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AGM and Talk: From Vice to Virtue: The Cambridge Female Refuge

Tuesday, 14 May, 2019 , 7:30 pm 9:00 pm

Just visible behind Christ Church on Newmarket Road is the roofline of the Cambridge Female Refuge, founded in 1838 and functioning in the city until 1939. The Refuge was intended as a voluntarily reformatory institution for ‘fallen’ women, that is to say, women earning their living by sex work or considered to be in ‘moral danger’. Women inmates did laundry and sewing work, learned to read and write and received religious instruction. At the end of around two years, they were placed in respectable domestic service or returned to friends and family. While inside the institution, women’s freedom of movement outside the Refuge site was largely restricted to attendance at church. 

Every Sunday, they would walk through the door in the churchyard wall, through their own private door at the back of the church and into a specially screened private pew. On their way, they would pass the window designed by Frederick Leach, who also painted the Refuge interior. 

For some women, despite the hard work and long hours, the Refuge provided genuine protection and a chance to change their life courses; for some, separation from their families and the experience of confinement was unbearable. Other women’s experiences were more mixed; they stayed the course by finding inventive ways round institutional rules…

Text copyright Susan Woodall

This talk will be preceded by the Society’s AGM.

The event takes place at Ross Street Community Centre. Doors open at 7pm and the talk starts at 7:30pm. All are welcome, Ross Street is a fully accessible venue, tea and biscuits are provided afterwards. Admission is with a suggested donation of £3 per person.


Tuesday, 14 May, 2019
7:30 pm–9:00 pm
Event Category:

Ross Street Community Centre

Ross Street Community Centre, Ross Street
Cambridge, CB1 3UZ United Kingdom
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01223 213162
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