History's HEROES? 1780 - 1845

Elizabeth Fry

Elizabeth Fry - Timeline

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1780 May 21st - Elizabeth Gurney born at Gurney Court, Magdalen Street, Norwich, England.
1786 The Gurney family move to Earlham Hall (now part of the University of East Anglia).
1792 Elizabeth's mother dies and Elizabeth (with her older sisters) has to help raise her younger brothers and sisters.
1797 August 12th - In her diary Elizabeth notes: "I do not know if I shall not soon be rather religious".
Elizabeth starts a Sunday school and begins visiting the sick.
1798 February 4th - At a Quaker Meeting, Elizabeth hears William Savery from America speak. She is transfixed. Later she announces … "I have felt there is a God".
1799 March-April - Whilst visiting the opera and theatre in London, she questions her right to enjoy such "artificial" things.
September - Whilst Elizabeth is visiting her cousin in Coalbrookdale, preacher Deborah Derby speaks to Elizabeth about becoming "a light to the blind, speech to the dumb and feet to the lame."
She begins to dress in plain clothes. Faith and prayer become a source of strength.
Elizabeth meets merchant Joseph Fry, a plain Quaker. He asks her to marry him, at first she refuses.
1800 August 18th - Elizabeth marries Joseph Fry (who later becomes a banker) at Norwich Goats Lane Meeting House.
Elizabeth moves to live in London, at first living with Joseph's parents at Plashet House and then, fron 30th September, living at St. Mildred's Court, Poultry, City of London.
1801 August 22nd - Elizabeth gives birth to her first child, Katherine (Kathy).
1803 March 25th - Elizabeth's 2nd child, Rachel Elizabeth, is born; afterwards Elizabeth is ill for several months.
1804 July - Elizabeth's 3rd child, John, is born; again Elizabeth is ill after the birth.
1806 Elizabeth is appointed, by the Friends of Gracechurch Street Meeting, as a visitor to the school and workhouse at Islington; she begins visiting in May.
June 1st - Elizabeth's 4th child, William Storres, is born.
1807 February 18th - Elizabeth's 5th child, Richenda, is born.
1808 May - Elizabeth's sister Hannah marries Thomas Fowell Buxton at Norwich.
November - Joseph's father, William Storres Fry, dies.
Elizabeth records in her diary "...My course has been very different to what I had expected: instead of being, as I had hoped, a useful instrument in the Church Militant, here I am, a care-worn wife and mother..."
1809 In the spring - Elizabeth and Joseph move to the grander Plashet House, East Ham, formerly home to his father.
At Plashet, Elizabeth begins at once to establish schools for the neighbouring children, to care for the sick and the needy and to encourage the local children to be vaccinated.
20th September - Elizabeth's 6th child, Joseph, is born.
October 28th - Elizabeth's father dies.
1811 February 20th - Elizabeth's 7th child, Elizabeth (Betsy), is born.
March - Elizabeth is recorded as Quaker Minister and begins to travel and preach.
1812 Elizabeth records in her diary that she feels "life slipping away to little purpose".
12th September - Elizabeth's 8th child, Hannah, is born.
1813 During the Napoleonic wars, the Fry business begins to experience difficulties. Elizabeth and Joseph have to cut their costs.
Family friend and Quaker Minister, Stephen Grellet, (a French aristocrat exiled to America) visits Britain and Newgate Prison - horrified by conditions, he contacts Elizabeth.
Elizabeth visits Newgate Prison with the sister of Fowell Buxton, with clothing for the children, and is shocked by the terrible conditions.
1814 June 14th - Elizabeth's 9th child, Louisa, is born.
Elizabeth suffers a long and distressing illness but she continues to send clothing and comforts to the prisoners.
September - Elizabeth's brother John Gurney dies.
1815 November - Elizabeth's 7th child Elizabeth (Betsy) dies.
1816 April 18th - Elizabeth's 10th child, Samuel (known as 'Gurney'), is born; once more she is ill during the pregnancy.
The Fry bank is in trouble. Elizabeth and Joseph move back to St. Mildred's Court for a while; the older girls are sent to relatives and the boys to boarding school.
Late in the year, Elizabeth returns to Newgate and prays for the women. They are moved by her words of love for them.
Late December - On a visit to Newgate, Elizabeth picks up a child and asks "Is there not something we can do for these innocent little ones?" The women listen and talk of a prison school.
1817 With her husband's help, she invites the authorities to discuss plans for a school. After much debate they agree.
Elizabeth founds the 'Ladies' Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate'. They visit the prison and provide materials for the women to make clothes and items to sell.
August - the newspapers begin to publish details of Elizabeth's work at Newgate.
1818 February 27th - Elizabeth testifies before a Parliamentary Commission: the first woman to so. She recommends that women, not men, should look after women prisoners, and stresses the importance of education and useful employment.
April - Elizabeth and her brother plead to the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, for the lives of Charlotte Newman and Mary Ann James (forgery), and Harriet Skelton, (who passed forged banknotes under pressure from her husband). They are unsuccessful.
