Friends are doing a lot of reevaluation these days, reexamining our past and our venerable Quaker ancestors. In some cases, when moral inconsistencies emerge into the open, reexamination means that some iconic Friends are losing their luster. In other cases, stories of early Friends’ messy lives help us to see their humanity, which can lend greater depth and nuance to their spiritual writings.
Elizabeth Fry, the “Angel of Prisons,” would pray, “Oh Lord, may I be directed what to do and what to leave undone.” As it turned out, Fry had done quite a lot by the time her life ended in 1845 – prison reform, social reform, education reform, philanthropy – had done so much and so well that her portrait is now on the British £5 note. Fry was aware of her own growing notoriety in her day.
Dear Editor: Thanks so much for the excellent article on Elizabeth Fry in the May/June issue. Well done! As some of your readers know, I travel widely among Friends, dressed as Betsy Fry, and talk about her life. This is one of the best short biographies I’ve ever read. “Betsy” will be at Palo Alto Friends Harvest Fest in September, so come see her/me there.