This record is held by Merseyside Record Office

Details of 326VIG
Reference: 326VIG

The records themselves do not date back to the foundation of the Liverpool branch: the first minute book dates only from 1938, and annual reports only from 1916 (the sixth annual report). Surviving information for the early period is available only from newscuttings: these also refer to the work of the national association, otherwise only briefly mentioned in the reports (and the presence of a League of Nations report into the traffic of women and children in the East gives some idea of the NVA's broader concerns). The newsletters of the League of Travellers' Friends, an organisation which supported the LVA's work, give a brief summary of the Association's work and typical problems, drawn presumably from early case books which unfortunately do not survive here.




1916 2 Armenians en route to America had to be treated for eye trouble until fit to travel. Another was later rejected at New York and sent back to Liverpool. Her parents had both been killed in the Armenian massacres some years before.


1917/18 A Jewess was sent back from America suffering from ill-health. She was one of the two elder girls sent to their father in America, who had wanted to send for his wife and seven other children later. She went back to her mother in London.


Two "Assyrian" children had been detained in Liverpool for nearly two years, since eye trouble prevented them from getting to their parents in Chicago, before the association could help them.


1919/20 A family of Armenian refugees - mother and three daughters aged twenty four, fourteen and ten respectively - were rejected from an Atlantic Liner as the youngest had ringworm of the scalp. After two months' treatment, the Armenian Society provided the money for them to land in the United States.


1922/23 A young English girl, aged twenty, was deported from Canada because of mental deficiency. Was sent home to Shropshire.


An unmarried mother, aged sixteen, with a baby of five months old, was sent back from Canada. It was discovered that she had first become a mother at thirteen (father of the baby being seventy years old), and had emigrated to Canada with the help of the Philanthropic Society but had got into trouble again and so was deported.


A woman, aged thirty, with two children, aged four and three, had been held up at Ellis Island because she had insufficient landing money and no definite employment in view. She was deported to Liverpool, where it was found that she was not, in fact, a widow, as she had claimed, but had left her husband and nine other children back in the Midlands.


1923/24 A young Irish girl was prevented from entering the United States because she could not read or write.


A young woman, deported from America, had been detained in an American State hospital for twelve months and then on Ellis Island for six months before being sent back to England.


An Armenian girl was refused permission to reside in the U.S.A. because the quota was full. She was detained on Ellis Island for some days and then deported to Liverpool, to be sent back to Manchester.


1926/27 An Irish woman with two little girls was prevented from going to America. One little girl had had ringworm eight months earlier, but had been treated and given a letter to prove that she was cured, but the child was still rejected at the port.


1933/34 A young Greek woman had to be escorted back to Macedonia. She had been deported from Canada and was unfit to travel alone because of her "mentality".


1934/35 An English woman arrived from an Atlantic Liner. She had married a French Canadian, who had died in Canada, leaving her and a son of seventeen, now living in America. After visiting relatives in Canada she overstayed the time-limit and did not pay the necessary tax on her return. She was placed in a detention hostel pending enquiries for deportation. She arrived in England destitute and alone, as her son had not been allowed to accompany her.


A young woman, born to Finnish and Canadian parents, went to Siberia with her husband, a Ukranian who had become a Canadian citizen. He became unkind to her and told her to return to her parents in Canada. After difficulty in obtaining a passport from Moscow, her parents were not allowed to claim her in Canada, so she was deported to Liverpool. It was over a year before she could return to Canada.


1944/45 There was a decrease in the number of passengers due to the war. However, a Russian woman needed to be helped. She was expecting to sail to Palestine but had only a long telegram about her passage to show to the official - no passport or papers. She was found accomodation until the regulations could be completed.


1946/47 A worker was asked by an Immigration Officer to look after a woman on the Irish boat who was not allowed to land in England because she was mentally deficient.


1949/50 "Displaced person" - a Yugo-Slav girl, who had been working in a factory, wanted to sail to her parents in Chile. She and her cousin hoped to work their passage but there was some confusion and, eventually, the money was sent from her father in Santiago.


1950/51 A Spanish family, travelling from the West Indies, was not allowed to land in Spain because the children, aged thirteen and fifteen, although born of Spanish parents, had been born in British territory. They landed in Liverpool without their luggage, which had been left at Santander. They were taken to the Spanish Consul to arrange visas and passages back to Spain.


1959 A girl arrived in Liverpool, having been sent back from her husband in Jamaica, because he had turned against her. Accomodation and work was found for her.


1962 A Liverpool family asked the Association to meet an elderly man who was returning from Australia after forty two years. It was arranged that he should be met at Southampton.

Date: 1908-1976; 1908-1977
Held by: Merseyside Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Liverpool Vigilance Association , 1908-1976

Physical description: 21 files
Immediate source of acquisition:

Records deposited on 16 February 1978 by Mr R Campbell, Chief Executive, Liverpool Personal Service Society, 34 Stanley Street, Liverpool L1 6AN.

