Monday, 22 January 2018

Eccentric Earth Episode Four Show Notes

Welcome to the latest show notes for Eccentric Earth, where I will include the research for each episode (essentially my script), along with a number of photographs and documents.

Episode Four- Fry's Crusade

Elizabeth Gurney was born on 21st May 1780 in Gurney Court, off Magdalen Street, Norwich, Norfolk, England into a prominent Quaker family. The Gurney family were descendants of Hugh de Gournay, Lord of Gournay, one of the Norman noblemen who accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066. In the 17th Century the family had become devout Quakers, and moved to Norwich, becoming active in the woollen trade. Ten years before Elizabeth’s birth, her father had also entered the world of banking, having established Gurneys Bank in the city. The Quaker bank became renowned for its honesty, reliability and fair dealings, and so people entrusted the Gurney family with their money for safekeeping, making the Gurney family one of the most respected in Norwich . Elizabeth’s mother, Catherine, also came from a banking family, the Barclays, who were among the founders of Barclays Bank.
Elizabeths mother was an incredibly progressive woman, and believed all girls should be educated, she also instilled her children with good values, she believed that it was the responsibility of rich people to help others through charity work. She took her children to visit poor families, often bringing them food and clothing. Whilst Elizabeth wrote that she did not like her lessons much at this young age, bored with subjects such as Latin, she did develop a deep love and curiosity for nature.
Unfortunately, her mother died when Elizabeth was twelve years old. As one of the oldest girls in the family, Elizabeth then became partly responsible for the care and education of the younger children, including her brother Joseph John Gurney, a philanthropist in later life, and her sisters Louisa Gurney Hoare, who would go on to be a writer on education.
Earlham Hall, Elizabeth's childhood home.

Following the death of her mother Elizabeth's father paid for a teacher for her and her siblings, and Elizabeth studied history, geography and French. Elizabeth had a friend, Amelia Alderson. Amelia's father was a member of the Corresponding Society group that advocated universal suffrage and annual parliaments. At the Alderson home Elizabeth was introduced to the ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft, Tom Paine and William Godwin. Amelia's father talked to the girls about politics and new ideas, something that was rarely done at the time. Elizabeth was excited by new ideas. She wore a French hat to celebrate the French Revolution and was often seen in brightly coloured clothes, and became well known for wearing purple boots.

