work promoting the designation of Archbishop of Oscar Romero as a Saint by the Vatican – the Church of England having been ahead on this.
The trustees occasionally make a Special Award of £5,000, this went to the PCC of the Northumbrian Church of St Gregory’s Kirknewton where Josephine Butler is buried. A sculpture for her centenary, the maintenance of the grave and an attractive visual display are all maintained by the Church.
The Mothers’ Union (MU) which has 40 Million members worldwide was recognised. Outgoing Diocesan President, June Houghton now the York Provincial President, was named Volunteer of the Year. She was awarded £1,000 to go to her chosen charity - the MU plus a thank you gift of £200.
The new MU Diocesan President received the Partnership Award of £3,000 which will be used to arrange events to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender based Violence. This will included a Summit on Friday 29th November from noon here at the Cathedral – details to be announced soon.
The highlight of the day was the Women of the Year which went to Rev Sister Norma Nelson CA. One of the women ordained priest 25 years ago this month in the Cathedral, she has served as Church Army sister and priest in this Diocese and worked nationally notably with marginalised groups (like the homeless and street workers) as well as being a significant driving force in developing church based community work.
Sister Norma received a gift of £200 to spend on herself and a £1,000 for a charity of her choice which was St George’s Baghdad. In her words of acceptance she quipped that one of her claims to fame was the year she received Christmas cards from Mrs Thatcher, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the English Collective of Prostitutes.
Sister Norma was also one of the last students to attend Josephine Butler College in Aigburth which had a high reputation for training church social workers (its sale was used to establish the current Trust.
The Trustees do not accept unsolicited applications but use their networking skills to identify likely recipients for the awards.