Who was Elizabeth Fry?

Elizabeth Fry was a British Quaker who worked to improve conditions for women incarcerated in poorhouses in England in the early 1800s.

Shocked by the conditions for women prisoners and their children in London’s Newgate Prison, Fry first established a school for the children. She and her collaborators then introduced a system of prisoner classification, standards for prison dress, constant supervision by a matron and (prisoner) monitors, religious and elementary education, and paid employment. These changes transformed women prisoner’s daily life, their outward appearance, and their conduct.

In April 1817 the Ladies’ Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate was founded. Expanded in 1821 into the British Ladies’ Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners, the Society is believed to be the first nationwide women’s organization in Britain.