Papers of Isabel Fry (1869-1958)

Scope and Content

The collection mainly consists of a set of Isabel Fry's personal diaries and notebooks dating from 1878-1958. These are supplemented by letters to her friend Eugénie Dubois, c.1930-1958, and a few publications and photographs. The diaries reflect all aspects of her life and career including her teaching activities and educational ideas; her preoccupations with political and social affairs, including political reform and emancipation in the East and in Turkey and Persia; her friendships with liberal intellectuals; and her involvement with anti-militarist movements, slum clearance, socialism and feminism. Also included are details of her relationship with her family, friends and their wider social circle.

This collection may be of interest to people researching LGBTQ history

In her diaries Isabel covers the Battle of Crete

Administrative / Biographical History

Isabel Fry (1869-1958) was an educationist, social worker and reformer. She was born in March 1869, along with her twin Anges Fry, into the famous reforming Quaker family, as the daughter of Sir Edward Fry (1827-1918), jurist, and Mariabella Hodgkin. She was one of nine children. Her siblings included Joan Mary Fry (1862-1955), a leading Quaker; Agnes Fry (1868-1957), author; (Sara) Margery Fry (1874-1958), penal reformer and Principal of Somerville College, Oxford; Roger Eliot Fry (1866-1934), artist and critic; and Anna Ruth Fry (1876-1962), pacifist and Quaker activist. In around 1885 Isabel attended school at Highfield and in 1891-2 went to teach at Miss Lawrence's School in Brighton [later named Roedean] with Constance Crommelin [later Mrs John Masefield]. In around 1895 she moved to London with Constance Crommelin and coached small groups of children in their own homes, including at Harley Street, and also at private schools in London, including at a school she founded in Marylebone Road. In 1908 Isabel Fry met the Turkish educational and social reformer Halidé Edib and visited Turkey for the first time. In 1912 she began to take deprived children to her summer cottage at Great Hampden, for holidays and teaching. Between 1913 and 1915 she held classes in Gayton Road, Hampstead and at other schools in London, in 1914 she paid her second visit to Turkey and in 1916 she worked as a welfare supervisor in a factory in the Midlands. In 1917 she founded The Farmhouse School, Mayortorne Manor, Wendover, Buckinghamshire, an experimental school in which training in farm and household duties were emphasised. It was here that she made a close personal friend of Eugénie Dubois, who taught French at the Farmhouse School. In 1930 she left Mayortorne Manor and worked in settlements for unemployed miners in Wales and Durham with her sister, Joan, and in the Caldicot community in Maidstone, Kent. In 1934 she opened a new experimental school for deprived children and refugees at Church Farm, Buckland near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. Isabel Fry died on her birthday, 25 March, in 1958. She published three books, 'Uninitiated' (London: Osgood, Mcilvaine & Co, 1895), 'The Day of Small Things' (London: Unicorn, 1901) and 'A Key to Language: A Method of Grammatical Analysis by Means of Graphic Symbols' (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1925).

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form.

Acquisition Information

These papers were given to the Institute of Education in July 1983 by M. Eric M. Dubois, son of Eugénie Dubois.

Other Finding Aids

Electronic and paper catalogues.

Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.

Appraisal Information

The collection has been retained intact.

Custodial History

Upon her death in 1958 Isabel Fry bequeathed her journals and books to Eugénie Dubois.


BC Brown (ed), 'Isabel Fry: Portrait of a Great Teacher' (London: Arthur Barker, 1960); Agnes Fry, 'Memoir of the Right Honourable Sir Edward Fry' (Oxford University Press, 1921); Virginia Woolf, 'Roger Fry' (London: Hogarth Press, 1940); Ruth Fawell, 'Joan Mary Fry' (London: Friends Home Service Committee, 1959).