Margery Fry

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Margery Fry
Native name Sara Margery Fry
Born (1874-03-11)11 March 1874
London, United Kingdom
Died 21 April 1958(1958-04-21) (aged 84)
Academic background
School or tradition Somerville College, Oxford
Academic work
Notable ideas Penal reformer

Sara Margery Fry (11 March 1874 – 21 April 1958) was a British prison reformer as well as one of the first women to become a magistrate.

Early life[edit]

Margery Fry was born in London, the eighth child of Sir Edward Fry and his wife, Mariabella Hodgkin (1833–1930), who were Quakers. She was educated at home until, at the age of 17, she went to Miss Lawrence's school at Brighton (later named Roedean School). Her parents did not intend her to go to university but eventually allowed her to go to Somerville College, Oxford in 1894 to read Mathematics. Her brother, the artist Roger Fry, apparently wanted her to do painting instead.[citation needed] After three years at university she returned to her parents' home, staying with them until 1899 when she became Librarian at Somerville (1899–1904). In 1904, she became Warden of the new women's residence at Birmingham University (initially at an annual salary of £60). In 1913, she became financially independent after the death of her uncle Joseph Storrs Fry and in 1914 left her position at Birmingham. From 1915 onwards, she helped organize Quaker relief efforts in the Marne war area, and later elsewhere in France.

Belief in penal reform[edit]

After the First World War, she lived with her brother Roger and began the work on prison reform in which she was to be involved until the end of her life. In 1918, she became secretary of the Penal Reform League, which merged with the Howard Association in 1921 to form the Howard League for Penal Reform; she was secretary of the combined organisation until 1926. In 1919 she was appointed to the newly founded University Grants Committee on which she served until 1948. In 1921 she was appointed a magistrate, one of the first women magistrates in Britain. In 1922 she was appointed education advisor to Holloway Prison (a prison for women in London). Margery Fry who was Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform from its foundation in 1921 until 1926. She also served as Chair of the league's Council from 1926 to 1929.

She is also known for her opposition to the death penalty and her support of compensation for victims of crimes.

Academic career[edit]

Fry studied mathematics at Somerville College, Oxford. She was Librarian at Somerville (1899–1904). In 1904, she became Warden of the women's residence at Birmingham University. From 1926 to 1930, she was Principal of Somerville College. Her appointment was hailed as "[combining] intellectual distinction, a fine eloquence, and academic experience with the force of character and sympathy which the post demands."[1] The Graduate (Middle Common Room, or MCR) accommodation building at Somerville College is called 'Margery Fry House' in her honour.[2]


She was also a governor of the BBC from 1937 to 1939 and a participant in The Brains Trust series starting in 1942. The Fry Housing Trust was established in 1959, in memory of Margery Fry. In 1990, the Margery Fry Award was established in her honour.[3]


  1. ^ Archived from the original on September 23, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2012.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ Archived from the original on September 23, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2012.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ "home - The Howard League for Penal Reform". Howard League. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Emily Penrose
Somerville College, Oxford

Succeeded by
Helen Darbishire