April 19th - Queen Charlotte (wife of George III) meets and talks with Elizabeth at the Mansion House. After this her work becomes well known.
Elizabeth arranges for prisoners to be taken for transportation in closed carriages to protect them from the stones and jeers of the crowds. During the next 20 years, she regularly visits the convict ships.
Elizabeth and her brother Joseph Gurney go on a tour of Scotland and the north of England, on Society business, and take the opportunity to visit prisons.
Elizabeth's brother-in-law, Thomas Fowell Buxton, is elected as MP for Weymouth and is now in a position to promote her work in the House of Commons.
Thomas Fowell Buxton publishes a book based on his research of Elizabeth's work at Newgate, entitled 'Inquiry into Prison Discipline'.
1819 February - Elizabeth is in ill health; at the end of March she goes to Sussex and Kent to rest and recover.
Elizabeth writes a report (Prisons in Scotland and the North of England) on prison reform, with her brother Joseph Gurney .
Elizabeth establishes a night shelter in London, after seeing the body of a young boy.
1820 Elizabeth begins to correspond with Walter Venning in St. Petersburg regarding treatment of prisoners and the insane.
1821 April - Elizabeth's sister, Priscilla, dies. This is followed by the marriage of her daughter Rachel, the first of the Fry children to marry.
Elizabeth forms the 'British Ladies' Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners'.
Autumn - Elizabeth and daughters Katherine and Rachel, accompany Joseph Fry on a business trip. They visit prisons in Nottingham, Lincoln, Wakefield, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Durham, Newcastle, Carlisle, Lancaster and Liverpool, establishing ladies' committees.
1822 November 1st - Elizabeth's 11th child, Daniel Fry (known as 'Henry' or 'Harry'), is born and her first grandchild is born on the same day. For some time she is very weak and ill.
1823 The Gaols Act is passed in parliament, seeing prisoner segregation according to crime, women warders for women prisoners and a reduction, by over 100, in the number of offences for which convicts could be executed.
Joseph Fry takes on two little houses on a piece of land jutting out into the Thames estuary at Dagenham, as a summer retreat where the family can fish and relax in the countryside. Elizabeth grows to love this place.
1824 May - The British Society focuses attention on asylums for destitute inmates leaving gaol. Elizabeth also approaches government to allow an institution at Toothill to receive abandoned female children, and a school for training young hardened criminals is set up in Chelsea.
Elizabeth's health breaks down again from overwork. She is ordered to Brighton for rest and a change of air.
1824, Seeing the solitary life of the coastguards, Elizabeth initiates a campaign for libraries to be set up in coastguard stations. By 1836 all coastguard stations and naval hospitals have libraries.
1824 Elizabeth sets up the Brighton District Visiting Society to assist the poor; the scheme is copied all over Britain.
1826 April - Elizabeth visits a total of 13 prisons in the Midlands, including Nottingham and Derby, after which she gives evidence to the Police Committee at the House of Commons.
1827 Elizabeth visits Ireland with her brother and sister-in-law. This visit focuses on asylums as well as prisons. The visit leads to the improvement of the hospital systems and treatment of the insane.
September 17th - Elizabeth's sister Rachel dies; Elizabeth had helped to look after her whilst she was ill.
Elizabeth publishes a book of 10 short chapters - 'Observations, on the visiting superintendence and government of female prisoners', strongly arguing for the need for prison reform and against capital punishment. It also calls for more opportunities for women.
1828 October - Joseph Fry's business goes bankrupt. Elizabeth is wrongfully accused of using bank funds for her charitable works.
The Gurney bank underwrites the debts, so restoring the Fry's financial integrity. Charitable work is now supported by her brother Joseph Gurney.
Elizabeth's health fails for a while. She records in her journal "My soul is bowed down within me, and my eyes are red with weeping."
1829 January - Needing to reduce expenditure, Elizabeth and Joseph go to live with William, their eldest son, at St. Mildred's Court before moving to a smaller house in 'The Cedars', Upton Lane, in June.
1830 Lord John Russell abolishes the death sentence for horse stealing and housebreaking.
1831 April/June - In April Elizabeth visits the Duchess of Kent and meets the young Princess Victoria. On 23rd June, at an event, she meets Queen Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (wife of William IV) and several members of the Royal family.
1832 August/September - Elizabeth travels in England, Wales and Ireland with her brother Samuel Gurney and visits a number of prisons.
March - Elizabeth appears before the Committee of the House of Commons, on the subject of prisons. She stresses the necessity of employment, separation at night and education, but speaks against solitude and isolation.
1833 Summer - After a busy time Elizabeth visits the Channel Islands. Whilst there she is concerned at the state of the prisons which are not subject to British legislature.
1834 Elizabeth is becoming anxious about the questions of the solitary and silent systems, imported from America; she feels these to be grave abuses.
26th July - Elizabeth sets off on a journey to Scotland with her husband and older daughters to visit prisons.
