Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) was a Quaker reformer. She worked in women’s prisons and petitioned the government of the day to introduce more humane sentencing and prison conditions. Many of her recommendations were implemented.What is less well known is that she founded a library for seamen and a nursing order called the ‘Protestant Sisters of Mercy’ which later became ‘Nightingale’s Nurses’.Elizabeth had ten children and was probably dyslexic, describing herself as a ‘poor scholar.’ Her approach to her prison work is recorded in Quaker Faith & Practice.“Much depends on the spirit in which the visitor enters her work. It must be in the spirit, not of judgement, but of mercy. She must not say in her heart ‘I am more holy than thou’ but must rather keep in perpetual remembrance that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Her inspiration came from the scriptures:
“God’s spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the message of good news to the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, ‘This is God’s year to act!’”
Luke 4: 18-19 The Message: Eugene Peterson.
What does it mean to be a prisoner? Apart from the obvious meaning any one of us can be caught in the trap of addiction, loneliness, false hopes and fears, beliefs that cripple rather than liberate and so on. If you wanted to be liberated from something, what would it be?