The other day, I was given an old £5 note showing Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker.
Her extraordinary life is not well remembered.
The Quaker movement began in the 17th century with the visionary George Fox.
Unlike the hierarchical ‘church’, they sit in silence as equals, to focus on God within. Anyone inspired by that focus can speak.
The name Quaker was coined in ridicule, when Fox had the courage to tell the taunting
King Charles that he should “quake” before Almighty God.
Charles had many Quakers tortured, imprisoned and martyred, but before Elizabeth was born in 1780, they’d found ways to pacify the state, and Elizabeth shared her empathy among prisoners in the horrendous London jails. Her nursing school later inspired the work of Florence Nightingale and, after her death in 1845, the Lord Mayor of London helped establish an asylum for the destitute. Her likeness on the £5 note was an insufficient but fitting tribute to one of the greatest heroines this country has ever known.
Now, that note shows only the plastic likeness of one of the greatest warmongers this country has ever known.
I take that as a warning.
But, meanwhile, we must never forget Elizabeth Fry.