Elizabeth could be obstinate but she was always very concerned for others. Before the age of 15, she asked her father several times to take her to see the women at the House of Correction in Norwich. Eventually he gave way, and they went. Elizabeth held her father's hand tightly as she watched the poor women. On returning home she contrasted their lives and surroundings with her own and asked: "If this is the world, where is God?"
William Savery.
As a teenager, she became sympathetic to the Republican views of Thomas Paine, through links with a member of the Corresponding Society, most likely her friend Amelia’s father.
She attended the Sunday Quaker meetings but paid little attention. However, when Elizabeth was eighteen she heard the American Quaker and abolitionist, William Savery, preach in. She was incredibly moved by what she heard in the meeting, and later said, "I have felt there is a God".
Elizabeth begged her father to invite Savery to dinner. Afterwards she wrote in her diary: "Today I felt there is a God. I loved the man as if he was almost sent from heaven - we had much serious talk and what he said to me was like a refreshing shower on parched up earth."
After meeting William Savery, Elizabeth decided to devote her energies to helping those in need. Over the next few years she collected old clothes for the poor, visited the sick and realising that many poor children were never afforded the opportunity to learn, and most never went to school, started a Sunday School for poor children in her own home.
She began to be more serious and her family noticed the change in Elizabeth. She went to London but found the theatres and other entertainments 'artificial'.
Then, whilst visiting her cousin in Coalbrookdale, she met an elderly Quaker, called Deborah Darby. At one meeting this lady rose to her feet, pointed at Elizabeth and said, "Thou shalt be a light to the blind, speech to the dumb and feet to the lame."                                                                        Elizabeth saw this as a sign from God.  
The trappings of society became less interesting to her. She wrote in her diary, "I felt myself under the shadow of the wing of God ...  I know now what the mountain is I have to climb." She decided to be a "plain" Quaker and gave up her fashionable clothes for a simply cut dress and a high, white linen cap.
In July 1799, Elizabeth was introduced to Joseph Fry, a banker and part of the Fry's chocolate-making family. Fry, a shy plain Quaker,  asked her to marry him. At first she refused but, the following year, when she was 20 years old, on 19th August 1800, they married. Elizabeth moved to London. The Frys were rich enough to employ servants and this allowed Elizabeth to continue her work.
Artist depiction of London's poor.
Elizabeth began visiting the poor and was appointed by the Friends of Gracechurch Street Meeting, as a visitor to the school and workhouse at Islington. In her quiet way she was very determined. One day Elizabeth was talking to a beggar holding a half-clothed infant, very ill with whooping-cough. It became clear the child did not belong to the beggar. The woman tried to elude Elizabeth but she followed her despite the danger. She found, in a filthy house, a number of sick and neglected infants.
The next day she sent a doctor to tend the children but they had disappeared. It turned out that these were parish children, kept by the woman purely to gain money from the authorities as their nurse. If they died, their deaths were concealed. Such situations were not uncommon and it was not always possible for Elizabeth to help but she did what she could.
In 1808, Jospeh's father died and early the next year Elizabeth moved from the city to live in the now vacant Plashet House, in East Ham.
In Plashet, she set up a girls' school, tended the sick in the local community and encouraged mothers to have their children vaccinated. She was also an excellent speaker and, by 1811, was recorded as a Quaker minister, travelling long distances to minister.
Despite these good works, the demands of motherhood occupied most of her time: between the years of 1800 and 1812 she had given birth to eight children. She wrote in her diary, "I fear that my life is slipping away to little purpose."
Newgate Prison, London.
In 1813, however, she was to make a visit that would change her life. Stephen Grellet, a family friend, had visited Newgate Prison and was appalled at what he saw. Elizabeth immediately enlisted some friends to make clothes for the near-naked children he described. The next day she went to the women's section of the prison. What she saw horrified her. 300 women (convicted criminals and those yet to be tried) and numerous children crowded together in two small, stinking wards.  
All types of criminals were mixed together, the hardened criminals and the young, first-time offenders. She saw women stripping off clothes from a dead baby to give them to another child. The female prisoners slept on the floor without nightclothes or bedding. The women had to cook, wash and sleep in the same cell.  Many of the women and the children were sick. On a second visit, Elizabeth handed out more clothes and bedding she had collected for them.
Elizabeth was unable to return to Newgate for three years because of two more pregnancies, poor health and the death of her daughter Betsy, aged 5, but the memory never left her. In 1816, she went back to the prison. At the gate the turnkey tried to persuade her not to enter, thinking she would be in danger. She went in and found the women fighting. She prayed for them and on one visit she turned to them and asked, "Is there not something we can do for these innocent little ones?"
The women stopped fighting and began to talk about what they could do. For the first time they felt that somebody cared about their children and this touched them. Elizabeth continued her visits. 
Elizabeth reading to female prisoners and their children
at Newgate Prison.
The women decided they would like to start a school in the prison. They asked Elizabeth if she would help Mary Connor, a prisoner, to get the resources she needed to run it. At first the governor did not think it would work, but, after seeing the improvement in the women's behaviour, he agreed.
In 1817, Elizabeth founded the 'Ladies' Association for the Reformation of the Female Prisoners in Newgate' which helped organise the school and provided materials for the women to make clothes and items to sell. She introduced rules for behaviour, voted for by the prisoners themselves.
For the rest of her life, Elizabeth would devote herself to humanitarian causes, beginning with the treatment of the female prisoners at Newgate Prison. It took many years of perseverance and patience.

