Elizabeth Fry (née Gurney; 21 May 1780 – 12 October 1845), often referred to as Betsy Fry, was an English prison reformer, social reformer and, as a Quaker, a Christian philanthropist. She has often been referred to as the "angel of prisons".
Fry was a major driving force behind new legislation to make the treatment of prisoners more humane, and she was supported in her efforts by Queen Victoria. She was depicted on the Bank of England £5 note from 2001–2016. Fry kept extensive and revealing diaries.
21 May 1780
|Died||12 October 1845 (aged 65)|
Joseph Fry (m. 1800–1845)
Elizabeth Fry was born in Gurney Court, off Magdalen Street, Norwich, Norfolk, England into a prominent Quaker family, the Gurneys. Her childhood family home was Earlham Hall, which is now part of the University of East Anglia. Her father, John Gurney (1749–1809), was a partner in Gurney's Bank. Her mother, Catherine, was a member of the Barclay family who were among the founders of Barclays Bank. Her mother died when Elizabeth was twelve years old. As one of the oldest girls in the family, Elizabeth was partly responsible for the care and education of the younger children, including her brother Joseph John Gurney, a philanthropist. One of her sisters was Louisa Gurney Hoare (1784–1836), a writer on education.
She met Joseph Fry (1777–1861), a banker and part of the Fry's chocolate-making family, who was also a Quaker, when she was 20 years old. They married on 19 August 1800 at the Norwich Goat Lane Friends Meeting House and moved to St Mildred's Court in the City of London. Elizabeth Fry was recorded as a minister of the Religious Society of Friends in 1811.
Joseph and Elizabeth Fry lived in Plashet House in East Ham between 1809 and 1829, then moved to The Cedars on Portway in Forest Gate, where they lived until 1844. They had eleven children, five sons and six daughters:
Prompted by a family friend, Stephen Grellet, Fry visited Newgate Prison in 1813. The conditions she saw there horrified her. The women's section was overcrowded with women and children, some of whom had not even received a trial. The prisoners did their own cooking and washing in the small cells in which they slept on straw.
She returned the following day with food and clothes for some prisoners. She was unable to personally further her work for nearly four years because of difficulties within the Fry family, including financial difficulties in the Fry bank. During the 1812 financial panic in the City of London, William Fry had lent a large amount of the bank's money to his wife's family, undermining its solvency. Elizabeth's brother John Gurney, brother-in-law Samuel Hoare III and cousin Hudson Gurney made a large investment in the W.S. Fry & Sons bank to stabilize things.
Fry returned in 1816 and was eventually able to fund a prison school for the children who were imprisoned with their mothers. Rather than attempt to impose discipline on the women, she suggested rules and then asked the prisoners to vote on them. In 1817 she helped found the Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate. This association provided materials for women so that they could learn to sew and knit and once they were out of prison and then could earn money for themselves. This led to the eventual creation of the British Ladies' Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners in 1821. She also promoted the idea of rehabilitation instead of harsh punishment which was taken on by the city authorities in London as well as many other authorities and prisons.
In 1827, Fry visited women prisoners in Ireland (see Memoirs of Mrs. Elizabeth Fry, Thomas Timpson, NY: Stanford & Swords, 1847, pp. 82-99).
Elizabeth Fry also campaigned for the rights and welfare of prisoners who were being transported. The women of Newgate Prison were taken through the streets of London in open carts, often in chains, huddled together with their few possessions. They were pelted with rotten food and filth by the people of the city. The fear was often enough to make women condemned to transportation riot on the evening before. Fry's first action was to persuade the Governor of Newgate prison to send the women in closed carriages and spare them this last indignity before transportation. She visited prison ships and persuaded captains to implement systems to ensure each woman and child would at least get a share of food and water on the long journey. Later she arranged each woman to be given scraps of material and sewing tools so that they could use the long journey to make quilts and have something to sell as well as useful skills when they reached their destination. She also included a bible and useful items such as string and knives and forks in this vital care package. Elizabeth Fry visited 106 transport ships and saw 12,000 convicts. Her work helped to start a movement for the abolition of transportation. Transportation was officially abolished in 1837, however Elizabeth Fry was still visiting transportation ships until 1843.
