Thursday 22 September 2011

A woman of real substance . . .

A lot of us carry money around in our handbags and pockets without really paying attention to anything other than the number printed on them, ie. £10, £20, etc. (I have never seen a £100 note by the way!) They all have pictures of people printed on them as well. I think we all recognize the picture of the Queen, but do we really know who the other people are? I found this picture of the woman on the £5 note fascinating and I wanted to learn more about her. We are used to pictures of men being on our money . . . they are usually important politicians in history and such . . . but a woman, well, that's quite a different kettle of fish! I had to know more.

Born in 1780 into a well-to-do Quaker family in Norwich, as a child she did not enjoy the Quaker meetings and made her delicate health an excuse for missing them. Later she became one of the "Plain Friends" whose religious observance was very strict: they dressed plainly and refused to join in with dancing and singing.

Elizabeth married a banker, Joseph Fry, who was the partner in Gurney’s Bank. She entertained as the wife of a wealthy businessman and helped him through financial crises, which drastically changed their lifestyle. Elizabeth bore eleven children. Quite unremarkable thus far . . . really.

It was her voluntary work in prisons, however, that she is most remembered for. Elizabeth Fry was a young woman who pioneered prison reform. A visiting Quaker friend showed her the conditions in which women prisoners were kept in Newgate prison. Newgate was a prison which held both men and women awaiting trial, sentencing, execution, and transportation. Within it's walls, Elizabeth found women and children living and dying in conditions of horror, filth, and cruelty. She resolved to do something about it.

Firstly . . . she visited the prisons and encouraged other middle class women to do so as well. She worked hard to overcome official opposition and set up education classes for women. She was ahead of her time in that she treated the prisoners as human beings. Elizabeth did not impose discipline on them but instead proposed rules and invited the prisoners to vote on them, afterwards placing an educated prisoner in charge.

Secondly . . . Elizabeth told people in the outside world about prison life. She used her connections in high places to good effect. Both Florence Nightingale and the young Queen Victoria admired Elizabeth for her compassionate exercise outside the home.

One of her first missions was to alleviate the conditions of women being deported to Botany Bay. One day, in an effort to calm down a hysterical girl, Elizabeth pressed upon her a Bible, some scraps of fabric, some thread, needles and tea. One might wonder what possible good these things may have done for a young woman being transported to a penal colony . . .

The day after Elizabeth died (in 1845) a letter was received at her home from an Australian mother. It explained how she had arrived in Australia as a convict, turned her life around and been happily married for some twenty years. The quilt that had covered the woman's bed had been made from scraps pressed upon her by "An Angel of Mercy."

Elizabeth never judged the convicts she worked amongst, instead showing them love, mercy and care.

"The good principle which beats in the hearts of many abandoned persons may be compared to the sparks of a nearly extinguished fire. By means of the utmost care and most gentle treatment they may yet be fanned into a flame."

She was quite simply a good woman, who saw a need, and did what she could to help to alleviate the pain and suffering of her fellow beings. Put quite simply . . . she was the Saviour's hands on earth, something that we all have within us the power to be . . . We are not just here on earth to please ourselves . . . we are here to make a difference wherever, whenever . . . and however we can. That is a life well spent.

Here's a delicious cake that is quite simple to make and quick as well. It looks fabulously intricate, and your family will think you slaved over a hot stove to produce it. Only you will know that it was really quite easy!

*Brown Sugar Bundt Cake*
Makes one 10-inch bundt cake,
serving about 16LinkPrintable Recipe

Moist, delicious, quick and easy to make!

1 (18 ounce) box of yellow cake mix
1 (4 serving size) box of instant vanilla pudding mix
4 large free range eggs
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup soft light brown sugar, packed
1 cup of chopped pecans
softened butter and granulated sugar for preparing pan

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a 10 inch pundt pan and then sprinkle with granulated sugar to coat. Set aside.

Combine the cake and pudding mixes, eggs, oil and water in a large bowl and beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until well mixed, about 4 minutes. Stir in the brown sugar and pecans, mixing well to combine.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted in the centre. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack for about 15 minutes. Invert the pan onto the rack and slide the cake out onto the rack. Let cool completely. Store tightly covered at room temperature.

Note: you can simply dust with some icing sugar to serve, or make a thin drizzle icing to dribble over top.

There are some delicious Almond Tarts over in The English Kitchen this morning.

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