In February 1818, Elizabeth was asked to give evidence to a Parliamentary Commission on the conditions in the country's prisons.  Although the MPs were impressed with Elizabeths's work, they disapproved of some of her ideas.  
With her brother Jospeh Gurney, she also took up the cause of abolishing capital punishment. At that time in England, over 200 offences were punishable by hanging, including being in the company of gypsies for more than a month, damaging Westminister bridge, cutting down young trees, Impersonating a Chelsea pensioner, and writing a threatening letter. 
Elizabeth and her brother, Joseph, pleaded to the Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, for the lives of Charlotte Newman and Mary Ann James, accused of forgery, and Harriet Skelton, who had passed forged banknotes under pressure from her husband, all of whom were sentenced to death. In April 1818, Sidmouth rejected their arguments and insisted the executions went ahead. Lord Sidmouth warned that Fry and other reformers were dangerous people as they were trying to "remove the dread of punishment in the criminal classes".
Queen Charlotte.
That same month, Elizabeth went to the Mansion House and met with Queen Charlotte, wife of  George the third. After this her work became well-know and her life very busy.
During the bitter winter of 1819 to 1820, she set up a 'Nightly Shelter' in London after seeing the body of a young boy in the street, and in Autumn 1818 Elizabeth and her brother Joseph went on a tour of prisons in Scotland and the north of England. They found conditions as bad, if not worse, than Newgate.  
After their tour, Joseph and Elizabeth published a report of what they saw. It was also during 1818 that Thomas Fowell Buxton, Elizabeth's brother-in-law, was elected as MP for Weymouth. He was now able to promoted Elizabeth's work in the House of Commons. 
In the autumn of 1820, Elizabeth, with her husband and two elder daughters, undertook a journey that included visits to many of the most important prisons in Britain. They strove to establish visiting committees where they did not exist.  
They visited Nottingham, Lincoln, Wakefield, Doncaster, Sheffield, Leeds, York, Durham, Newcastle, Carlisle, Lancaster and Liverpool besides many others. This was just one of many tours of prisons Elizabeth would make during her life. 
By 1820, Elizabeth Fry had become a well-known personality in Britain. It was extremely unusual for a woman to be consulted by men on a professional basis.  Elizabeth was criticised for playing this role and was attacked in the press for neglecting her family.
Elizabeth was undeterred. In 1821 she formed the 'British Ladies' Society for Promoting the Reformation of Female Prisoners', uniting the ladies' groups that had sprung up across the country. This organisation would campaign for many improvements: in British prisons, on the convict ships, and in Australia. It also set up establishments for destitute women leaving prison.
The next Home Secetary, Sir Robert Peel, was more sympathetic to the cause and reforms were introduced. The reforms (including the 1823 Gaols Act) saw women prisoners guarded by other women and allowed regular visits from prison chaplains. The prisoners were also given things to do that helped them develop skills and were taught how to read, and gaolers were to be paid. The reforms, however, did not apply to debtors' prisons or local town gaols.
Although prison reform was Elizabeth's main concern, she continued to campaign for the poor. In 1824, she took a holiday in Brighton where she was shocked by the large number of beggars in the streets. She established a team of voluntary visitors who would go into the homes of the poor, where they would provide help and comfort.  The scheme - the Brighton District Visiting Society - was a great success and soon there were District Visiting Societies in towns all over Britain.
Elizabeth also had her own problems to face. In November 1828, Joseph Fry was declared bankrupt. Although not involved in her husband's business dealings, the bankruptcy affected her good name. There were totally unfounded rumours that money from her charities had been used to support the bank. Elizabeth's brother, Joseph Gurney, took over Fry's business interests and made arrangements for all debtors to be paid and for Elizabeth to receive £1,600 a year. This enabled her to carry on her work.
During her many prison and hospital visits, one of the main things that concerned Elizabeth was the treatment of the mentally ill. She asked that the practice of idle visits to stare at the insane be stopped. In correspondence to St. Petersburg she recommended that inmates be treated with the same consideration as sane people and be allowed to exercise in the open air. She felt that all but the violent should dine together at a table covered with a cloth and furnished with plates and spoons.  
Florence Nightingale was heavily influenced
by Elizabeth Fry's work.

