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Elizabeth Fry

1 of 8 portraits of Elizabeth Fry

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Elizabeth Fry

by Samuel Drummond
watercolour on ivory, circa 1815
4 1/2 in. x 3 1/4 in. (114 mm x 83 mm)
Purchased, 1861
Primary Collection
NPG 118

Sitterback to top

  • Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), Quaker minister and social reformer. Sitter in 8 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Samuel Drummond (1765-1844), Portrait and history painter. Artist or producer associated with 62 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

This portraitback to top

Fry's Quaker upbringing and beliefs (represented by her distinctive bonnet), were manifested in her interest in women's prison reforms. The bars of Newgate prison are shown in the background of
this miniature. Her informed but compassionate stance resulted in more humanitarian treatment of women prisoners. In this portrait, Fry is shown as if pausing during one of her weekly Bible readings at Newgate prison.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Pioneering Women, p. 48 Read entry

    Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845) was a social reformer and Quaker minister whose work led to dramatic improvements in prison conditions, and many of whose ideas resulted in changes to legislation. She was inspired to become an activist for prison reform after visiting London’s Newgate prison in 1813 and witnessing the dire living conditions of the female inmates and their children there. At a time when women rarely led such campaigns, she was the first of her sex to fight for penal reform, highlighting prisoners’ humanitarian needs and prison’s rehabilitative potential over society’s demand for punishment and retribution. In 1818 she was the first woman to present evidence in Parliament, to a committee on British prison conditions, having helped to form the Association for the Improvement of the Female Prisoners in Newgate the previous year. In 1821, Fry formed the British Ladies Society for the Reformation of Female Prisoners, one of Britain’s first women’s organisations. She would also establish homeless hostels and charitable societies, founding the Institute of Nursing Sisters in London, a training school for nurses, in 1840. Florence Nightingale took a team of Fry’s nurses to the Crimea. This miniature shows Fry giving a Bible reading to prisoners.

  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 233
  • Walker, Richard, Miniatures: 300 Years of the English Miniature, 1998, p. 103 Read entry

    Dr Beddoes's sister-in-law, Maria Edgeworth spoke of Elizabeth Fry's 'Guido Madonna countenance'. Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker renowned for her work in prison reform, certainly had much of the saintliness exuded by Guido Reni's madonnas. Many a hardened criminal in Newgate prison succumbed to her impressive Bible readings. This portrait by Samuel Drummond shows her wearing her Quaker bonnet and white blouse. it was an early miniature acquisition, bought by the Gallery in 1861.

  • Walker, Richard, Regency Portraits, 1985, p. 193

Placesback to top

Events of 1815back to top

Current affairs

John and James Leigh Hunt are released from prison after a two year sentence for slandering the Prince of Wales in their outspoken, radical periodical the Examiner.
Corn Laws are introduced to protect against the collapse in prices which would inevitably follow peace with France, prompting riots in London.

Art and science

Humphry Davy invents the miners' safety lamp though its reception is clouded by William Clanny and George Stephenson who present rival models in the same year.
British Institution arranges first in innovative series of Old Master exhibitions
provoking virulent attack on its patrons for neglecting contemporary art.


Napoleon returns to France from exile in Elba and resumes power until his abdication on 22 June; a period known as the 'Hundred Days'.
Battle of Waterloo concludes the Anglo-French struggle that had lasted more than a century. Peace of Vienna establishes Britain's global political, economic and imperial dominance which lasts for the next hundred years.

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