When thee builds a prison, thee had better build with the thought ever in thy mind that thee and thy children may occupy the cells.--Report on Paris Prisons, Addressed to the King of France
The Mennonite, Dunkard, Shaker, Oneida Communist, Mormon and Quaker are
all one people, varying only according to environment.
They are all Come-Outers.
They turn to plain clothes, hard work, religious thought, eschewing the
pomps and vanities of the world--all for the same reasons. Scratch any one
of them and you will find the true type. The monk of the Middle Ages was
the same man, his peculiarity being an extreme asceticism that caused him
to count sex a mistake on the part of God. And this same question has been
a stumbling-block for ages to the type we now have under the glass. A man
who gives the question of sex too much attention is very apt either to
have no wife at all or else four or five. If a Franciscan friar of the
olden time happened to glance at a clothesline on which, gaily waving in
the wanton winds, was a smock-frock, he wore peas in his sandals for a
month and a day.
The Shaker does not count women out because the founder of the sect was a
woman, but he is a complete celibate and depends on Gentiles to populate
the earth. The Dunkard quotes Saint Paul and marries because he must, but
regards romantic love as a thing of which Deity is jealous, and also a bit
ashamed. The Oneida Community clung to the same thought, and to
obliterate selfishness held women in common, tracing pedigree, after the
manner of ancient Sparta, through the female line, because there was no
other way. The Mormon incidentally and accidentally adopted polygamy.
The Quakers have for the best part looked with disfavor on passionate
love. In the worship of Deity they separate women from men. But all
oscillations are equalized by swingings to the other side. The Quakers
have often discarded a distinctive marriage-ceremony, thus slanting toward
natural selection. And I might tell you of how in one of the South
American States there is a band of Friends who have discarded the rite
entirely, making marriage a private and personal contract between the man
and the woman--a sacred matter of conscience; and should the man and woman
find after a trial that their mating was a mistake, they are as free to
separate as they were to marry, and no obloquy is attached in any event.
Harriet Martineau, Quaker in sympathy, although not in name, being an
independent fighter armed with a long squirrel-rifle of marvelous range
and accuracy, pleaded strongly and boldly for a law that would make
divorce as free and simple as marriage. Harriet once called marriage a
mouse-trap, and thereby sent shivers of surprise and indignation up a
But there is one thing among all these quasi-ascetic sects that has ever
been in advance of the great mass of humanity from which they are
detached parts: they have given woman her rights; whereas, the mass has
always prated, and does yet, mentioning it in statute law, that the male
has certain natural "rights," and the women only such rights as are
granted her by the males. And the reason of this wrong-headed attitude on
part of the mob is plain. It rules by force, whereas the semi-ascetic
sects decry force, using only moral suasion, falling back on the Christ
doctrine of non-resistance. This has given their women a chance to prove
that they have just as able minds as the men, if not better.
That these non-resistants are the salt of the earth none who know them can
deny. It was the residents of the monasteries in the Middle Ages who kept
learning and art from dying off the face of Europe. They built such
churches and performed such splendid work in art that we are hushed into
silence before the dignity of the ruins of Melrose, Dryburgh and Furness.
