Elizabeth Fry: Britain's Second Lady on the Five-Pound Note (Hardback)Dennis Bardens (author)
Hardback Published: 02/08/2004
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Elizabeth Fry, a veritable Mother Teresa of her era and a feminist icon before the term was coined, battled relentlessly to improve the lot of the dregs of society, the legions of forgotten prisoners. Horrified by the brutality of a justice system that treated them as less than human, she braved odds that can still shock us today in her campaigns to bring about change. With her faith and with her family wholeheartedly backing her, she became a colossal force in promoting prison reform in the 19th Century. As a mere woman (given the period), she took up a cause that, before her, was beneath the notice of the elites responsible for the evil conditions. She set rolling a bandwagon of unstoppable force, and, after all the early criticisms, found herself valued eventually even by royalty. It took a keen understanding of psychology, great diplomatic skill and the suppression of her inner demons. She founded the first prison teaching system and an after-care service for those released. She altered both the treatment and the public perception of prisoners. Elizabeth Fry was fired above all by the deepest of compassion for the individual sufferers. An 'Angel of Mercy' she was rightly called by the condemned, as well as by society at large. In this book, one sees through Fry's eyes the mental agonies of a pregnant woman soon to be hanged for stealing a ribbon. Pithy, caustic phraseology stigmatises the 'mercy' of allowing her baby to be born before her execution. Among the many scenes so realistically evoked, are the atrocious conditions of prisoners and of convicts being transported to Australia, such a short span of time ago in our own country. To do battle with the 'great and the good', not fated invariably to win, and yet also to be mother to twelve adoring children, was the self-chosen fate of Elizabeth Fry. One day she was visiting a palace, the next, a hellhole of a gaol, the purpose of reform always foremost in her mind. Hers was a Herculean life of contrast, struggle, and drama. One of the most worthwhile of Englishwomen, she is only the second woman whose image has been reproduced on a Bank of England note. Her time for full recognition has come round again. Dennis Bardens is the most professional and humane of authors, extremely readable, a dramatist by temperament, and a keen-eyed and successful journalist. The detail does not hold up the story flow. He tells the tale of Elizabeth Fry in glowing prose that leaves the reader gripped by the battles that she faced, the conditions that she faced, and the sheer force of character that led her to overcome all odds. Each phase of her life unfolds absorbingly. It is history for today. We owe Elizabeth Fry much, very much, and to Dennis Bardens is due the accolade of bringing her so clearly to life in his pages. Dr John Mackrell of London University has written an illuminating even heavyweight foreword for this book, an enjoyable read in its own right as well as commenting judiciously and eulogistically on the fluent text of Dennis Bardens. Also included in the book are extracts from the diaries of Elizabeth Fry and reminiscences about the Author.
Publisher: Chanadon Publications Limited
Dimensions: 235 x 160 mm
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