Elizabeth Fry was an early and unlikely champion of prison reform. Born into a wealthy and socially prominent English family in 1780, she married London merchant Joseph Fry at age 20 and had 11 children. Determined to contribute to those less fortunate, Elizabeth Fry began visiting female inmates at London's infamous Newgate Prison in 1813. She was appalled by what she saw.
Single-handedly, Elizabeth Fry formed the Association for the Improvement of the Female Prisoners in Newgate and succeeding in achieving significant reforms there and eventually in prisons across Europe. She later expanded her work to include support for the poor, treatment of the mentally ill and improvement of the hospital system. Acclaimed nurse Florence Nightingale credited her with influencing her views on the training of health care providers and care of the sick.
Both during her lifetime and after, Elizabeth Fry was widely lauded for her achievements in improving the lives of the voiceless. Following her death in 1845, Queen Victoria, the King of Prussia and over 60 prominent members of society came together to found and endow The Elizabeth Fry Refuge for Women, a transition house for women discharged from prison. Moved to Reading around 1960, renamed to Elizabeth Fry Probation Hostel, then operating as Elizabeth Fry approved residences since 1991 and still today.