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Elizabeth Fry: Saint of prison reform

Born in Norwich in May 1780 in to a prominent Quaker family, Elizabeth Fry (nee Gurney) was a Christian philanthropist and social reformer, sometimes referred to as the ‘angel of prisons’. 

After visiting Newgate Prison in 1813 and being horrified by the conditions she witnessed, she became a major driving force behind new legislation to make the treatment of prisoners more humane. Eventually Elizabeth was able to fund a prison school for the children who were imprisoned with their mothers and she formed an association which provided materials for women so that they could learn to sew and knit and earn money for themselves once they were out of prison. An advocate of rehabilitation rather than harsh punishment, she also campaigned for for the rights and welfare of prisoners who were being transported, helped the homeless by establishing a ‘nightly shelter’ in London and campaigned for the abolition of the slave trade. She died on 12 October 1845, aged 65.

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Quote of the week

“I have no fear nor shrinking; I have seen death so often that it is not strange or fearful to me.”

Edith Cavell

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