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Elizabeth Fry
- Favourite Briton.

Born in Norwich, Norfolk
Born on 21st of May 1780
Died in Ramsgate, Kent
Died on 12th of October 1845

Elizabeth Fry was born 21st May 1780 and died 12th October 1845. She was an English social reformer and Quaker philanthropist, most notable for her work as a prison reformer. Since 2002 she has been depicted on the Bank of England 5 note. She was born at Earlham Hall in Norwich, Norfolk into a Quaker family. Her father John Gurney was a banker and her mother Caroline belonged to the Barclay banking family. Her mother died when Elizabeth was only 12 years old, leaving behind 12 children, with Elizabeth assisting in the raising of the younger ones. At 18 years old, motivated by American Quaker, William Savery, she began collecting clothes for the poor and visiting the sick in her neighbourhood, as well as starting a Sunday school in her family's summer house in order to teach children to read. She married Joseph Fry, a fellow Quaker and a banker, in August 1800 and they moved to St. Mildred's Court in the City of London. The couple had 11 children together between 1801 and 1822, moving the family to East Ham in 1809 and Forest Gate in 1829. Elizabeth became a Quaker Minister in 1811. Prompted by a family friend, she visited Newgate prison in 1813 and was horrified at the appalling conditions, particularly for women and children. She returned the following day with food and clothes for some of the prisoners, determined to do what she could to improve their circumstances. However, financial difficulties prevented her from doing anything for a further 4 years until she was able to found a prison school for the children who had been imprisoned with their parents. In 1817 she founded the Assocation for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate, widely acknowledged as constituting the first nationwide women's organisation in Britain. With the help of her brother-in-law who was an MP, Fry gave evidence in the House of Commons on the conditions in British prisons, becoming the first woman to present evidence in parliament. Fry and her brother Joseph also took up the cause of abolishing capital punishment, and the duo persuaded Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel, to introduce a series of penal reforms, resulting in the Gaols Act of 1823 which introduced prison chaplains, women warders for women prisoners and payment of gaolers rather than them taking fees from prisoners. Fry's other humanitarian work included help for the homeless by establishing a night shelter in London, and the setting up of the Brighton District Visiting Society whereby volunteers provided help and comfort to the poor with visits to their homes. This model was expanded and duplicated in other towns across Britain. She also campaigned for improvements in the way patients were treated in mental asylums. Fry's husband became bankrupt in 1828, but her brother became her benefactor, allowing her work to carry on and develop. In 1840 she opened a training school for nurses at Guy's Hospital, which in turn inspired Florence Nightingale to carry out her work in the Crimean War. Fry became well known in society, but was criticised by some at the time for being too influential for a woman and neglecting her duties as a wife and mother. However, Queen Victoria was an admirer and often met with her and contributed money to her causes. Fry dedicated her whole life to the poor right up until her death in Ramsgate in 1845. Her remains were buried in the Society of Friends burial ground in Barking, Essex.

Links: BBC Profile The Howard League

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