Who was Elizabeth Fry?

Home learning focus

Learn about the life, actions and achievements of Elizabeth Fry.

This lessons includes:

  • two videos exploring her life and achievements
  • two activities to build knowledge and understanding


Today, we think of prisons as places for people who have done terrible things, but 200 years ago, people were also sent to prison for small crimes, like stealing bread. And if a woman was sent to prison, her children had to go too!

No matter what the crime, everyone was treated badly in these dark and frightening places.

Elizabeth Fry believed this was wrong and helped change prisons forever.

Discover more about her life in the clip below.

A portrait of Elizabeth Fry.
The life and achievements of Elizabeth Fry.

Aged 33, Elizabeth visited Newgate Prison, London. It was crowded and dirty with no beds, toilets or proper food, and everyone, including babies, wore rags. She gave babies in prison warm clothes and brought clean bedding for the sick. She helped make other changes too, like separating men from women and having women guards for women prisoners.

Elizabeth organised campaigns to ask the government to treat prisoners more fairly. Elizabeth even met with Queen Victoria!

To celebrate her courage and hard work, her image was put on the old £5 note for everyone to remember her.

Elizabeth Fry worked for what she believed was right and so that some of the poorest people, facing the hardest of times, could hope for a better life.

Elizabeth Fry with Queen Victoria.


Develop your historical knowledge of Elizabeth Fry with the activities below.

Activity 1

Asking questions about the past

A great way to learn about the past is to ask questions.

Think of some questions you would like to ask about Elizabeth Fry and keep them to use in activity 2.

Activity 2

True stories

In this film an actor plays Elizabeth Fry talking about her life.

Are you able to answer any of your questions from activity 1?

The life and work of Elizabeth Fry.

Activity 3

Put the events in order

Can you remember the actions of Elizabeth Fry?

Try to put the cards in the right order.

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources from around the BBC and the web.

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