Elizabeth Fry wrote in her book Prisons in Scotland and the North of England that she stayed the night in some of the prisons and invited nobility to come and stay and see for themselves the conditions prisoners lived in. Her kindness helped her gain the friendship of the prisoners and they began to try to improve their conditions for themselves. Thomas Fowell Buxton, Fry's brother-in-law, was elected to Parliament for Weymouth and began to promote her work among his fellow MPs. In 1818 Fry gave evidence to a House of Commons committee on the conditions prevalent in British prisons, becoming the first woman to present evidence in Parliament.
Elizabeth Fry also helped the homeless, establishing a "nightly shelter" in London after seeing the body of a young boy in the winter of 1819/1820. In 1824, during a visit to Brighton, she instituted the Brighton District Visiting Society. The society arranged for volunteers to visit the homes of the poor and provide help and comfort to them. The plan was successful and was duplicated in other districts and towns across Britain.
Elizabeth Fry used her influential network and worked with other prominent Quakers to campaign for the abolition of the slave trade.
After her husband went bankrupt in 1828, Fry's brother became her business manager and benefactor. Thanks to him, her work went on and expanded.
In 1838 the Friends sent a party to France. Fry and her husband, Lydia Irving, and abolitionists Josiah Forster and William Allen. They were there on other business but despite the language barrier Fry and Lydia Irving visited French prisons.
In 1842, Frederick William IV of Prussia went to see Fry in Newgate Prison during an official visit to Great Britain. The King of Prussia, who had met the social reformer during her previous tours of the continent promoting welfare change and humanitarianism, was so impressed by her work that he told his reluctant courtiers that he would personally visit the gaol when he was in London.
One admirer was Queen Victoria, who granted her an audience a few times before she was Queen and contributed money to her cause after she ascended to the throne. Another admirer was Robert Peel who passed several acts to further her cause including the Gaols Act 1823. The act was largely ineffective, because there were no inspectors to make sure that it was being followed.
Following her death in 1845, a meeting chaired by the Lord Mayor of London, resolved that it would be fitting "to found an asylum to perpetuate the memory of Mrs Fry and further the benevolent objects to which her life had been devoted." A fine 18th-century town house was purchased at 195 Mare Street, in the London Borough of Hackney and the first Elizabeth Fry refuge opened its doors in 1849. It was intended to provide temporary shelter for young women discharged from metropolitan gaols or police offices. Funding came via subscriptions from various city companies and private individuals, supplemented by income from the inmates' laundry and needlework. Such training was an important part of the refuge's work. In 1924, the refuge merged with the Manor House Refuge for the Destitute, in Dalston in Hackney. The hostel soon moved to larger premises in Highbury, Islington and then, in 1958, to Reading, where it remains today. The original building in Hackney became the CIU New Lansdowne Club but became vacant in 2000 and has fallen into disrepair. Hackney Council, in 2009, was leading efforts to restore the building and bring it back into use. The building did undergo substantial refurbishment work in 2012 but as of July 2013, the entire building is for sale. The building and Elizabeth Fry are commemorated by a plaque at the entrance gateway.
Fry died from a stroke in Ramsgate, England, on 12 October 1845. Her remains were buried in the Friends' burial ground at Barking. Seamen of the Ramsgate Coast Guard flew their flag at half mast in respect of Mrs Fry; a practice that until this occasion had been officially reserved for the death of a ruling monarch. More than a thousand people stood in silence during the burial at the Ramsgate memorial
There are a number of memorials which commemorate places where Fry lived. There are plaques located at her birthplace of Gurney Court in Norwich; her childhood home of Earlham Hall; St. Mildred's Court, City of London, where she lived when she was first married; and Arklow House, her final home and place of death in Ramsgate. Her name heads the list on the southern face of the Reformers Monument in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. She is depicted in stained glass at All Saints Church, Cambridge alongside Edith Cavell and Josephine Butler.
Due to her work as a prison reformer, there are several memorials to Elizabeth Fry. One of the buildings which make up the Home Office headquarters, 2 Marsham St, is named after her. She is also commemorated in prisons and courthouses, including a terracotta bust in the gatehouse of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs and a stone statue in the Old Bailey. The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies honours her memory by advocating for women who are in the criminal justice system. They also celebrate and promote a National Elizabeth Fry Week in Canada each May.
Elizabeth Fry is also commemorated in a number of educational and care-based settings. The University of East Anglia's School of Social Work and Psychology is housed in a building named after her. There is an Elizabeth Fry Ward at Scarborough General Hospital in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom. A road is named for Fry at Guilford College, a school in Greensboro, North Carolina, which was founded by Quakers. There is a bust of Elizabeth Fry located in East Ham Library, Newham Borough of London.
