Chapter 18 » 18.08

Memoir of Elizabeth Fry (1780–1845) by two of her daughters, Katherine Fry and Rachel Cresswell:

It was her conviction that there is a sphere of usefulness open to all. She appreciated to the full the usual charities of gentlewomen, their visits to the sick and aged poor and their attention to the cottage children, but she grieved to think how few complete the work of mercy by following the widow or disabled when driven by necessity to the workhouse, or caring for the workhouse school, that resort of the orphaned and forsaken…

She heard of thousands and ten thousands of homeless and abandoned children wandering or perishing in our streets. She knew that attempts were made to rescue them and that unflinching men and women laboured and toiled to infuse some portion of moral health into that mass of living corruption… She encountered in the prisons every grade and variety of crime: the woman bold and daring and reckless, revelling in her iniquity and hardened in vice, her only remaining joy to seduce others; … the thoughtless culprit, not lost to good and holy feeling nor dead to impression from without; and lastly the beginner, she who from her deep poverty had been driven to theft or drawn by others into temptation. Elizabeth Fry marked all these and despaired of none amongst them. Here again … a crying need existed for influence, for instruction, reproof and encouragement. But it was not to all she would have allotted this task, though she could never be persuaded but that in every instance women well qualified for the office might be found to care for these outcasts of the people.


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