Elizabeth Fry eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 232 pages of information about Elizabeth Fry.



Mrs. Fry’s opinions on prison discipline and management were necessarily much opposed to those which had obtained prior to her day.  No one who has followed her career attentively, can fail to perceive that her course of prison management was based upon well arranged and carefully worked out principles.  In various letters, in evidence before committees of both Houses of Parliament, and in private intercourse, Mrs. Fry made these principles and rules as fully known and as widely proclaimed as it was possible to do.  But, like all reformers, she felt the need of securing a wider dissemination of them.  Evidence given before committees, was, in many points, deferred to; private suggestions and recommendations were frequently adopted, but a large class of inquirers were too far from the sphere of her influence to be moved in this way.  For the sake of these, and the general public, she deemed it wise to embody her opinions and rules in a treatise, which gives in small compass, but very clearly, the rationale of her treatment of prisoners; and lays down suggestions, hints, and principles upon which others could work.  Within about seventy octavo pages, she discourses practically and plainly on the formation of Ladies’ Committees for visiting prisons, on the right method of proceeding in a prison after the formation of such a committee, on female officers in prisons, on separate prisons for females, on inspection and classification, on instruction and employment, on medical attendance, diet, and clothing, and on benevolent efforts for prisoners who have served their sentences.  It is easy to recognize in these pages the Quakeress, the woman, and the Christian.  She recommends to the attention of ladies, as departments for doing good, not only prisons, but lunatic asylums, hospitals and workhouses.  At the same time she strongly recommends that only orderly and experienced visitors should endeavor to penetrate into the abodes of vice and wickedness, which the prisons of England at that day mostly were.  Among other judicious counsels for the conduct of these visitors occur the following, which read as coming from her own experience.  That this was the case we may feel assured; Mrs. Fry was too wise and too womanly not to warn others from the pit-falls over which she had stumbled, or to permit anyone to fall into her early mistakes:—­

“Much depends on the spirit in which the worker enters upon her work.  It must be the spirit not of judgment but of mercy.  She must not say in her heart, ‘I am holier than thou’; but must rather keep in perpetual remembrance that ‘all have sinned,’ and that, therefore, great pity is due from us even to the greatest transgressors among our fellow-creatures, and that in meekness and love we ought to labor for their restoration.  The good principle in the hearts of many abandoned persons
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Elizabeth Fry from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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