Catalogue description Records of the National Vigilance Association

This record is held by London University: London School of Economics, The Women's Library

Details of 4/NVA
Reference: 4/NVA
Title: Records of the National Vigilance Association

Minutes (including those of BVA), annual reports, and publications. Correspondence and campaigning files on issues of public morality, sexual morality, traffic in women, the armed forces, obscenity, prostitution, entertainment and employment. Case files (including some individuals) including regional cases from Wales and North-East England. Administration in connection with British National Council, International Bureau, Travellers' Aid Society; also the Public Morality Council; and miscellaneous papers including campaign, resource and administrative files about various issues connected with social morality and public morality.

Date: 1885-1969
Related material:

The Women's Library holds related collections of organisations linked to the National Vigilance Association: Travellers Aid Society (4/TAS); British Vigilance Association (4/BVA), International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons (4/IBS).

Held by: London University: London School of Economics, The Women's Library, not available at The National Archives
Language: English, French

National Vigilance Association, 1885-1953

British Vigilance Association and National Committee for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons, 1953-1969

Travellers' Aid Society, 1885-1939

International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Women and Children, 1899-

Physical description: 27 boxes
Access conditions:

This collection is open for consultation, excepting some case files which remain closed. Intending readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records came to the library from the offices of the British Vigilance Association and International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons, some directly in 1972 and the remainder in 1973 via the Anti-Slavery Society, who had been given the more recent records to use in their own work.

  • Prostitution
  • Human trafficking
  • Sexual behaviour
Unpublished finding aids:


Administrative / biographical background:

At the end of the nineteenth century, the debate over the Contagious Diseases Acts and the regulation of prostitution had drawn public attention to the more general issue of the traffic of women and children. Investigations into child prostitution by W T Stead published in the Pall Mall Gazette increased pressure to pass a Criminal Law Amendment Bill. In order to achieve this immediate aim and support any future changes to the law deemed necessary, the National Vigilance Association was formed in August 1885 'for the enforcement and improvement of the laws for the repression of criminal vice and public immorality'. All local Vigilance Committees, and any other organisations with congruent aims, were to affiliate to this new body while in turn the central body was to stimulate the formation of new vigilance committees. The General Council consisted of delegates from the affiliated groups and other appointed members and early members included Mrs Fawcett, Mrs Percy Bunting, J Stansfield MP, Mr WT Stead, Miss Ellice Hopkins, Mrs Mitchell, Mrs Lynch, Miss Bewicke, Mrs Bradley and Mrs Josephine Butler. At the initial meeting, an Executive Committee was appointed to manage the organisation's business and subcommittees were set up to deal with preventive, legal, organisational, parliamentary and municipal matters, as well as with registries, enquiries, the suppression of foreign traffic, finance and literature. The group grew rapidly at a local level and soon there were five branches of the association organised at a regional level: South Wales and Monmouthshire, Sunderland and North Eastern, Manchester and Northern Counties, Birmingham and Midland Counties and Bristol and South Western Counties. The new Association soon amalgamated with a number of other organisations working in the same field. The Minors' Protection Society merged with them in 1885, as did the Society for the Suppression of Vice, with the NVA taking over responsibility for the work of the Belgian Traffic Committee.


Discussions on a merger took place with the Central Vigilance Society from 1887 to 1891. The Association's activities also widened during this period. In 1899 the National Vigilance Association founded an international organisation, the International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons. The Executive of the National Vigilance Association acted as the national committee for Britain within the framework of the International Bureau and in this context was known as the British National Committee though the personnel were identical at the time. Later, however, the British National Committee took on an extended role and became a separate, more broadly-based organisation in its own right which comprised representatives of all the major and some minor organisations for the protection of women and children. Subsequently, in 1917 the aims of the National Vigilance Association itself broadened once more to embrace the protection of women, minors (including young men) and children. To achieve this, they worked not only for the suppression of prostitution but also of 'obscene' publications and public behaviour. A Special Council was established concerned with 'the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic'. However, in the 1920s and 1930s the National Vigilance Association was constantly plagued with financial difficulties despite its merger with the Travellers' Aid Society in 1939. Rising costs and a diminishing income brought a financial crisis in 1951. In 1952 National Vigilance Association and British National Committee amalgamated once more, ending both their independent existences. Consequently, a new group emerged which was named as the British Vigilance Association.

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