Return to the Forum homepage


The Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women

The Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women (JAPGW) was founded in 1885 as the Jewish Ladies' Society for Preventive and Rescue Work by Constance, Lady Battersea (née de Rothschild) (1843-1931) and a group of influential friends and relatives. Constance was the daughter of Anthony (1810–1876) and Louise (1821–1910). Combining a happy disposition with a concern for others, Constance and her sister Annie (1844-1926) inherited their mother’s strong sense of duty to the poor; as young girls, they taught in the village schools of their home in Aston Clinton and at the Jews’ Free School. Constance became active in the temperance movement, and the movement for reforms of English women’s prisons. She was introduced to the women’s movement in 1881 by suffragist and temperance worker Fanny Morgan. In 1885, the sensitive issues of child prostitution and white slavery were brought to public consciousness by national scandals and journalistic exposés. W.T. Stead’s articles about white slavery fanned prejudice against Jewish immigrants by accusing East European Jews of being the source of the traffic in prostitutes and also the source of corrupting English girls and women.

The Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women

Constance first learned about the desperate plight of London’s Jewish prostitutes from an English missionary in 1885. With the support of her cousin, Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915), Constance engaged many among the liberal leadership of Anglo-Jewry in the fight to rescue Jewish prostitutes; the mixture of Jewish traffickers and Jewish victims, she believed, demanded the creation of a distinctively Jewish organization, and Constance had to overcome the resistance of many who were reluctant to even admit there was Jewish prostitution in England.

With Emma, Lady Rothschild (née von Rothschild) (1844-1937) (the wife of Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild) as its first President, the Association was composed of network of prominent Anglo-Jewish women closely connected to women’s temperance, suffrage and educational campaigns. The first meeting of the new society was held on 23 March 1885, with the first official meeting held on 17 April 1885. At that meeting it was decided that there would be two aims for the society: establish a home for ‘fallen Jewish girls’ and to carry out vigilance work at the docks in London’s East End. With the realisation that the problem of ‘fallen Jewish girls’ was not as serious as first thought, it was decided to focus all of their resources and time into preventing young Jewish immigrant girls from being lost in the depravity of the East End of London. Uniquely the work was carried out by men; it is likely that they wanted to protect young, Jewish middle-class women from the harsh realities of urban life, and a separate committee, the Gentlemen’s Sub-committee (chaired by Claude Montefiore) was formed in 1890 and took over the vigilance work and the provision of assistance to girls and women arriving alone at British ports. 

The original committee, comprised of women only, took over the domestic agenda, which included the training of young girls for domestic service and employment agency work. The Association opened homes to rescue girls from dangerous situations, provide moral education and train them for honest employment, establishing Charcroft House (later Rosaline House and Sara Pyke House), a lodging house for 'foreign Jewesses', and supervising a ‘Domestic Training Home’ at Highbury Home and Montefiore House, an industrial school for Jewish girls. 

The JAPGW was composed of an interlocking network of nationally prominent middle and upper-class Anglo-Jewish women closely connected to women’s temperance, suffrage and educational campaigns. As a result, they had entrée to and worked closely with feminist and inter-denominational anti-white slavery organisations. Founding the JAPGW launched these Anglo-Jewish women into organised English feminism and established the roots of an Anglo-Jewish woman’s movement seventeen years before the founding of the Union of Jewish Women. Constance, Lady Battersea continued to lead the JAPGW and to represent the Association at international meetings until the early 1920s. In late 1943 the decision was taken to amalgamate with the Jewish Board of Guardians.

Archive sources

The Rothschild Archive holds few papers of Constance, Lady Battersea, and virtually nothing relating to her philanthropic work. It is not known what happened to the papers of Lord and Lady Battersea following their deaths, but it is likely that much was destroyed. See English Family papers: Constance (Connie), Lady Battersea (née de Rothschild) (1843-1931).

The Rothschild Archive holds no papers of the Jewish Association for the Protection of Girls and Women. A testimonial, addressed to Nathaniel Mayer, 1st Lord Rothschild and Emma, Lady Rothschild, sent by the JAPWG Council to Lord Rothschild on the occasion of his 70th Birthday in 1910, will be found in The Rushbrooke Collection (000/848/4/2).

Minutes and papers of the JAPWG Council and its committees, 1885-1947 (including minutes of the General Committee and Council, 1885-1933; Gentlemen's Committee minutes, 1890-1925; General Purposes Committee minutes, 1917-1946; Finance Committee minutes, 1920-1937; Foreign Agents' address book; Annual Reports, 1936, 1940-1945; minutes of the General Committee of Montefiore House (approved school for Jewish Girls), Attendance Register, Punishment Register, 1912-1940; Sara Pyke House (hostel for working girls), minutes, 1904-1907, 1937-1946; Charcroft House (hostel for unmarried mothers and their babies), minutes, 1885-1889) will be found in the collections of the University of Southampton Library (MS 173, Archives of Jewish Care). Sundry reports of the Jewish Ladies Association for Preventive and Rescue Work for 1891–1892 will be found in the collections of the Goldstein‐Goren Diaspora Research Centre, Tel Aviv University. Sundry reports, (including Annual Reports of the JAPWG) will also be found in the collections of the London Library.

Further sources

More information about Constance’s work can be found in the Jewish Women's Encyclopaedia here » 

See also

  • Reminiscences, by Constance, Lady Battersea (Macmillan, 1922)
  • Lady de Rothschild and her daughters 1821-1931, by Lucy Cohen (John Murray, London, 1935)