Birth of Sophia Fry, founder of the Women's Liberal Federation

She was born Sophia Pease into a prominent Darlington Quaker family where her father was a director of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. In 1862 she married Theodore Fry whom she met while at school. Fry was elected Liberal MP for Darlington in 1880 and, inspired by the election and Gladstone’s Midlothian Campaign, Sophia Fry founded formed a Women’s Liberal Association in the town. In 1886 she invited members of 15 other associations to her house where it was agreed to form a federation and the WLF was established in London the following year with Fry a secretary and Catherine Gladstone as its first president. The Federation expanded rapidly and by 1892 membership had reached 75,000 with 360 local WLAs. The same year the WLF split over whether to support women’s suffrage. Fry was in support but felt that the Federation should remain neutral on the matter. When, at a special conference, the Federation voted to support the policy, Fry left to help found the Women’s National Liberal Association, serving as its vice-president (1892-7). In 1896 she suffered a serious accident while on holiday in Italy and died in Biarritz in March the following year.