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Elizabeth Fry

Inspiring Quakers - Elizabeth Fry

You can download the plan for this session at the bottom of this page.

Planning ahead

The key idea for this Children’s Meeting is: See that of God in others, even those who are very different from you.  

Materials to gather/prepare: 

  • Simple costumes (caps and shawls) to dress up like an 18th century convict and Elizabeth Fry.  

  • Bag of “gifts” (see Adventures in the Spirit)

  • Paper and pencils or markers (or calico)


Worship opening: Silence with candle showing on screen. 

Game/opening activity: One leader explains to the children that we’re going to pretend we’re going back in time to meet some special people - a Quaker woman, and one of the people she helped.  Ask children if they’re ready to pretend. 

Sharing: Dramatic role play

Leaders put on costume items that match the late 18th century.  One is Elizabeth Fry, the other, a convict woman.  They set the scene - the imaginary setting is a ship docked in the Thames, full of convict women.  Each leader introduces herself and explains who she is, then they talk about how they met and what their relationship is. “Elizabeth” explains that she wanted to help women and children who had had a very difficult life.  She talks about the practical gifts she has given the women on the ship.  The convict woman, Jane, says that no one has ever given her anything before and that Elizabeth’s gifts have given her hope.  (*script)


  • Show a photo of the Rajah Quilt and explain how it was made by women on the convict ship, the Rajah, for the women in England who had given them “useful gifts”.  

  • Introduce today’s activity: making our own “patchwork quilts” using fabric, paper or paint.  Demonstrate different ways to draw the outline of a quilt, then encourage children to chat while they draw their quilts.  

Closing: Show one another our quilt drawings. 
Possible questions:

  • Do you have a real patchwork quilt at your house?  They take lots of work!  The detail in a patchwork quilt can be a sign of the love and care of the person who made it. (children could show their quilts if they have them). 
  • It was pretty strange for a woman in the 18th century to visit people in prison.  Do you know anyone who visits people in prison/hospital/refugee detention?  (if yes, tell us about them).   

Follow-up activities

Opening circle activity ideas: 

  • Introduce another well-known Quaker that the leader is familiar with, and show something that symbolises them.  Eg, for George Backhouse, show the group some lemon myrtle leaves (and flowers, if in season) and pass them around to be held, crushed between fingers, and sniffed!  

  • For older children with good general knowledge about Quaker history: Match the Quaker to their picture/famous quote/historical event. 

  • Show this short video about an 18th century gentleman getting dressed, as a starting point for a discussion about Quaker simplicity and what it meant at that time.  

Books to share: 

  • About Elizabeth Fry: “The Value of Kindness” (now sadly out of print).
  • “Thee, Hannah!” by Marguerite de Angeli (if your library has it - Mt Lawley Meeting House does)
  • Faith and Play stories: George Fox’s Big Discovery, or John Woolman visits the Indians at Wylusing

Craft ideas: 

  • Sugar chalk sketches (see instructions here)
  • This medium creates a lovely soft look and lends itself well to drawing still life and portrait art.  
  • Making Quaker peg dolls for eminent Quakers for a puppet show.
  • Paper doily craft - sheep for George Fox’s travels through the countryside, flowers for other early Quakers.

Possible closing circle queries: 

Refer back to the person you’ve been learning about and recap something they said (eg, for George Fox, “Be patterns, be examples…”; for Isaac Penington, “Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness..” Ask how the children (and adults) in the room can apply the saying to their lives and their community.