BirthTo Quaker parents
MarriageJoseph Fry, a Quaker banker
FamilyGives birth to 11 children
VocationBecomes Quaker Minister
VocationBegins organized work with women prisoners
- since 2002
MemorialFeatured on Bank of England £5 note
The Cleaned-Up Version of a Great Philanthropist: Elizabeth FryRead more...
During the early decades of the nineteenth century, Elizabeth Fry was one of most famous women in London and her charitable influence extended across the United Kingdom and Europe. The first publicly recognized female philanthropist, she organized Ladies' Committees that fought to reform the appalling conditions of prisons. Beginning with the female inmates at Newgate Prison, she pioneered a system of discipline that aimed to rehabilitate criminals as productive members of society. Lionized in paintings as well as biographies, ubiquitously depicted in her Plain Quaker attire and often shown reading the Bible before a group of lower-class listeners, she built upon the legend of her heroic entry into the notoriously riotous women's quarters at Newgate. Contemporary collected biographies virtually canonized Elizabeth Fry, associating her with heroines such as Florence Nightingale, Grace Darling and the Maid of Saragossa as well as saints of old. However, more recent exposes, beginning with June Rose's biography published in 1980, reveal complex qualities in Elizabeth Fry that the nineteenth century biographies rather conspicuously suppressed.