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Betsy: The Dramatic Biography of Prison Reformer Elizabeth Fry

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In 1816, 36-year-old Elizabeth (Betsy) Fry walked alone into the horrific Newgate Gaol (jail) as a minister of the Society of Friends (Quakers). The transformation she brought to the female inmates there propelled her onto the stage of world history. This is Betsy's story, a woman whose life and commitment still inspires Christians to stand up for their beliefs and the rights and respect due to even the poorest and most neglected of God's children.

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Overview

In 1816, 36-year-old Elizabeth (Betsy) Fry walked alone into the horrific Newgate Gaol (jail) as a minister of the Society of Friends (Quakers). The transformation she brought to the female inmates there propelled her onto the stage of world history. This is Betsy's story, a woman whose life and commitment still inspires Christians to stand up for their beliefs and the rights and respect due to even the poorest and most neglected of God's children.

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Editorial Reviews

congregational libraries today
Jean Hatton has written a remarkable story of a courageous, crusading woman of the nineteenth century. She has given us an in-depth picture of the life of women in the England of that era, as well as a fine portrait of this remarkable, unflappable woman. The reader cannot help but have a great sympathy and admiration for Betsy Fry, who gave so much of herself to bring about prison reform for her generation of women.
— Ruth G. Butler
congregational libraries today - Ruth G. Butler
Jean Hatton has written a remarkable story of a courageous, crusading woman of the nineteenth century. She has given us an in-depth picture of the life of women in the England of that era, as well as a fine portrait of this remarkable, unflappable woman. The reader cannot help but have a great sympathy and admiration for Betsy Fry, who gave so much of herself to bring about prison reform for her generation of women.
KLIATT - Penelope Power
Elizabeth Fry was one of the foremost reformers in an age of reformers and visionaries. Her deep belief that there is God in every individual was at the core of her zeal. In her mid-30s, after she was well recognized as a Quaker minister, she visited the notorious Newgate Prison in London. Horrified by the treatment of women prisoners, she began the work for which she is most well known—that of prison reform. Female prisoners, often with their children, were kept in situations of filth and degradation. Fry set out to change that. She urged, in her Quaker witness and preaching, that the prisons adequately cloth and feed their wards, that the children and the prisoners be schooled and that humane treatment be accorded to all. In 1818, when she was invited to speak before a House of Commons Committee, she advocated prison workshops, religious instruction and categorizing and separating criminals according to the severity of their crimes. She urged that female prisoners be attended by female wardens. No one, she felt, should be kept in solitary confinement. She founded ladies' organizations that carried out her ideas, not only in Great Britain but as her fame spread, in Europe. In an age when women were not outspoken she encouraged all women to become involved in "works of usefulness and charity." Fry's personal life was beset with difficulties. She was unwell for long periods, confined to her bed with deep depression and anxiety. (She looked upon her depressive periods as she would a toothache; to be endured.) She drank more than she knew she should—"A small portion of opium and a rather free use of port wine are essential to keep me in the degree of health that I am favoured topartake of." She nursed most of the people in her large extended family, attending to births, deaths and major and minor illnesses. Her husband was devoted to her, but inclined to unwise business decisions and profligate spending that rendered the family bankrupt. Her children, 11 in all, were unruly and unreligious. Her journals, according to the author, were filled with soul searching of the most rigorous kind; she questioned her reform mission against her role as a mother and wife and often doubted her considerable abilities. From being a timid sickly teenager Fry grew to become one of the most compelling speakers of the early 1800s. Her preaching influenced the lives of people confined in prisons, workhouses, hospitals and lunatic asylums. She was instrumental in bringing to the attention of the middle and upper classes the abject situation of the lower classes in regard to humane treatment. Not all that she advocated came to fruition; even so, her ideas were discussed and considered all over Europe and America. She stands out as one of the greatest women of the 19th century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780825460920
  • Publisher: Lion Hudson
  • Publication date: 4/28/2006
  • Pages: 368
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Hatton has two adult sons and lives in Buckinghamshire, U.K. This is her second book: she is now working on a biography of George Fox.
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