  • Liverpool, Merseyside
Administrative / biographical background:

The Liverpool branch of the national Vigilance Association was set up in 1908: there is a note in the first minute book here (1/1) by Edith Rose, describing its foundation as the local branch of the Travellers Aid Society and National Vigilance Associations. The NVA itself was founded in 1885 by W T Stead of the Pall Mall Gazette as a result of evidence on child prostitution produced by Josephine Butler and Mrs Bramwell Booth. The second part of the NVA's title points to its wider interest - the International Bureau for the Suppression of the White Slave Trade (and this was awarded UN consultative status after the Second World War). Miss Rose, later awarded the OBE, was a pioneer of the movement, and spent much of her time travelling around the UK lecturing on the Association and its interests.


In 1921, along with the other provincial centres, the Liverpool branch became an independent affiliate of the NVA and its various name changes in the following years reflected those of the NVA itself. However its objectives remained the same throughout, and these are included in its annual reports:


"1. To use every means to prevent traffic in women and children.


2. To protect the interests of women, girls and children travelling through this port and City and to give counsel and advice to travellers in difficulty.


3. To advise women and girls financial or other difficulties, and to act as interpreters for those who do not understand the language.


4. By means of enquiries conducted free of cost, to ascertain if situations sought by girls, either here or abroad, can be recommended.


5. enerally take any other steps which may be deemed necessary in the furtherance of the above objects, and in the prevention of the spread of undesirable publications."


The work of the LVA was concentrated on the ports and stations helping the emigrants and other travellers who arrived there. (A sample of typical cases over some 50 years is appended as part of this Introduction). With the decline of Liverpool as a port and consequent decrease in the workload, the work of the LVA was incorporated with the Liverpool Personal Service Society, by whom its records were deposited.




Originally set up to meet and help women and girls travelling through Liverpool who might have been exploited. From the earliest report (1916), girls from Britain and Ireland were helped most, but many other countries - America, Canada, India, Russia, for example - were represented, as well as "displaced" people like Armenians and Jews, and the war-time cases of Belgian refugees (1916-1919), and World War II evacuees and refugees from Hungary (1956). Numbers of cases fluctuated from year to year, the average being over a thousand each year, but all who wished were helped by the Lady Workers, who were ready at the landing-stages and stations of Liverpool from as early as 3.20 in the morning. Later, they also met buses and aeroplanes. As time went on, more and more children were helped, many of whom were travelling to and from boarding-school and, by the 1960's, statistics were being included for the help given to men and youths.


The functions of the Association changed, as did its title. In 1921, it became an independent Society for the Prevention of International White Slave Traffic, a title which soon came to include all persons, not just women and children. The Association also extended its facilities to take an increasing concern over social welfare, with particular reference to child assault, unemployment and moral laxity. During World War II, it assisted in the running of an information bureau on Lime Street Station to arrange accomodation and telegrams and telephones for members of H.M. Services and to advise on such things as street directions, church services and places of entertainment. This advisory capacity continued after the bureau was closed and the Association became involved in tracing lost relatives and taking an interest in foreign girls participating in the "Au-Pair" scheme.


However, the busiest time for the Associations work was the time when Liverpool was the main port for immigration, emigration and deportation, some cases of which are listed below. Stringent regulations were made by the United States Government in 1922 about the cleanliness of passengers with the result that many girls were detained on Ellis Island only to be refused entry to America and sent back to Liverpool. The reasons for this could be medical, physical, intellectual, moral, industrial, economic or educational. Several of these deportees were unmarried mothers or displaced people, such as Armenians. At one point, there were up to 30,000 migrants in one week.


This link with emigrants continued even after the heyday of emigration was over. By the late 1960's emigrants to America and Australia up to forty years previously were trying, through the Association, to trace their relatives in Liverpool and Lancashire.


By the 1960's, the Associations influence was gradually dying out as the State and other organisations began to take over their concerns and Liverpool's decline as a port was becoming evident.




The National Vigilance Association, which is non-sectarian, was founded in London in 1885 as a result of a campaign by Mr. W.T. Stead in the Pall Mall Gazette against child prostitution and the existence of haunts of vice in London. Mr. Stead himself inspired by two notable women, Mrs. Josephine Butler and Mrs. Bramwell Booth, (wife of the founder of the Salvation Army), who visited him in his office and placed the most distressing facts before him. At that time the Law of England allowed a child of thirteen to be bought and sold for the purposes of prostitution. Mr. Stead investigated the facts and ruthlessly exposed them in his paper. Public opinion was indifferent and unorganized in respect of moral questions and the moral standard was strikingly low. As a result of Mr. Stead's campaign, a Criminal Law Amendment Act, drawn up years previously by other devoted workers in the cause of social purity, and postponed from year to year, was without delay passed. Amongst other things it raised the age of consent to sixteen, and provided summary jurisdiction in cases of brothel keeping - a new and important provision.


Miss Edith Rose of Liverpool was one of the pioneers and, at the request of London, she organised a meeting in Liverpool, which was held in the Town Hall, and presided over by the then Lord Mayor. Out of this the Liverpool Branch of the National Association was formed in 1907. From 1921 it became the Liverpool Vigilance Association, independent but affiliated to the national body.


The National Vigilance Association of Scotland was formed in Glasgow in 1910, and Miss Rose came from Liverpool to help start the work.


Other Associations later formed An. Hull, Manchester, and Newcastle, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Perth, each with its own autonomy, but co-operating when the need arises.


Constitutions may vary, but the object of the Associations is the same, "The Care and Protection of Women and Children."

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