Quakers also acknowledge Elizabeth Fry as a prominent member. Her grave at the former Society of Friends Burial Ground, located off Whiting Avenue in Barking, Essex, was restored and received a new commemorative marble plinth in October 2003. In February 2007, a plaque was erected in her honour at the Friends Meeting House in Upper Goat Lane, Norwich. Fry is also depicted in the Quaker Tapestry, on panels E5 and E6. She is also honoured by other Christian denominations. In the Lady Chapel of Manchester's Anglican Cathedral, one of the portrait windows of Noble Women on the west wall of the Chapel features Elizabeth Fry. The Church of England includes her on its liturgical calendar on Oct. 12.
From 2001–2016, Fry was depicted on the reverse of £5 notes issued by the Bank of England. She was shown reading to prisoners at Newgate Prison. The design also incorporated a key, representing the key to the prison which was awarded to Fry in recognition of her work. However, as of 2016, Fry's image on these notes was replaced by that of Winston Churchill. She was one of the social reformers honoured on an issue of UK commemorative stamps in 1976.
Fry kept extensive diaries which give unique insight into her work, life and personality.
The Bank of England £5 note, also known as a fiver, is a banknote of the pound sterling. It is the smallest denomination of banknote issued by the Bank of England. In September 2016, a new polymer note was introduced, featuring the image of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse and a portrait of Winston Churchill on the reverse. The old paper note, first issued in 2002 and bearing the image of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry on the reverse, was phased out and ceased to be legal tender after 5 May 2017.Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) is an association of groups operating under the Elizabeth Fry Society banner, similar in many respects to the John Howard Society. The Elizabeth Fry Society groups work on issues affecting women and girls in the justice system. The societies take their name from prison reformer Elizabeth Fry.
The organization was started in 1969, with formal incorporation as a non-profit organization occurring in 1978. They help female offenders to re-integrate into society. They work independently from the government.
The original Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada was founded in 1939 by Member of Parliament Agnes Macphail.The current Executive Director of CAEFS is Kassandra Churcher.
The Elizabeth Fry Society has also taken an active approach to criminal cases involving females. They have had intervenor status in a number of Supreme Court of Canada cases including R v Ryan, in which Nicole Patricia Ryan was arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after attempting to hire an undercover officer as a hitman to kill her husband. The RCMP were criticized by the Supreme Court for failing to protect Ryan from an abusive husband, however both the husband and the RCMP refute the reported abuse. The husband was not called to testify during the trial.Earlham Hall
Earlham Hall is a country house in Norfolk, England. It is located just to the west of the city of Norwich, on Earlham Road, on the outskirts of the village of Earlham. For generations it was the home of the Gurney family. The Gurneys were known as bankers and social activists; prison reformer Elizabeth Fry grew up at Earlham Hall. When the University of East Anglia was founded in 1963, the building became its administrative centre, and it now serves as the law school.Elizabeth Fry Ashmead Schaeffer
Elizabeth Fry Ashmead Schaeffer (E.F.A. Schaeffer) (born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 16, 1812 and died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, November 2, 1892), was the founder of the Lutheran Home at Germantown for Orphans and an active leader of many ministries of the Lutheran Church in Philadelphia. She was the wife of Rev. Charles William Schaeffer and mother of four children.Frank Woods (bishop of Winchester)
Frank Theodore Woods (15 January 1874 – 27 February 1932), generally known as Theodore Woods, was Bishop of Peterborough (signed Theodore Petriburg) from 1916 to 1923 before being translated to the see of Winchester, where he remained until his death.His brother Edward was Bishop of Lichfield 1937-1953. Edward's son was Frank Woods who, after being Bishop of Middleton, became Archbishop of Melbourne.
While Bishop of Peterborough, Woods served as Episcopal Secretary for the 1920 Lambeth Conference.As Bishop of Winchester, Woods was Prelate of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.
He was the great grandson of the social reformer Elizabeth Fry.James Neild
James Neild (4 June 1744 – 16 February 1814) was an English jeweller and prison reformer. While he was supported by two particular friends, Weeden Butler and John Coakley Lettsom, his efforts were distinct from those of John Howard, and the Quaker group including Elizabeth Fry.Jennifer Ross
Ann Jennifer Evelyn Elizabeth Fry Ross (nee Fry, 16 March 1916 - 10 December 2003) was a British literary muse who financed The London Magazine.