There are no paupers among the Quakers, a "criminal class" is a thing no
Mennonite understands, no Dunkard is a drunkard, the Oneida Communists
were all well educated and in dollars passing rich, while the Mormons have
accumulated wealth at the rate of over eleven hundred dollars a man per
year, which is more than three times as good a record as can be shown by
New York or Pennsylvania. And further, until the Gentiles bore down upon
her, Utah had no use for either prisons, asylums or almshouses. Until the
Gentiles crowded into Salt Lake City, there was no "tenderloin district,"
no "dangerous class," no gambling "dives." Instead, there was universal
order, industry, sobriety. It is well to recognize the fact that the
quasi-ascetic, possessed of a religious idea, persecuted to a point that
holds him to his work, is the best type of citizen the world has ever
known. Tobacco, strong drink, and opium alternately lull and excite,
soothe and elevate, but always destroy; yet they do not destroy our
ascetic, for he knows them not. He does not deplete himself by drugs,
rivalry, strife or anger. He believes in co-operation, not competition. He
works and prays. He keeps a good digestion, an even pulse, a clear
conscience; and as man's true wants are very few, our subject grows rich
and has not only ample supplies for himself, but is enabled to minister to
others. He is earth's good Samaritan. It was Tolstoy and his daughter who
started soup-houses in Russia and kept famine at bay. Your true monk never
passed by on the other side; ah, no! the business of the old-time priest
was to do good. The Quaker is his best descendant--he is the true
If jeered, hooted and finally oppressed, these protesters will form a clan
or sect and adopt a distinctive garb and speech. If persecuted, they will
hold together, as cattle on the prairies huddle against the storm. But if
left alone the Law of Reversion to Type catches the second generation, and
the young men and maidens secrete millinery, just as birds do a brilliant
plumage, and the strange sect merges into and is lost in the mass. The
Jews did not say, Go to, we will be peculiar, but, as Mr. Zangwill has
stated, they have remained a peculiar people simply because they have been
The successful monk, grown rich and feeling secure, turns voluptuary and
becomes the very thing that he renounced in his monastic vows.
Over-anxious bicyclists run into the object they wish to avoid. We are
attracted to the thing we despise; and we despise it because it attracts.
A recognition of this principle will make plain why so many temperance
fanatics are really drunkards trying hard to keep sober. In us all is the
germ of the thing we hate; we become like the thing we hate; we are the
thing we hate. Ex-Quakers in Philadelphia, I am told, are very dressy
people. But before a woman becomes a genuine admitted non-Quaker, the
rough, gray woolen dress shades off by almost imperceptible degrees into a
dainty silken lilac, whose generous folds have a most peculiar and
seductive rustle; the bonnet becomes smaller, and pertly assumes a
becoming ruche, from under which steal forth daring, winsome ringlets;
while at the neck, purest of cream-white kerchiefs jealously conceal the
charms that a mere worldly woman might reveal. Then the demi-monde,
finding themselves neglected, bribe the dressmakers and adopt the costume.
Thus does civilization, like the cyclone, move in spirals.
* * * * *
In a sermon preached at the City Temple, June Eighteenth, Eighteen Hundred
Ninety-six, Doctor Joseph Parker said: "There it was--there! at Smithfield
Market, a stone's throw from here, that Ridley and Latimer were burned.
Over this spot the smoke of martyr fires hovered. And I pray for a time
when they will hover again. Aye, that is what we need! the rack, the
gallows, chains, dungeons, fagots!"
Yes, those are his words, and it was two days before it came to me that
Doctor Parker knew just what he was talking about. Persecution can not
stamp out virtue, any more than man's effort can obliterate matter. Man
changes the form of things, but he does not cancel their essence. And this
is as true of the unseen attributes of spirit as it is of the elements of
matter. Did the truths taught by Latimer and Ridley go out with the flames
that crackled about their limbs? Were their names written for the last
time in smoke? 'T were vain to ask. The bishop who instigated their
persecution gave them certificates for immortality. But the bishop did not
know it--bishops who persecute know not what they do.
Let us guess the result if Jesus had been eminently successful, gathering
about him, with the years, the strong and influential men of Jerusalem!
Suppose he had fallen asleep at last of old age, and, full of honors, been
carried to his own tomb, patterned after that of Joseph of Arimathea, but
richer far--what then? And if Socrates had apologized and had not drunk of
the hemlock, how about his philosophy, and would Plato have written the
No religion is pure except in its state of poverty and persecution; the
good things of earth are our corrupters. All life is from the sun, but
fruit too well loved of the sun falls first and rots. The religion that is
fostered by the State and upheld by a standing army may be a pretty good
religion, but it is not the Christ religion, call you it "Christianity"
never so loudly.
