History's HEROES? 1780 - 1845

Elizabeth Fry

Views and opinions

You are born to be a light to the blind, speech to the dumb and feet to the lame
Deborah Darby, Prophecy about Elizabeth Gurney at age 18, September 1799

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I have found in my late attention to Newgate a peace and prosperity in the undertaking that I seldom, if ever, remember to have done before. A way has very remarkably been opened for us, beyond all expectations, to bring into order the poor prisoners ; those who are in power are so very willing to help us
Elizabeth Fry, April 1817

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When thee builds a prison thee had better build with the thought ever in mind that thee and thy children may occupy the cells
Elizabeth Fry - to the King of France, 1830s

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Since my heart was touched at seventeen years old, I believe I never have awakened from sleep, in sickness or in health, by day or by night, without my first waking thought being how best I might serve my Lord.
Elizabeth Fry, 25th October 1843

I have seen the two greatest sights in London - St Paul's Cathedral and Elizabeth Fry reading to the prisoners in Newgate
American Ambassador, late 1818
Through her personal courage and involvement, Elizabeth Fry alerted the nations of Europe to the cruelty and filth in the prisons and revealed the individual human faces behind the prison bars. Her own passionate desire to lead a useful life disturbed the placid, vapid existence of women in Victorian England and changed forever the confines of respectable femininity... Over two hundred years after her birth she seems a brave and modern woman, battling with the injustices of her time
June Rose, from her Biography of Elizabeth Fry, Macmillan, 1980

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My Quaker belief is that there is something of God in everyone, and that includes criminals. So the aim when we put someone in prison should be to try to reform them, not just to punish them
Elizabeth Fry

The women wept also; several were under the sentence of death... on my left hand sat Lawrence, alias Woodman, surrounded by her four children, and only waiting the birth of another, which she hourly expects, to pay the forfeit of her life, as her husband has done for the same crime a short time before...(some weeks later) I found poor Woodman lying-in in the common ward, where she had been suddenly taken ill; herself and little girl were each doing very well. She was awaiting her execution at the end of the month. What can be said of such sights as these?
Woman Prison Visitor 1817

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We observe in nature, both animal and vegetable there are different orders, genres and species; so I think I see it spiritually, as the flowers of one species differ a little in colour and size, so in the Church of Christ, those who may be said to be of one species, differ in some small things, no two quite alike, May these difference in no degree separate us from each other
Elizabeth Fry, 5th January 1837

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Does capital punishment tend to the security of the people? By no means. It hardens the hearts of men, and makes the loss of life appear light to them; it renders life insecure, inasmuch as the law holds out that Property is of greater value than life
Elizabeth Fry 1818

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I must not flirt; I must not ever be out of temper with the children; I must not contradict without a cause; I must not mump when my sisters are liked and I am not; I must not allow myself to be angry; I must not exaggerate, which I am inclined to do. I must not give way to luxury; I must not be idle in mind, I must try to give way to every good feeling, and overcome every bad...
Elizabeth Fry (Aged 17), July 17th, 1797

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The visitor must go in the spirit, not of judgment, but of mercy. She must not say in her heart 'I am more holy than thou,' but must rather keep in remembrance that 'all have sinned...
Elizabeth Fry in her book on prison visiting 1827
She was the only really very great human being I have ever met, with whom it was impossible to be disappointed. She was in the fullest sense of the word a majestic woman. It was impossible not to feel some awe before her as before some superior being.
The Duke of Argyll, Late 1846

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My mind too much tossed by a variety of interests and duties — husband, children, household accounts, Meetings, the Church, near relations, friends, and Newgate; — most of these things press a good deal upon me; I hope I am not undertaking too much, but it is a little like being in the whirlwind and in the storm; may I not be hurt in it, but enabled quietly to perform that which ought to be done...
Elizabeth Fry 1818

Our prayers will follow you, and a convict's prayers will be heard
Woman prisoner being deported to Australia calling out to Elizabeth Fry, 1818

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I felt myself under the shadow of the wing of God .... After the meeting my heart felt really light and as I walked home by starlight, I looked through nature up to nature's God ... I know now what the mountain is I have to climb. I am to be a Quaker
Elizabeth Fry, September 1798

You should not go in alone, ma'am. They'll tear off your things and scratch and claw you. And first of all they'll snatch your watch
Turnkey, Newgate Prison, 1816

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Punishment is not for revenge, but to lessen crime and reform the criminal
Elizabeth Fry

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It was my friend Stephen who told me about the terrible conditions for women prisoners and their children in Newgate. When I visited myself, I found all he'd said was true, and began to do something practical about it
Elizabeth Fry

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I am at this present time in an odd state. I am like a ship put out to sea, without a pilot. I feel my heart and mind so over-burdened I want someone to lean upon. I believe I am going to be religious or some such thing. I am now seventeen, and if some great and kind circumstance does not happen to me I shall have my talents devoured by moth and rust
Elizabeth Fry (Aged 17), Summer, 1797

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My having been brought publicly forward in the newspapers, respecting what I have been instrumental in doing at Newgate, has brought some anxiety with it; in the first place, as far as I am concerned, that it may neither raise me too high, nor cast me too low, that having what may appear my good works thus published, may never lead me or others to give praise or glory where it is not due
Elizabeth Fry, 4th August 1817

Elizabeth Fry’s capacity for various successive engagements, all of an important nature, is astonishing...She is both lovely and wonderful on close acquaintance; such energy, combined with meekness, and so much power with entire teachableness, are rarely found
William Ball (during a tour of Europe with Elizabeth Fry), 21st August 1838

I feel life so strong within me, that I cannot believe that this time tomorrow I am to be dead
Condemned woman, the day before her execution, talking the Elizabeth Fry, 1819

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Friends, many of you are mothers. I too am a mother. I am distressed for your children. Is there not something we can do for these innocent little ones? Do you want them to grow up to become real prisoners themselves? Are they to learn to be thieves and worse?
Elizabeth Fry, to the Women prisoners at Newgate, 1816

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I have felt a good deal pressed in spirit these last few days. The day before yesterday I counted twenty-nine persons who came here, on various accounts, principally to see me; there are times when the tide of life is almost overpowering
Elizabeth Fry, July 18th, 1835
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