This is a brilliant new study of the Quaker social reformer, who transformed the lives of prisoners and made a lasting mark on English society. Elizabeth Fry was one of the quiet heroines of Victorian England. Her name is inextricably linked with prison reform, and specifically Newgate, the infamous London gaol which provided material for Gay's "The Beggar's Opera" and Brecht's "Threepenny Opera". When Fry was born in 1780, Newgate was being rebuilt after the notorious anti-Catholic Gordon riots. Many years later it was at Newgate that she pioneered her reforming vision. It is there today, in what is now the Old Bailey, that Fry's statue bears witness to her inestimable influence. But there was more to her career than Newgate. Elizabeth Fry supported the anti-slavery movement, and campaigned tirelessly across Europe for prison reform. She was driven by religious conviction and found in her work a satsfaction that sadly eluded her in her private life. Prison reform today is as controversial as it was 200 years ago. This moving and important book casts light on a woman whose brave fight continues to this day.
Anne Isba has worked as a journalist, translator and editor. She is the author of Gladstone and Women (Hambledon Continuum 2006).