Stained Glass Windows of Elizabeth Fry

Four stained glass windows depict Elizabeth Fry, the English reformer.

Elizabeth Fry (1780-1845), called the “Angel of Prisons”, was instrumental in improving the conditions of prisoners, especially female inmates. Her life was spent visiting prisons to help in any way she could: providing food and clothes, establishing schools for children, teaching skills that could be used in jobs after release. She was responsible for the 1823 Gaols Act and helped pass the 1835 Prisons Act. She also worked for the homeless and against slavery and opened one of the first schools for nurses.

Fry was born into the Gurneys, an old Quaker family, and married into the Frys, another old Quaker family. Inspired by the preaching of Friends minister William Savery in 1798, she became a Plain Friend and was recorded as a minister in 1811. Stephen Grellet, another Quaker minister, persuaded her to begin her prison ministry. More than a thousand people stood in silence during her burial. Her grave is located at the Friends Burial Ground in Barking, Essex.

The “Elizabeth Fry Window” is in the north wall at St. Mark’s Church, an Anglican church, in Camberwell, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia. It was created c. 1935 by Napier and Christian Waller.

The “Noble Women Windows” in the west stair and atrium of the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral contains a panel portraying Fry. The original window was designed in 1921 by J.W. Brown but was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War. It was replaced in 1948 by a simpler version made by Carl Edwards and James Hogan.

The “Humanitarians I Window” in the north wall of the nave of the Washington National Cathedral, an Episcopalian church, displays Fry. It was produced in 1958 by Rowan and Irene Matz LeCompte.

The “Window to Womanhood” in the north wall of the nave in All Saints’ Church, an Anglican church, in Cambridge, England, has a panel showing Fry. It was constructed in 1944 by Douglas Strachan.

In addition, Elizabeth Fry is commemorated by a statue in the Old Bailey Criminal Court in London and by her image on a £5 note issued by the Bank of England. She is also shown on panels E5 and E6 in the Quaker Tapestry.

Two quotes by Rowan LeCompte:

“May all the windows work together to achieve a great visual music that will sing harmoniously with the architecture so to truly lift the heart and in every moment of daylight offer up its radiant prayer of passionate praise and gratitude.”

(Recalling that when his rose window was unveiled, a young girl danced in the colored light that poured onto the floor within the cathedral and when asked what she was doing, she said), “I’m dancing because I found the end of the rainbow.”

Stained glass windows do not show up in Friends Meetinghouses, though they do appear in Friends Churches. I prefer the plainness of our Meetinghouses. But I glory in the colors of these windows!

(Below are St. Mark’s Church, Liverpool Anglican Church, Washington National Cathedral and All Saint’s Church).

Gary Sandman

March 2023

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *