This book covers a court case that took place in Victorian England in 1885. Eliza Armstrong was a vulnerable girl, who was used as a publicity case to reveal how easy it was for girls from difficult backgrounds to end up in the sex trade. It also showed how easily young girls could be taken out of the country, so they were no longer protected by British law.
Eliza appeared in court, along with William Stead (editor of the Gazette at the time), a brothel owner, Rebecca Jarrett, and Bramwell Booth (son of William Booth and second-in-command in the Salvation Army).
Two interesting aspects of this case are that the Salvation Army got involved and that William Stead, who was the instigator of the prosecution, died on the Titanic.
The case opened the public’s eyes to the exploitation of children and was the catalyst for raising the age of consent in Britain from the age of 13 to 16. The book points out that there are still children involved in the sex trade today, and that this needs to be dealt with.
Cathy Le Feuvre takes us through the original story and then there are excerpts of what happened in the court. She herself was in the Salvation Army for seven years.
The Armstrong girl is definitely an interesting story and the content is one that needs to be addressed. But I felt it fell short as a Christian book. The author speaks of the work of the Salvation Army mainly with regard to its humanitarian work, but there is not much specifically Christian content.
I also found the book difficult to follow because of the excerpts from court, where lies were told and there were differing opinions as to what happened. The author could have been clearer in her recount of the events.
This is a worthwhile read for those concerned to eradicate exploitation of girls like Eliza. It is also interesting to read how the courts handled this case.
Grand Rapids, Michigan