We will be having our upcoming Convergent Friends gathering on Sunday June 24th that will be held at Camas Friends (1004 NE 4th Ave Camas, WA 98607). We meet from 6:30-8pm and will plan to have childcare.
Born into the wealthy Gurney family, Betsy was one of 12 children.Even as a young girl, she had great sympathy for the poor. At age 17, she started a small school at the Gurney home, Earlham Hall, to teach poor children enough that they could read the Bible for themselves.She married Joseph Fry in 1800 and subsequently had 11 children. When their import/export business floundered, the Gurney family took the oldest 6 children to raise and support.At that point, Elizabeth turned to Newgate Prison—a notoriously riotous and chaotic place. She found the entire prison overcrowded and filthy. The women’s section was even worse—with many women and their young children having no clothing and little food.She set up a committee to improve conditions at Newgate. Among their other successes, the committee provided those condemned to be transported to Australia with sewing supplies and training to make quilts on their 6-9 month voyage.Her work with the prisoners there led to reforms, not just at Newgate, but in prisons, insane asylums, hospitals, and poor houses throughout England.She was a popular speaker and wrote several books and pamphlets about prison conditions.She was adamantly opposed to capital punishment—feeling that it took away any hope of redemption of a sinner’s soul.She opposed the growing “penitentiary” model of silent isolation—arguing that such a system would drive prisoners insane.Since many prisoners would eventually be freed back into society, she urged education and training programs be set up to give former prisoners some means of supporting themselves without resorting to theft or prostitution.She testified in front of numerous parliamentary committees and commissions. Her influence was also felt all over northwestern Europe.Her portrait is on the reverse of the modern British 5-pound note.About the Program:This is a costumed, one-woman show, featuring Roena Oesting as Elizabeth Fry, the 19th century prison reformer.As part of the program, I will ask for audience participation–10 people to play other roles, using the script I provide.