Martyr and persecutor are usually cut off the same piece. They are the
same type of man; and looking down the centuries they seem to have shifted
places easily. As to which is persecutor and which is martyr is only a
question of transient power. They are constantly teaching the trick to
each other, just as scolding parents have saucy children. They are both
good people; their sincerity can not be doubted. Marcus Aurelius, the best
emperor Rome ever had, persecuted the Christians; while Caligula, Rome's
worst emperor, didn't know there were any Christians in his dominions, and
if he had known would not have cared.
The persecutor and the martyr both belong to the cultus known as "Muscular
Christianity," the distinguishing feature of which is a final appeal to
force. We should, however, respect it for the frankness of the name in
which it delights--Muscular Christianity being a totally different thing
from Christianity, which smitten turns the other cheek.
But the Quaker, best type of the non-resistant quasi-ascetic, is the
exception that proves the rule; he may be persecuted, but he persecutes
not again. He is the best authenticated type living of primitive
Christian. That the religion of Jesus was a purely reactionary movement,
suggested by the smug complacency and voluptuous condition of the times,
most thinking men agree. Where rich Pharisees adopt a standard of life
that can only be maintained by devouring widows' houses and oppressing the
orphan, the needs of the hour bring to the front a man who will swing the
pendulum to the other side. When society plays tennis with truth, and
pitch-and-toss with all the expressions of love and friendship, certain
ones will confine their speech to yea, yea, and nay, nay. When men utter
loud prayers on street corners, some one will suggest that the better way
to pray is to retire to your closet and shut the door. When self-appointed
rulers wear purple and scarlet and make broad their phylacteries, some one
will suggest that honest men had better adopt a simplicity of attire. When
a whole nation grows mad in its hot endeavor to become rich, and the
Temple of the Most High is cumbered by the seats of money-changers,
already in some Galilean village sits a youth, conscious of his Divine
kinship, plaiting a scourge of cords.
The gray garb of the Quaker is only a revulsion from a flutter of ribbons
and a towering headgear of hues that shame the lily and rival the rainbow.
Beau Brummel, lifting his hat with great flourish to nobility and standing
hatless in the presence of illustrious nobodies, finds his counterpart in
William Penn, who was born with his hat on and uncovers to no one. The
height of Brummel's hat finds place in the width of Penn's.
Quakerism is a protest against an idle, vain, voluptuous and selfish life.
It is the natural recoil from insincerity, vanity and gormandism which,
growing glaringly offensive, causes these certain men and women to "come
out" and stand firm for plain living and high thinking. And were it not
for this divine principle in humanity that prompts individuals to separate
from the mass when sensuality threatens to hold supreme sway, the race
would be snuffed out in hopeless night. These men who come out effect
their mission, not by making all men Come-Outers, but by imperceptibly
changing the complexion of the mass. They are the true and literal saviors
* * * * *
Norwich has several things to recommend it to the tourist, chief of which
is the cathedral. Great, massive, sullen structure--begun in the Eleventh
Century--it adheres more closely to its Norman type than does any other
building in England.
Within sound of the tolling bells of this great cathedral, aye, almost
within the shadow of its turrets, was born, in Seventeen Hundred Eighty,
Elizabeth Gurney. Her line of ancestry traced directly back to the De
Gournays who came with William the Conqueror, and laid the foundations of
this church and of England's civilization. To the sensitive, imaginative
girl this sacred temple, replete with history, fading off into storied
song and curious legend, meant much. She haunted its solemn transepts, and
followed with eager eyes the carved bosses on the ceiling, to see if the
cherubs pictured there were really alive. She took children from the
street and conducted them thither, explaining that it was her grandfather
who laid the mortar between the stones and reared the walls and placed the
splendid colored windows, on which reflections of real angels were to be
seen, and where Madonnas winked when the wind was east. And the children
listened with open mouths and marveled much, and this encouraged the pale
little girl with the wondering eyes, and she led them to the tomb of Sir
William Boleyn, whose granddaughter, Anne Boleyn, used often to come here
and garland with flowers the grave above which our toddlers talked in
whispers, and where, yesterday, I, too, stood.
