As a beginning, she left off many pleasures such as might have reasonably been considered innocent. For instance, she abandoned her “scarlet riding-habit,” she laid aside all personal ornament, and occupied her leisure time in teaching poor children. She commenced a small school for the benefit of the poor children of the city, and in a short time had as many as seventy scholars under her care. How she managed to control and keep quiet so many unruly specimens of humanity, was a standing problem to all who knew her; but it seems not unlikely that those qualities of organization and method which afterwards distinguished her were being trained and developed. Added to these, must be taken into account the power which a strong will always has over weaker minds—an important factor in the matter. Still more must be taken into account the strong, earnest longing of an enthusiastic young soul to benefit those who were living around her. Earnest souls make history. History has great things to tell of men and women of faith; and Elizabeth Gurney’s life-work colored the history of that age. A brief sentence from her journal at this time explains the attitude of her mind towards the outcast, poor, and neglected: “I don’t remember ever being at any time with one who was not extremely disgusting, but I felt a sort of love for them, and I do hope I would sacrifice my life for the good of mankind.” Very evidently, William Savery’s prophesy was coming to pass in the determination of the young Quakeress to do good in her generation.
St. Mildred’s court.
After a visit in the north of England with her father and sisters, Elizabeth received proposals of marriage from Mr. Joseph Fry of London. His family, also Quakers, were wealthy and of good position; but for some time Elizabeth seemed to hesitate about entering on married life. Far from looking on marriage as the goal of her ambition, as is the fashion with many young women, she was divided in her mind as to the relative advantages of single and married life, as they might affect philanthropic and religious work. After consultation with her friends, however, the offer was accepted, and on August 19th, 1800, when she was little more than twenty years of age, she was married to Mr. Fry, in the Friends’ Meeting House, at Norwich. Very quickly after bidding her school-children farewell, Mrs. Fry proceeded to St. Mildred’s Court, London, her husband’s place of business, where she commenced to take up the first duties of wedded life, and where several of her children were born.