The familiar, homely face of ‘angel of the prisons’ and social reformer Elizabeth Fry appeared on our £5 bank notes for 14 years until she was replaced this month by Sir Winston Churchill.
In tribute to this remarkable 19th century pioneer who dedicated her life to improving the lives of the vulnerable and needy, the public are being asked to donate their last Fry £5 note to the causes which were close to her heart.
Helping to spearhead the #LastFryFiver campaign is Averil Douglas Opperman whose fascinating and inspirational biography, While it is yet Day: The Story of Elizabeth Fry, published by Orphans, shines new light and understanding on to this shy, complex Quaker celebrity who tenaciously campaigned for social reform in 19th century Britain.
Fry’s life was one of dedication and selfless duty to others and on a personal level she suffered much soul-searching over her roles as mother and reformer but it was the guiding principles of her Quaker religion that informed Fry’s conscience and drove her tireless reforming zeal. ‘Punishment is not for revenge,’ she declared, ‘but to lessen crime and reform the criminal.’
Stoic, brave and determined, she blocked out Newgate Prison’s ‘gloom, bad smells and pandemonium’ to read to female prisoners, offer comfort, teach new skills and set up schools.
She campaigned tirelessly and bravely, became an adviser to the government, gained audiences with Queen Victoria and influenced a young Florence Nightingale.
The issues Elizabeth Fry campaigned for are as pertinent today as then and to raise awareness of her ongoing legacy, Opperman is partnering with different charities to help continue the work Fry began two centuries ago, spreading the word using #LastFryFiver on social media.
Over the next year as the old fivers are gradually withdrawn from circulation, the various charities will ask the public to donate their last Elizabeth Fry £5 note to the charity. The first charity is Women In Prison (WIP) which supports society’s most vulnerable women and campaigns for the radical changes needed to deliver justice.
Founded in 1983 by Chris Tchaikovsky after her own experience of being imprisoned in HMP Holloway, WIP provides support, counselling and advocacy for women in prison and the community, running three women’s centres, and exposing the injustice and damage caused to women and their families by imprisonment.
The donation page can be found at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1011493&pageId=713014
Other campaign links include orphanspublishing.co.uk / @OrphansPublish and womeninprison.org.uk / @WIP_live