And so Elizabeth grew in years and in stature and in understanding; and
although her parents were not members of the Established Religion, yet a
great cathedral is greater than sect, and to her it was the true House of
Prayer. It was there that God listened to the prayers of His children. She
loved the place with an idolatrous love and with all the splendid
superstition of a child, and thither she went to kneel and ask fulfilment
of her heart's desire. All the beauties of ancient and innocent days moved
radiant and luminous in the azure of her mind. But time crept on and a
woman's penetrating comprehension came to her, and the dreams of youth
shifted off into the realities of maturity, and she saw that many who came
to pray were careless, frivolous people, and that the vergers did their
work without more reverence than did the stablemen who cared for her
father's horses. And once when twilight was veiling the choir, and all the
worshipers had departed, she saw a curate strike a match on the
cloister-wall, to light his pipe, and then with the rector laugh loudly,
because the bishop had forgotten and read his "Te Deum Laudamus" before
his "Gloria in Excelsis."
By degrees it came to her that the lord bishop of this holy place was in
the employ of the State, and that the State was master too of the army and
the police and the ships that sailed away to New Zealand, carrying in
their holds women and children, who never came back, and men who, like the
lord bishop, had forgotten this and done that when they should have done
Once, in the streets of Norwich she saw a dozen men with fetters riveted
to their legs, all fastened to one clanking chain, breaking stone in the
drizzle of a winter rain. And the thought came to her that the rich
ladies, wrapped in furs, who rolled by in their carriages, going to the
cathedral to pray, were no more God's children than these wretches
breaking stone from the darkness of a winter morning until darkness
settled over the earth again at night.
She saw plainly the patent truth that, if some people wore gaudy and
costly raiment, others must dress in rags; if some ate and drank more than
they needed, and wasted the good things of earth, others must go hungry;
if some never worked with their hands, others must needs toil
The Gurneys were nominally Friends, but they had gradually slipped away
from the directness of speech, the plainness of dress, and the simplicity
of the Quakers. They were getting rich on government contracts--and who
wants to be ridiculous anyway? So, with consternation, the father and
mother heard the avowal of Elizabeth to adopt the extreme customs of the
Friends. They sought to dissuade her. They pointed out the uselessness of
being singular, and the folly of adopting a mode of life that makes you a
laughing-stock. But this eighteen-year-old girl stood firm. She had
resolved to live the Christ-life and devote her energies to lessening the
pains of earth. Life was too short for frivolity; no one could afford to
compromise with evil. She became the friend of children; the champion of
the unfortunate; she sided with the weak; she was their friend and
comforter. Her life became a cry in favor of the oppressed, a defense of
the downtrodden, an exaltation of self-devotion, a prayer for universal
sympathy, liberty and light. She pleaded for the vicious, recognizing that
all are sinners and that those who do unlawful acts are no more sinners in
the eyes of God than we who think them so.
The religious nature and sex-life are closely akin. The woman possessing a
high religious fervor is also capable of a great and passionate love. But
the Norwich Friends did not believe in a passionate love, except as the
work of the devil. Yet this they knew, that marriage tames a woman as
nothing else can. They believed in religion, of course--but not an
absorbing, fanatical religion! Elizabeth should get married--it would cure
her mental maladies: exaltation of spirit in a girl is a dangerous thing
anyway. Nothing subdues like marriage.
It may not be generally known, but your religious ascetic is a great
matchmaker. In all religious communities, especially rural communities,
men who need wives need not advertise--there are self-appointed
committees of old ladies who advise and look after such matters closely.
The immanence of sex becomes vicarious, and that which once dwelt in the
flesh is now a thought: like men-about-town, whose vices finally become
simply mental, so do these old ladies carry on courtships by power of
And so the old ladies found a worthy Quaker man who would make a good
husband for Elizabeth. The man was willing. He wrote a letter to her from
his home in London, addressing it to her father. The letter was brief and
businesslike. It described himself in modest but accurate terms. He
weighed ten stone and was five feet eight inches high; he was a merchant
with a goodly income; and in disposition was all that was to be
desired--at least he said so. His pedigree was standard.
