Elizabeth Fry's achievements
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- She set up several schools and provided an education to the prisoners of Newgate and their children. - She set up a Sunday school in her teens in the family laundry house, and, after moving to Plashet in 1809, she set up a school in a large disused room with the help of the local vicar. The school was based on the 'Lancasterian method'; some 70 children were enrolled. The school outlived her, being finally absorbed into the national education scheme. In 1817 she opened a classroom for the children of prisoners in a cell at Newgate and later arranged for areas to be set aside on convict ships to serve as schools.
- She founded the 'Ladies' Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate'. - In 1817 she enlisted the help of 10 friends to form an association devoted to the pursuit of humanity and justice at Newgate. The group helped organise the school, and provided materials so the prisoners could sew, knit and make goods for sale. They took turns visiting the prison and reading the Bible to the prisoners. Their work became well known and became a model for other prisons in Britain and on the continent.
- She introduced the first nationwide ladies' organisation. - In 1821 the ladies' prison visiting committees that, encouraged by Elizabeth and others, had sprung up all over the country, joined together as the 'British Ladies' Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners'. The Society was supported by many patrons and funds also were raised form time to time by the sale of goods. The society campaiged for many impovements.
- She became a leader in the principles of prison management. - She promoted the idea of rehibilitation rather than just punishment. Her ideas were so successful that the city authorities in London adopted them, as did other authorities and prisons. Constant themes in her speeches included the need for women to oversee women prisoners, prisoner classification, employment and education, religious instruction, a sufficient diet, clean water and daylight in the cells and support to those leaving gaol so they did not reoffend. She was very concerned about the solitary and silent sytems that became popular from the mid 1830s and thought the pointless labour of the treadmill to be an abuse.
- She travelled and spoke widely and wrote on humanitarian issues. - In the interests of better conditions in prisons, and also asylums, she travelled to Scotland, Ireland, the Channel Islands and five times to the Continent. She also published, in 1827, her book 'Observations, on the visiting superintendence and government of female prisoners'. Her ideas for reform were influencial on the continent as well as in Britian.
- She achieved more reforms than any other woman. - Reforms, including those in the Gaols Act of 1823, covered supervision of women prisoners by women, useful employment, prisoner classification, education for women prisoners and their children, closed protective coaches for women travelling to transportation ships and women matrons to accompany the women on the voyage. Her efforts also saw better treatment and arrangements for women prisoners in Australia.
- She became the first woman to present evidence in parliament. - She spoke to a Parliamentary Commission on the conditions in British prisons in 1818. She also reported on the state of prisons to the Police Committee of the House of Commons in 1826, appeared before the Committee of the House of Commons on the Subject of Prisons in 1832 and attended the Select Committee of the House of Lords inquiring into the state of gaols in 1835. She also had several meetings with: the Secretary of State and Home Secretary regarding the situation in British prisons, and with the Colonial Office regarding the treatment of convicts in Australia.
- She campaigned, with some success, against capital punishment. - With her brother, Joseph John Gurney, she campaigned for the abolition of capital punishment (over 200 crimes in England at that time carried the death penalty). Along with others, such as Thomas Fowell Buxton, their work finally resulted in the introduction of a series of prison reforms, including a reduction in the number of crimes for which the punishment could be the death penalty
- She established a nightly shelter in London in 1820, as well as other refuges. - The winter of 1819/20 was particularly cold. Elizabeth organised a public meeting of those that could help assist in providing a refuge. Mr Hick, of Cheapside, offered an extensive warehouse in London-wall for the purpose, and within six hours it was opened as an asylum for the inmates during the night. During the coldest period, hundreds who could not be safely admitted were supplied with food, clothing, and other necessities, and with the means of procuring lodgings elsewhere. Employment was found for many of the men and inquiries made into the situation of the women and small children. Many were found places in different institutions. Elizabeth was also responsible for organising refuges for those leaving prison and a school of discipline for young hardened criminals, in 1824.
- She instigated a visiting society for the poor after witnessing the number of people begging in Brighton. - The Brighton District Society was established under the patronage of the Bishop of Chichester. The society had two objectives: the relief of real distress and the encouragment for poor families to make small deposits into a savings bank, so they had a little in store for necessities when times were hard. Visitors became personally acquainted with families. A subscription was raised to assist those in the most distress to buy the food they needed and to help them start saving a small amount until they were able to survive without the assistance of others. The society was so successful that it was replicated across the country.
- She opened a training school for nurses in 1840, which inspired Florence Nightingale. - Elizabeth's visit to hospitals and her own experience in nursing family members highlighted to her the need for well-trained nurses. She was particualry inspired by an establishment at Kaisersewerth and wanted to set up something similar in England. The plan was carried out by her sister-in-law, Mrs Samuel Gurney, with the assistance of her daughters and some other ladies. The hospital was run by a committee with the Queen Dowager as patroness. All the nurses were trained in public hospitals and a home was provided for them during intervals in their engagements. Whilst at the home the nursing sisters would nurse the poor in the neighbourhood. Florence Nightingale took a team of Fry's nurses to assist wounded soldiers in the Crimean War.
- She made a real impact on the convict women she worked with. - Six years after her work in Newgate began, John Randolph, a congressman visiting from Virginia, remarked at the extraodinary way she related to the women at Newgate. One convict in Austrialia also told how, when tempted to steal a gold thimble, all she could hear was Elizabeth's soft voice remonstrating with her: she put the thimble back. Many kept in touch and sent her details of their lives in Australia.
- She arranged for libraries to be set up in coast-guard stations and naval hospitals. - The coastguard's life was a solitary one. They were hated in many places, as their job was to prevent the smugglers bringing contraband into the country. Their families had little access to schools or amenities. Elizabeth arranged for libraries to be established at all the coastguard stations in the United Kingdom. By 1836 this was finally achieved; there were over 500.
- She reguarly visited the poor and sick and did what she could to improve the lives of those she met. - Elizabeth also carried out many smaller acts of kindness that made a real difference to the communities in which she lived. She ensured that the local children were vaccinated, and took clothing to those who needed it. At Plashet she was particuarly concerned with the poverty in the Iocal Irish community. She also started a soup kitchen in a barn at Plashet House, during one cold winter. Anyone who cared to come to her home could be supplied for the asking. Harriet Martineau once said that indiscriminate charity encouraged vagrants. Elizabeth thought that, in a world struggling with unemployment, even vagrants must be fed. It was cheaper than if they resorted to crime.