History

The History of Elizabeth Fry Charity

Elizabeth Gurney was born in Norwich, England in 1780 to a well-off Quaker (Society of Friends) family. In 1800 she married Joseph Fry who was also a Quaker. In 1813 Elizabeth Fry made her first visit to Newgate prison where she observed women and children in terrible conditions. Elizabeth began working for the reform, campaigning for segregation of the sexes, female matrons for female prisoners, education and employment (often knitting and sewing) and religious instruction.
 
In 1817 Elizabeth Fry created the Association for the Improvement of Female Prisoners and along with a group of 12 other women lobbied authorities including Parliament. In the 1820s she inspected prison conditions, advocated reform and established more groups to campaign for reform. In 1823 prison reform legislation was finally introduced in Parliament.
 
Whilst Elizabeth Fry is most well known for her prison reform activities, she was also involved in investigating and proposing reforms in mental asylums. For more than 25 years she visited every convict ship leaving for Australia and promoted reform of the convict ship system. She worked to improve nursing standards and established a nursing school which influenced her distant relative, Florence Nightingale. She worked for the education of working women, for better housing for the poor and was responsible for the establishment of soup kitchens.
 
Elizabeth Fry died in 1845. Wishing to commemorate her work, the Lord Mayor of London convened a meeting at which it was decided to found an institute for ex-prisoners in her memory – the Elizabeth Fry Refuge. In 1925 it was reconstituted as a charitable organisation and became a hostel for women on probation which in 1949 was officially approved by the Home Office. It moved to Reading in 1962 where the work continues in her memory.
 
Times have changed and the Elizabeth Fry Charity, although retaining its charitable status, now owns and manages a hostel defined as an Independently Managed Approved Premises. It receives a grant from the Ministry of Justice for providing the Approved Premises and fundraises to provide vital additional services to the women we support.
 
The organisation is regulated by the Charity Commission and governed by the applicable laws of England and Wales.