She was the only child of Sir Geoffrey Fry, 1st Baronet and his wife Alathea Gardner. She grew up at Oare House, Wiltshire. Her father was private secretary to two prime ministers, and descended from the Quaker family of cocoa manufacturers. Her mother was the daughter of Lord Burghclere. Alathea's sister was Evelyn Gardner, who married the writer Evelyn Waugh and was known as one of the Bright Young Things of inter-war London.
In 1942, already pregnant, Ann Fry married Robert Heber-Percy, who had for the past decade been the boyfriend of the composer Lord Berners, and was known as "the Mad Boy". She moved into their menage at the manor house of Faringdon, an Oxfordshire market town.
They divorced in 1947. She loved and was loved by men such as Cyril Connolly, Henry Green, and the film maker Michael Luke. She next married, in 1949, the poet Alan Ross, editor of The London Magazine, which she supported with her money and intellect. She championed Jean Rhys's novel Wide Sargasso Sea to Francis Wyndham. Her friends included "John Betjeman ... Anthony and Violet Powell, Heywood and Anne Hill, [and] Prim Rollo, who married the actor David Niven."She volunteered with the Prisoners' Wives Service, which Cressida Connolly links to her ancestor Elizabeth Fry, the great social reformer.John Gurney (1749–1809)
John Gurney (10 November 1749 – 28 October 1809) was an English banker and member of the Gurney family of Norwich. Besides his role as a partner in Gurney's bank he is notable as the father of the social reformers Elizabeth Fry and Joseph John Gurney, the writer Louisa Hoare and the banker Samuel Gurney.Joseph Fry (tea merchant)
Joseph Fry (21 April 1777 – 28 August 1861) was a tea dealer and an unsuccessful banker. He was the husband of the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry.Joseph Thacker
Joseph Thacker was an Anglican priest in the nineteenth century, notably Archdeacon of Ossory from 1860 until his death in 1883.A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, he held incumbencies in Kilfane and Thomastown.In July 1863 outbuildings at his residence of Kilfane Glebe were burned. According to the Dublin Evening Mail, the subsequent inquiry heard that: "Certain parties thought the Archdeacon was too zealous in his profession as a clergyman, in opposing the tenets of the Church of Rome and in promoting the growth of Protestantism, and the location of Protestant labourers in the parish; and that no other motive could be assigned for the outrage."
In April 1869, he was criticised for telling a meeting of Kilkenny Protestants to "trust in God and keep your powder dry," a maxim attributed to Oliver Cromwell.
Thacker was born in 1807 and died on April 25, 1883. His father, Joseph Thacker, of Ballymeelish, Borris-in-Ossory, was from a Quaker family, but left the Society of Friends to marry a Church of Ireland cousin. Joseph Gurney and his sister Elizabeth Fry, the Quaker social reformers, stayed with the archdeacon's parents on their visit to Ireland in 1827. He married Charlotte Louisa, the daughter of John Smyly KC, of Dublin, and niece of Sir Philip Crampton, the eminent surgeon.Kim Pate
Kimberly Pate, (born November 10, 1959),was the executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.In 2014, she was named a Member of the Order of Canada for advocating on behalf of women who are marginalized, victimized or incarcerated, and for her research on women in the criminal justice system.On October 31, 2016, it was announced that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would recommend that she be appointed to the Senate of Canada. She will sit as an independent. Pate assumed office on November 10, 2016.King Edward VII, Stratford
The King Edward VII is a Grade II listed public house at 47 Broadway, Stratford, London.It was built in the early 18th century. It is opposite St John's Church and has original pedimented doors and early 19th-century bay windows. It was originally called "The King of Prussia", either in honour of Frederick the Great or else after King Frederick William IV, who visited the area in 1842 to meet Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer. However, the name was changed at the start of World War I in 1914 for patriotic reasons.Lucy Fry
Lucy Elizabeth Fry (born 13 March 1992) is an Australian actress. She is known for portraying Zoey in Lightning Point, Lyla in Mako: Island of Secrets, and Vasilisa Dragomir in the film Vampire Academy. Fry was also cast in Hulu's eight part miniseries 11.22.63 as Marina Oswald, wife of Lee Harvey Oswald, and played the lead in the 2016 Australian horror television series Wolf Creek and Tikka in 2017 Netflix film Bright.Lydia Irving
Lydia Irving (15 May 1797 – 22 February 1893) was a British philanthropist & prison visitor. She was a leading Quaker and she worked closely with Elizabeth Fry seeking to improve conditions for women in prisons and on convict ships filled with those to be transported.Plashet
Plashet is an locality of East Ham in the London Borough of Newham in East London located between West Ham (Upton Park) and Manor Park. It contains Plashet Jewish Cemetery, Plashet Park, and several places of worship.The area was home to prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, who lived in Plashet House from 1809-1829, and also her daughter Katherine who lived in Plashet Cottage. Both of these properties were demolished in the 1880s to make way for the terraced streets that now characterise the area.Steve Marriot lead singer of the Small Faces was born at East Ham Memorial Hospital located in the Plashet area.