The Dowager Empress, visiting in 1828, followed this advice and was delighted with the results. 
Another concern of Elizabeth's was the quality of nursing staff. She started a training school for nurses  in Guys Hospital in 1840. The nurses were dressed in uniforms and instructed to attend to both the patients' spiritual and physical needs. Florence Nightingale was influenced by Elizabeth's views on the training of nurses and, when Florence went to the Crimea, she took a group of Elizabeth's nurses with her.
For half a century, Elizabeth's whole life was dedicated to the poor. She spoke widely on these issues and became well known in society. She had her critics, some said she enjoyed her status too much, attracting attention from dignitaries and even royalty but she was supported by her husband, family and the love of the people that she helped. 
Queen Victoria took a close interest in her work and the two women met several times. Victoria gave her money to help with her charitable work. In her journal, Victoria wrote that she considered Fry a "very superior person". It is claimed that Victoria, who was forty years younger than Elizabeth Fry, might have modelled herself on this woman who successfully combined the roles of mother and public figure.

One prisoner, on her way to a transportation ship, called out to Elizabeth, "Our prayers will follow you, and a convict's prayers will be heard."
Between 1838 and 1842 she carried her work to European prisons in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Prussia and Switzerland. Elizabeth continued to work, whenever she was able, until she died on 12th October 1845, although during the last years of her life she became very weak. Her remains were buried in the Friends' burial ground at Barking. Over 1,000 people stood in silence as her body was buried – a mark of respect for a truly remarkable woman.
There are a number of memorials which commemorate places where Fry lived. There are plaques located at her birthplace of Gurney Court in Norwich; her childhood home of Earlham Hall; St. Mildred's Court, City of London, where she lived when she was first married; and Arklow House, her final home and place of death in Ramsgate. Her name heads the list on the southern face of the Reformers Monument in Kensal Green Cemetery, London.
Due to her work as a prison reformer, there are several memorials to Elizabeth Fry. One of the buildings which make up the Home Office headquarters, 2 Marsham St, is named after her. She is also commemorated in prisons and courthouses, including a terracotta bust in the gatehouse of HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs and a stone statue in the Old Bailey. The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies honours her memory by advocating for women who are in the criminal justice system. They also celebrate and promote a National Elizabeth Fry Week in Canada each May.
Elizabeth Fry as depicted on the back of the £5 note.

Elizabeth Fry is also commemorated in a number of educational and care-based settings. The University of East Anglia's School of Social Work and Psychology is housed in a building named after her. There is an Elizabeth Fry Ward at Scarborough General Hospital in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom. A road is named for Fry at Guilford College, a school in Greensboro, North Carolina, which was founded by Quakers. There is a bust of Elizabeth Fry located in East Ham Library, Newham Borough of London.

Quakers also acknowledge Elizabeth Fry as a prominent member. Her grave at the former Society of Friends Burial Ground, located off Whiting Avenue in Barking, Essex, was restored and received a new commemorative marble plinth in October 2003. In February 2007, a plaque was erected in her honour at the Friends Meeting House in Upper Goat Lane, Norwich. Fry is also depicted in the Quaker Tapestry, on panels E5 and E6. She is also honoured by other Christian denominations. In the Lady Chapel of Manchester's Anglican Cathedral, one of the portrait windows of Noble Women on the west wall of the Chapel features Elizabeth Fry. The Church of England includes her on its liturgical calendar on Oct. 12.
Since 2001, Fry has been depicted on the reverse of £5 notes issued by the Bank of England. She is shown reading to prisoners at Newgate Prison. The design also incorporates a key, representing the key to the prison which was awarded to Fry in recognition of her work. However, as of 2016, Fry's image on these notes will be replaced by that of Winston Churchill. She was one of the social reformers honoured on an issue of UK commemorative stamps in 1976.

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