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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous Sarah Knowles Bolton

Elizabeth Fry

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It was decided that Botany Bay could be supplied with stockings, and indeed with all the articles needed by convicts, through the work of these women. A room was at once made ready, and matrons were appointed. A portion of the earnings was to be given the women for themselves and their children. In ten months they made twenty thousand articles of wearing apparel, and knit from sixty to one hundred pairs of stockings every month. The Bible was read to them twice each day. They received marks for good behavior, and were as pleased as children with the small prizes given them.

One of the girls who received a prize of clothing came to Mrs. Fry, and "hoped she would excuse her for being so forward, but if she might say it, she felt exceedingly disappointed; she little thought of having clothing given to her, but she had hoped I would have given her a Bible, that she might read the Scriptures herself."

No woman was ever punished under Mrs. Fry's management. They said, "it would be more terrible to be brought up before her than before the judge." When she told them she hoped they would not play cards, five packs were at once brought to her and burned.

The place was now so orderly and quiet, that "Newgate had become almost a show; the statesman and the noble, the city functionary and the foreign traveller, the high-bred gentlewoman, the clergyman and the dissenting minister, flocked to witness the extraordinary change," and to listen to Mrs. Fry's beautiful Bible readings.

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Letters poured in from all parts of the country, asking her to come to their prisons for a similar work, or to teach others how to work. A committee of the House of Commons summoned her before them to learn her suggestions, and to hear of her methods; and later the House of Lords.

Of course the name of Elizabeth Fry became known everywhere. Queen Victoria gave her audience, and when she appeared in public, everybody was eager to look at her. The newspapers spoke of her in the highest praise. Yet with a beautiful spirit she writes in her journal, "I am ready to say in the fulness of my heart, surely 'it is the Lord's doing, and marvellous in our eyes'; so many are the providential openings of various kinds. Oh! if good should result, may the praise and glory of the whole be entirely given where it is due by us, and by all, in deep humiliation and prostration of spirit."

Mrs. Fry's heart was constantly burdened with the scenes she witnessed. The penal laws were a caricature on justice. Men and women were hanged for theft, forgery, passing counterfeit money, and for almost every kind of fraud. One young woman, with a babe in her arms, was hanged for stealing a piece of cloth worth one dollar and twenty-five cents! Another was hanged for taking food to keep herself and little child from starving. It was no uncommon thing to see women hanging from the gibbet at Newgate, because they had passed a forged one-pound note (five dollars).

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Lives of Girls Who Became Famous
Sarah Knowles Bolton

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