The Gurneys looked up this Mr. Fry, merchant, of London, and found all as
stated. He checked O.K. He was invited to visit at Norwich; he came, he
saw, and was conquered. He liked Elizabeth, and Elizabeth liked him--she
surely did or she would never have married him.
Elizabeth bore him twelve children. Mr. Fry was certainly an excellent and
amiable man. I find it recorded, "He never in any way hampered his wife's
philanthropic work," and with this testimonial to the excellence of Mr.
Fry's character we will excuse him from these pages and speak only of his
Contrary to expectations, Elizabeth was not tamed by marriage. She looked
after her household with diligence; but instead of confining her "social
duties" to following hotly after those in station above her, she sought
out those in the stratum beneath. Soon after reaching London she began
taking long walks alone, watching the people, especially the beggars. The
lowly and the wretched interested her. She saw, girl though she was, that
beggardom and vice were twins.
In one of her daily walks, she noticed on a certain corner a frowsled
woman holding a babe, and thrusting out a grimy hand for alms, telling a
woeful tale of a dead soldier husband to each passer-by. Elizabeth stopped
and talked with the woman. As the day was cold, she took off her mittens
and gave them to the beggar, and went her way. The next day she again saw
the woman on the same corner and again talked with her, asking to see the
baby held so closely within the tattered shawl. An intuitive glance
(mother herself or soon to be) told her that this sickly babe was not the
child of the woman who held it. She asked questions that the woman evaded.
Pressed further, the beggar grew abusive, and took refuge in curses, with
dire threats of violence. Mrs. Fry withdrew, and waiting for nightfall
followed the woman: down a winding alley, past rows of rotting tenements,
into a cellar below a ginshop. There, in this one squalid room, she found
a dozen babies, all tied fast in cribs or chairs, starving, or dying of
inattention. The woman, taken by surprise, did not grow violent this time:
she fled, and Mrs. Fry, sending for two women Friends, took charge of the
This sub-cellar nursery opened the eyes of Mrs. Fry to the grim fact that
England, professing to be Christian, building costly churches, and
maintaining an immense army of paid priests, was essentially barbaric. She
set herself to the task of doing what she could while life lasted to
lessen the horror of ignorance and sin.
Newgate Prison then, as now, stood in the center of the city. It was
necessary to have it in a conspicuous place so that all might see the
result of wrongdoing and be good. Along the front of the prison were
strong iron gratings, where the prisoners crowded up to talk with their
friends. Through these gratings the unhappy wretches called to strangers
for alms, and thrust out long wooden spoons for contributions, that would
enable them to pay their fines. There was a woman's department; but if the
men's department was too full, men and women were herded together.
Mrs. Fry worked for her sex, so of these I will speak. Women who had
children under seven years of age took them to prison with them; every
week babes were born there, so that at one time, in the year Eighteen
Hundred Twenty-six, we find there were one hundred ninety women and one
hundred children in Newgate. There was no bedding. No clothing was
supplied, and those who had no friends outside to supply them clothing
were naked or nearly so, and would have been entirely were it not for that
spark of divinity which causes the most depraved of women to minister to
one another. Women hate only their successful rivals. The lowest of women
will assist one another when there is a dire emergency.
In this pen, awaiting trial, execution or transportation, were girls of
twelve to senile, helpless creatures of eighty. All were thrust together.
Hardened criminals, besotted prostitutes, maidservants accused of stealing
thimbles, married women suspected of blasphemy, pure-hearted,
brave-natured girls who had run away from brutal parents or more brutal
husbands, insane persons--all were herded together. All the keepers were
men. Patroling the walls were armed guards, who were ordered to shoot all
who tried to escape. These guards were usually on good terms with the
women prisoners--hobnobbing at will. When the mailed hand of government
had once thrust these women behind iron bars, and relieved virtuous
society of their presence, it seemed to think it had done its duty.