1835 May 22nd - Elizabeth (with others) attends the select committee of the House of Lords, inquiring into the state of gaols. She talks of the need for inspectors, matrons on convict ships and against the silent system and the pointless labour of the treadmill.
1835 Parliament enacts laws creating harsher prison conditions (the Prison Act of 1835). The harsh prison policies pioneered in the United States, such as solitary confinement and hard labour, are now favoured by the authorities.
1836 April - Elizabeth leaves for Ireland to visit 'Grangegorman Lane': the first women only prison, which is near completion.
September - Elizabeth is called home from Jersey as her sister Louisa is very ill; she dies a few days after Elizabeth arrives.
1838 January 25th - Elizabeth leaves to make her first official visit to France. She is accompanied by her husband, Josiah Forster and Lydia Irving. They visits prisons, hospitals and asylums and meet with leading officials.
July 14th - Elizabeth attends an important meeting held at Westminster Meeting House to further the cause of reform; present are British and Foreign nobility.
August 11th - Elizabeth leaves for a tour of prisons in the north and Scotland with William Ball and others. She is becoming anxious about the enforcement of solitary confinement in Scotland.
1839 11th March - Elizabeth leaves, for a second visit to France, with her husband and Josiah Forster. She receives an official permit to visit all the prisons in France, in return for a lengthy report.
1840 February 1st - Elizabeth is called to meet Queen Victoria. In January the Queen had sent £50 towards a refuge at Chelsea; they discuss this and other things.
Late February - Elizabeth leaves to travel through Belgium, the Netherlands and Prussia, with her brother Samuel Gurney, William Allen and others. They visit many prisons and hospitals.
June - Elizabeth attends the World Anti-Slavery convention at Exeter Hall.
Elizabeth arranges, through the help of her relations and others, the opening of a training school for nurses. Florence Nightingale later takes some of the nurses to the Crimea.
Only five crimes can now be punished by hanging.
1841 March - Elizabeth addresses the men of the Niger Expedition before they set off.
July 22nd - Elizabeth sends a letter to Captain Jebb on the subject of the Model Prison at Pentonville. Her dread of the solitary system has been increased by the knowledge of its consequences.
July 31st - Elizabeth leaves to travels to Holland, Denmark, Germany, Hanover and Prussia with her brother and his wife. They meet with influential people, including royalty, but Elizabeth returns ill.
1842 January 30th - Elizabeth is invited by the king of Prussia to lunch at the Mansion House. The next day he visits her Bible-reading class at Newgate and lunches at her home.
May 18th - Elizabeth visits the Duchess of Gloucester, the Queen Dowager and the Duchess of Kent, to encourage support for her causes.
Summer - Elizabeth's health fails but she has some success securing matrons to travel on the female convict ship, the 'Garland Grove'.
Towards the end of the year Elizabeth hears of the death of her little granddaughter Harriet Streatfield, aged 7.
January 18th - Elizabeth is invited to the Mansion House; she talks to the Foreign Colonial Secretary, Secretary of State, Prince Albert and Sir Robert Peel.
1843 January - In her journal Elizabeth talks about her rapid descent into 'old age'.
Spring - Elizabeth makes her last trip to France, accompanied by her brother Joseph, Josiah Forester and her eldest daughter. They visit many prisons and meet the king, queen and Princess Adelaide.
Summer - Anti-slavery Society meeting held at her home in Upton Lane.
Summer/Autumn - Elizabeth suffers ill health. Her little niece Harriet dies in September and Elizabeth goes to Tonbridge to be nursed by her daughters.
1844 March - Elizabeth goes to Bath to take the waters, after a "long and serious illness". On her return, her sister-in-law, Elizabeth Fry, dies (2nd July) and her grandson, Gurney Reynolds, dies aged 13, (18th July). Elizabeth is moved to Walmer House for 'a change of air'.
During a year of sadness, Elizabeth grieves for the death of her son, William Storrs Fry (27th August), and two of his daughters Juliana (15th August) and Emma (3rd September) from Scarlet Fever, then the death of a niece and her infant son (1st December).
1845 February 19th - Thomas Fowell Buxton dies.
Spring - Elizabeth has a great desire to visit Earlham; whilst there she attends the Friends Norwich Meeting House.
May 30th - Elizabeth attends the Friends Annual Women's Meeting. She has to be helped into the building, where she preaches a sermon. Friends flock round to greet her.
June 3rd - Elizabeth attends the Annual Meeting of Ladies' British Society. It is held at the Friends Meeting House in Plaistow, instead of Westminster, for her convenience.
August 12th - Elizabeth goes to Ramsgate for her health, following the marriage of her youngest son on June 26th and her niece on August 5th.
October 12th - Elizabeth dies at Ramsgate, Kent, surrounded by her children and grandchildren, and is buried in the Quaker burial ground in Barking, Essex.
1846 Two of her daughters publish a two-volume memoir of their mother, with selections from her journals and letters.
1890+ From the late 19th century, Elizabeth's reforms again influence prison administration.
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