Call: 07757 750255

(please leave a message)

1921 – Proposal to Outlaw Gross Indecency Between Women

Birmingham Gazette – 5th August 1921

In 1921, Parliament considered an amendment to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which proposed that the offence of Gross Indecency should be extended to cover same-sex behaviour between women.

The clause read: “Any act of gross indecency between female persons shall be a misdemeanour, and punishable in the same manner as any such act committed by male persons under section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885.”

This was never passed into law.  It is widely believed that the proposed amendment was rejected due to fears of raising awareness about sex between women that might then lead more women to explore lesbian relationships. 

The circumstances of this proposed amendment and why it was eventually defeated tell us a great  deal about the attitude to lesbians in the period. The following well researched article is a  worthwhile read for anyone interested in understanding more.

Lesbianism and feminist legislation in 1921: the age of consent and ‘gross indecency between women’

Colonel Wedgwood, local MP for Newcastle Under Lyme, opposed the proposed amendment on grounds that it would increase blackmail. This was reported in several newspapers in different parts of the country but curiously did not appear in any Staffordshire publication I can find.  The article reproduced above is from the Birmingham Gazette.

Colonel Josiah Clement Wedgwood,was a British Liberal and Labour politician who was the great-great-grandson of master potter Josiah Wedgwood.

Like many members of the Wedgwood family he was liberal, independent and had a strong social conscience. He supported the Suffragettes despite the opposition from many in government at the time.

Skip to content