Inside, no crime was recognized save murder. These women fought,
overpowered the weak, stole from and maltreated each other. Sometimes,
certain ones would combine for self-defense, forming factions. Once, the
Governor of the prison, bewigged, powdered, lace-befrilled, ventured
pompously into the women's department without his usual armed guard;
fifty hags set upon him. In a twinkling his clothing was torn to shreds
too small for carpet-rags, and in two minutes by the sand-glass, when he
got back to the bars, lustily calling for help, he was as naked as a
cherub, even if not as innocent.
Visitors who ventured near to the grating were often asked to shake hands,
and if once a grip was gotten upon them the man was drawn up close, while
long, sinewy fingers grabbed his watch, handkerchief, neckscarf or
hat--all was pulled into the den. Sharp nailmarks on the poor fellow's
face told of the scrimmage, and all the time the guards on the walls and
the spectators roared with laughter. Oh, it was awfully funny!
One woman whose shawl was snatched and sucked into the maelstrom
complained to the police, and was told that folks inside of Newgate could
not be arrested, and that a good motto for outsiders was to keep away from
Every morning at nine a curate read prayers at the prisoners. The curate
stood well outside the grating; while all the time from inside loud cries
of advice were given and sundry remarks tendered him concerning his
personal appearance. The frightful hilarity of the mob saved these
wretches from despair. But the curate did his duty: he who has ears to
hear let him hear. Waiting in the harbor were ships loading their freight
of sin, crime and woe for Botany Bay; at Tyburn every week women were
hanged. Three hundred offenses were punishable with death; but, as in the
West, where horse-stealing is the supreme offense, most of the hangings
were for smuggling, forgery or shoplifting. England being a nation of
shopkeepers could not forgive offenses that might injure a haberdasher.
Little Mrs. Fry, in the plainest of Quaker gray dress, with bonnet to
match, stood outside Newgate and heard the curate read prayers. She
resolved to ask the Governor of the prison if she might herself perform
the office. The Governor was polite, but stated there was no precedent for
such an important move--he must have time to consider. Mrs. Fry called
again, and permission was granted, with strict orders that she must not
attempt to proselyte, and, further, she had better not get too near the
Mrs. Fry gave the great man a bit of fright by quietly explaining thus:
"Sir, if thee kindly allows me to pray with the women, I will go inside."
The Governor asked her to say it again. She did so, and a bright thought
came to the great man: he would grant her request, writing an order that
she be allowed to go inside the prison whenever she desired. It would
teach her a lesson and save him from further importunity.
So little Mrs. Fry presented the order, and the gates were swung open and
the iron quickly snapped behind her. She spoke to the women, addressing
the one who seemed to be leader as sister, and asked the others to follow
her back into the courtway away from the sound of the street, so they
could have prayers. They followed dumbly. She knelt on the stone pavement
and prayed in silence. Then she arose and read to them the One Hundred
Seventh Psalm. Again she prayed, asking the others to kneel with her. A
dozen knelt. She arose and went her way amid a hush of solemn silence.
Next day, when she came again, the ribaldry ceased on her approach, and
after the religious service she remained inside the walls an hour
conversing with those who wished to talk with her, going to all the
children that were sick and ministering to them.
In a week she called all together and proposed starting a school for the
children. The mothers entered into the project gladly. A governess,
imprisoned for theft, was elected teacher. A cell-room was cleaned out,
whitewashed, and set apart for a schoolroom, with the permission of the
Governor, who granted the request, explaining, however, that there was no
precedent for such a thing. The school prospered, and outside the
schoolroom door hungry-eyed women listened furtively for scraps of
knowledge that might be tossed overboard.
