Honouring a Quaker Heroine
Ever since Orphans Publishing published While It Is Yet Day: A Biography of Elizabeth Fry, we’ve been hooked on the inspiring story of this 19th century heroine. Fry was a pioneering social reformer who dedicated her life to improving the lives of prisoners, educating the underprivileged and training nurses. She lobbied the monarchy and parliament alike for real change and became known as 'the angel of the prisons'.
Since 2002, Britain has celebrated her on its £5 note. However, last year, a new plastic £5 note came into circulation featuring Winston Churchill. Although Fry was a celebrity in Victorian times, she's been forgotten by history - leaving her little-known other than as the face on the £5 note. So, when the ‘Fry Fiver’ ceased to be legal tender last month, Averil Douglas Opperman (author of While It Is Yet Day) and Orphans Publishing created a new memorial to this determined woman to ensure she will be remembered for generations to come.
If you visit the National Memorial Arboretum - a wonderful 150-acre landscape of remembrance - you’ll now find a beautiful evergreen Scots Pine beside the Quaker Memorial (Fry was a devout Quaker). Beneath it, stands a blue oval plaque dedicating the tree to Fry - ‘Famous Quaker Reformer’. It’s a peaceful spot, where visitors are surrounded by nature.
On 25 May 2017 we held a ceremony to unveil the plaque and formally dedicate the tree to Fry. We were delighted to be joined by trustee of the Elizabeth Fry Charity, Tony Rolley; previous High Sheriff of Worcestershire, Michael Hogan; relatives of Fry; and others from the judiciary, the WI and Quaker backgrounds. Averil Douglas Opperman, author of While It Is Yet Day, shared the fascinating tale of Elizabeth Fry’s life and work. Tony Rolley read an extract from Fry’s diaries. Michael Hogan spoke movingly of how Fry’s principles are as important today as they were 200 years ago.
If you’re visiting the Arboretum, please do go and see the tree - and be inspired by this remarkable woman. You can find out more about Elizabeth Fry on Averil’s website and order your copy of While It Is Yet Day at orphanspublishing.co.uk.