The poet Benjamin Zephaniah has also lived in Plashet.Rajah Quilt
The Rajah Quilt is a large quilt that was created by women convicts in 1841 whilst travelling from Woolwich to Hobart using materials organised by Lydia Irving of the British Ladies Society for promoting the reformation of female prisoners convict ship sub-committee. The quilt was presented to Jane Franklin. The quilt was sent back to Britain for Elizabeth Fry who led the British Ladies Society. The quilt's provenance is then unclear until it was rediscovered in 1989. It is now treasured by the National Gallery of Australia.St Nicholas' Chapel, Manor Park
St Nicholas' Chapel, Manor Park is a Roman Catholic parish church in Manor Park, east London.
It originated in 1870 as a chapel for St Nicholas's Catholic Industrial School for Boys, which occupied Manor House, previously home to the Quaker Fry family, best known for Elizabeth Fry. In 1918 St Nicholas became a parish church in its own right as well as a school chapel, when a new Manor Park parish was created. In 1924 it gained a chapel of its own, St Stephen's in Little Ilford - their status as parish church and chapel were reversed in 1934, with St Stephen's taking over as the parish church and the parish becoming known as that of St Stephen and St Nicholas. In 1925 the school closed, after which its site and buildings (other than the chapel and priests' house) were sold to the London Co-operative Society.West Ham Park
West Ham Park is a privately owned public park positioned in both West Ham and Stratford in the London Borough of Newham. Spanning 77 acres (31 ha), it is the largest park in the borough. The park has been managed by the City of London Corporation since 1874.Records from 1566 show that the park had been a part of the estate of Upton House, later known as Ham House. William Rooke, who had inherited the estate, enlarged it to 28 acres (11 ha) in 1559. The estate was purchased by John Elliott in 1752, who owned it for 10 years. It was acquired in 1762 by John Fothergill, who enlarged the grounds to around 80 acres (32 ha) and created a sizeable botanical garden, which had been described as 'second only to Kew'. He would often accept rare plants in lieu of his fees as a physician. After Fothergill's death in 1780, the contents of the garden were largely sold off.The estate was sold to James Sheppard in 1787, and after his death was purchased by Samuel Gurney, his son-in-law, in 1812. During this period, Gurney's sister, Elizabeth Fry, resided there. It was later passed to John Gurney, who lived in Norfolk at had no use for the estate. Ham House was demolished in 1872. In 1874, John Gurney gave a large contribution towards the purchase of the Ham House estate and grounds by the Corporation of the City of London, to serve as a public open space.The park was the home to Upton Park FC, a local football club that drew large crowds at home matches. The venue was the site of the first ever FA Cup goal, scored by Jarvis Kenrick for Clapham Rovers in a 3–0 victory over Upton Park on 11 November 1871.The park features ornamental gardens, children's playgrounds, and sporting facilities including five-a-side football pitches, cricket nets and tennis courts. Until its closure in 2016, a nursery stood at the north east corner of the park, and was one of the largest operations of its kind in the UK, producing over 200,000 spring and summer bedding plants each year for the park, gardens and churchyards in the City of London and other Corporation open spaces. Plants grown in the nursery were also used for state occasions and banquets hosted by the City of London Corporation.William Forster (philanthropist)
William Forster (23 March 1784 – 27 January 1854) was a preacher, Quaker elder and a fervent abolitionist. He was an early member of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society in 1839. It was William and Stephen Grellet who introduced Elizabeth Fry to her life's work with prisons, but it was William's brother, Josiah, who accompanied Fry on her tour and inspection of prisons in France.
|Ancestors of Elizabeth Fry|