Mrs. Fry next organized classes for these older children, gray-haired,
bowed with sin--many of them. There were twelve in each class, and they
elected a monitor from their numbers, agreeing to obey her. Mrs. Fry
brought cloth from her husband's store, and the women were taught to sew.
The Governor insisted that there was no precedent for it, and the guards
on the walls said that every scrap of cloth would be stolen, but the
guards were wrong.
The day was divided up into regular hours for work and recreation. Other
good Quaker women from outside came in to help; and the taproom kept by a
mercenary guard was done away with, and an order established that no
spirituous liquors should be brought into Newgate. The women agreed to
keep away from the grating on the street, except when personal friends
came; to cease begging; to quit gambling. They were given pay for their
labor. A woman was asked for as turnkey, instead of a man. All guards were
to be taken from the walls that overlooked the women's department. The
women were to be given mats to sleep on, and blankets to cover them when
the weather was cold. The Governor was astonished! He called a council of
the Lord Mayor and the Aldermen. They visited the prison, and found for
the first time that order had come out of chaos at Newgate.
Mrs. Fry's requests were granted, and this little woman awoke one morning
to find herself famous.
From Newgate she turned her attention to other prisons; she traveled
throughout England, Scotland and Ireland, visiting prisons and asylums.
She became well feared by those in authority, for her firm and gentle
glance went straight to every abuse. Often she was airily turned away by
some official clothed in a little brief authority, but the man usually
lived to know his mistake.
She was invited by the French Government to visit the prisons of Paris and
write a report, giving suggestions as to what reforms should be made. She
went to Belgium, Holland and Germany, being received by kings and queens
and prime ministers--as costume, her plain gray dress always sufficing.
She treated royalty and unfortunates alike--simply as equals. She kept
constantly in her mind the thought that all men are sinners before God:
there are no rich, no poor; no high, no low; no bond, no free. Conditions
are transient, and boldly did she say to the King of France that he should
build prisons with the idea of reformation, not revenge, and with the
thought ever before him that he himself or his children might occupy these
cells--so vain are human ambitions. To Sir Robert Peel and his Cabinet she
read the story concerning the gallows built by Haman. "Thee must not shut
out the sky from the prisoner; thee must build no dark cells--thy children
may occupy them," she said.
John Howard and others had sent a glimmering ray of truth through the fog
of ignorance concerning insanity. The belief was growing that insane
people were really not possessed of devils after all. Yet still, the cell
system, strait jacket and handcuffs were in great demand. In no asylum
were prisoners allowed to eat at tables. Food was given to each in tin
basins, without spoons, knives or forks. Glass dishes and china plates
were considered especially dangerous; they told of one man who in an
insane fit had cut his throat with a plate, and of another who had
swallowed a spoon.
Visiting an asylum at Worcester, Mrs. Fry saw the inmates receive their
tin dishes, and, crouched on the floor, eating like wild beasts. She asked
the chief warden for permission to try an experiment. He dubiously granted
it. With the help of several of the inmates she arranged a long table,
covered it with spotless linen brought by herself, placed bouquets of wild
flowers on the table, and set it as she did at her own home. Then she
invited twenty of the patients to dinner. They came, and a clergyman, who
was an inmate, was asked to say grace. All sat down, and the dinner passed
off as quietly and pleasantly as could be wished.
And these were the reforms she strove for, and put into practical
execution everywhere. She asked that the word asylum be dropped, and home
or hospital used instead. In visiting asylums, by her presence she said to
the troubled spirits, Peace, be still! For half a century she toiled with
an increasing energy and a never-flagging animation. She passed out full
of honors, beloved as woman was never yet loved--loved by the unfortunate,
the deformed, the weak, the vicious. She worked for a present good, here
and now, believing that we can reach the future only through the present.
In penology nothing has been added to her philosophy, and we have as yet
not nearly carried out her suggestions.
Generation after generation will come and go, nations will rise, grow old,
and die, kings and rulers will be forgotten, but so long as love kisses
the white lips of pain will men remember and revere the name of Elizabeth
Fry, Friend of Humanity.