Newgate Prison

It was Stephen Grellet, a Quaker, who turned her attention to the shocking conditions in which women prisoners and their children lived at Newgate Prison: hungry, cold, dirty, without bedding, even newborn babies without clothing. Elizabeth’s first visit to the prison with baby clothes and kindness established a rapport with the women. Soon she set up the first women’s prison visiting committees and went on to bring order and cleanliness to Newgate.

She started the first-ever prison school which was a great success. Later she saw to it that the prisoners were given useful occupation and taught skills. Uniquely for that time, she saw the prisoners as individual human beings and understood their need for self-respect. Her ideas and practices were to be influential and effective throughout Europe and eventually the world.

All this Elizabeth did not accomplish on her own; she traveled widely in Britain, Ireland and Europe and everywhere she went her extraordinary compassion, eloquence and energetic common sense galvanised others into action. She also made wise use of family connections in parliament and the establishment.