Night Of Years

Documentary about early feminist Josephine Butler

Night of Years is a short documentary exploring the life and work of early feminist Josephine Butler. When I decided to make this film the immediate challenge was how to bring her work to life more than 100 years after her death, particularly on a micro budget.

The film uses a combination of key interviews and archive material to tell her story and was screened at a special event to mark International Women’s Day 2018. Josephine worked tirelessly during her lifetime for equality between women and men.

She exposed the exploitative treatment of prostitutes during a period in history when they were subjected to barbaric internal examinations fortnightly. These examinations were intended to prevent the spread of the prevalent disease syphilis in garrison towns. At no point were men examined, the onus was only on the women to prove that she didn’t have the disease. If a women did have the disease she would be imprisoned in a lock hospital for up to 9 months and treated with experimental treatments including mercury. Josephine was at the forefront of the campaign to get the acts which forced women to undergo these examinations repealed. She was from a class of women who were supposed to be sexually ignorant, and therefore she faced violence and hatred for her opinions and for speaking out publically. The acts were finally repealed in 1886.

Josephine shone a light on the trafficking of young women and girls into Europe during her campaigning, and worked latterly to fight for a repeal of the Contagious Disease Acts in India.

Archive formed the basis on which I was able to work as a director. Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn holds many diaries and letters by Josephine which I was able to use within the film.

Being able to hold and read her original material was incredibly moving, particularly in light of her own personal tragedy. Her own daughter died aged six falling from a bannister in their house when running to greet her mother and its my belief that this is the particular event which motivated her to fight so hard and for so long for the rights of women.  

I am also grateful to the Women’s Library at London School of Economics for providing me with so many beautiful images of Josephine for use in the film. Wellcome library London was also a great source of information and medical archive.

I am grateful to the Northumberland National Park, The Sir James Knott Trust, Catherine Cookson Trust and the Glendale Gateway Trust for their support with the finance for Night of Years.

If you would like to show the film at your venue or as part of your event please contact me on or 07554 312 061.  

A Facebook page supports the film. 

Get In Touch

Please use any of the methods below to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you about anything.


Alysoun Sharpe


07554 312 061


School House,
NE71 6HS