In April 1817, the wife of a clergyman and 11 members of the Society of Friends formed themselves into ‘An association for the Improvement of the Female Prisoners in Newgate'. The object was to provide for the clothing, instruction and employment of the women. Elizabeth told the prisoners that they did not come with any 'authoritative pretension', to command, the prisoners and that not a rule should be made, or a monitor appointed, without their full and unanimous concurrence.
...that for this purpose, each of the rules should be read and put to the vote; and she invited those who might feel any disinclination to any particular, freely to state their opinion: then the following were read:-
- That a matron be appointed for the general superintendence of the women.
- That the women be engaged in needlework, knitting, or any other suitable employment.
- That there should be no begging or swearing, gaming, card playing, quarrelling, or immoral conversation. That all novels, plays and other improper books be excluded; and that all bad words be avoided; and any default in these particulars to be reported to the matron.
- That there be a yard-keeper, chosen from among the women: to inform them when their friends come; to see that they leave their work with a monitor, when they go to the grating, and that they do not spend any time there, except with their friends. If any woman be found disobedient, in these respects, the yard-keeper is to report the case to the matron.
- That the women be divided into classes of not more than 12 and a monitor be appointed to each class.
- That monitors be chosen from amongst the most orderly of the women that can read, to superintend the work and conduct of the others.
- That the monitors not only overlook the women in their own classes, but if they observe any others disobeying the rules, that they inform the monitor of the class to which such persons may belong, which is immediately to repeat to the matron, and the deviations to be set down on a slate.
- That any monitor breaking the rules shall be dismissed from her office and the most suitable in the class selected to take her place.
- That the monitors be particularly careful to see that the women come with clean hands and face to their work, and that they are quiet during their employment.
- That at the ringing of the bell at 9 o'clock in the morning, the women collect in the work-room to hear a portion of the Scriptures read by one of the visitors, or the matron; and that the monitors afterwards conduct the classes from thence to their respective wards in an orderly manner.
- That the women again be collected for reading at 6 o'clock in the evening when their work shall be given in charge to the matron by the monitors.
- That the matron keep an exact account of the work done by the women and of their conduct.
Description: Extract from the diary of Elizabeth Fry
Date: April 1817
Source: Source: Norwich Millennium Library holds a complete diary of Elizabeth Fry that can be viewed on microfilm by the public.