Heroes of the Faith

Men and women whose lives have proclaimed Christ and inspired the faith of others

July 2017: Elizabeth Fry - advocate for prisoners

By C. Behan McCullagh

March 7 2017Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), a Quaker who believed there is a divine light in everyone, revolutionised the way prisoners are seen and treated. C. Behan McCullagh pays tribute to a remarkable woman whose compassion and strong sense of public duty enabled her to achieve great things for God.

You might say that everyone who devotes themselves to serving the Lord wholeheartedly is a hero of the faith. Most will bless just a few people in unspectacular ways. Those we pick out for special mention are Christians who have achieved great things.

Elizabeth Fry was born into a comfortably wealthy English family, and while she was a devout Quaker, might well have confined her charity to local people. It seems that the heroes of our faith have been called by God to face great challenges, and have faithfully followed that calling, with memorable results.

Her life was unremarkable until 1813, when a travelling Quaker named Stephen Grellet asked her to help the women in Newgate Prison. She was born on 21 May 1780 into the Guerney family, who were wealthy cloth merchants and bankers. She had eleven brothers and sisters and the family had more than twelve servants. The family dressed well and entertained a lot, even befriending a nephew of King George III, namely Prince William Frederick.

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