Elizabeth (Gurney) Fry

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Fry, Elizabeth (1780–1845). Reformer. Elizabeth Fry was born into the quaker family of Gurney, bankers of Norwich, and brought up at Earlham Hall. At the age of 20 she married another quaker banker, Joseph Fry, and went on to raise a large family. In 1807 her sister Hannah married Thomas Fowell Buxton, also of quaker ancestry, and keenly interested in prison reform. Elizabeth Fry began visiting Newgate and in 1817 founded an association to help the female prisoners. In 1818 she gave evidence to a parliamentary committee, insisting on the importance of useful work for prisoners. She became greatly concerned for the plight of women convicts transported to Australia and between 1818 and 1843 is said to have visited more than 100 convict ships. By the 1820s she had acquired an international reputation and the patronage of royalty, though her husband's bankruptcy in 1828 forced her to curtail her activities. In 1842 she was visited by Frederick William IV of Prussia while he was in England.

J. A. Cannon

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Philanthropist, prison reformer; b. Norwich, England, May 21, 1780; d. Ramsgate, England, Oct. 12,

1845. Her father, John Gurney, a Quaker merchant and banker, provided her with no formal education. Although she was at first attracted to deism, she was converted to primitive Quakerism by an American, William Savery, and by Joseph Fry, whom she married in 1800, and by whom she had 11 children. Influenced by the deaths of her father and father-in-law, Fry entered the Quaker ministry in 1811. Her work at Newgate prison, which was prompted by her two Quaker brothers-in-law and facilitated by her husband's business reputation, began in 1817. She developed a program of prison reform that included education, paid employment, association by day, solitude by night, rewards, and women warders for female prisoners. While promoting her reforms through extensive travels, correspondence, and published reports, she found time for other philanthropic activities, the most important of which was founding an order of nursing sisters. Two of her daughters edited her Memoirs, with Extracts from Her Journals and Letters.

See Also: friends, religious society of.

Bibliography: j. whitney, Elizabeth Fry (Boston 1936). j. kent, Elizabeth Fry (New York 1963).

[e. e. beauregard]

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Fry, Elizabeth (1780–1845) English social worker and prison reformer. A committed Quaker, she agitated for more humane treatment of women prisoners and convicts transported to Australia. She was also involved in attempts to improve working conditions for nurses and facilities for women's education.

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Fry, Elizabeth (prison reformer): see FRIENDS, THE SOCIETY OF.