In 1951, a group of women from the First Unitarian Church Toronto met to discuss prison reform with Agnes MacPhail, Canada’s first female Member of Parliament. This meeting resulted in the founding of Elizabeth Fry Society, Toronto Branch which was incorporated in 1952.

Started from a one-room office on Jarvis Street, the agency has grown into its current location which provides transitional housing and program space. The agency also has two satellite apartments as part of its housing program.

Who was Elizabeth Fry?

Elizabeth Fry was an English woman, born in 1780 into a wealthy Quaker family. In 1812, she began visiting women imprisoned in London's infamous Newgate Prison. Appalled by the squalid conditions of poor and illiterate women incarcerated with their children, Elizabeth Fry began services such as a school for the children, and work projects so the women could earn money for their release. She also advocated with government and the public for female guards and better conditions. Her persistence and compassion led to real change for women in prison.

Who was Phyllis Haslam?

Phyllis Haslam was the Executive Director of Elizabeth Fry Toronto from 1953 until 1978. A tireless advocate for the welfare of women, Phyllis Haslam had the distinction of presiding over Elizabeth Fry Toronto and of playing an integral role in the organization’s considerable growth. The principles by which she led the organization continue to guide Elizabeth Fry Toronto today.

Before her death in 1991, Phyllis Haslam witnessed the building of 215 Wellesley Street House which was the realization of her most profound dreams: caring and professional residential services, counselling programs designed to meet client needs in a sensitive and timely fashion, and community outreach.


Susan is a public speaker, educating people about the criminal justice system and legal rights. She exudes confidence and speaks with passion. It is hard to imagine that just a year ago, Susan was struggling with low self-esteem and was extremely shy. After a long history of incarceration, Susan was determined to change her life for the better. Susan joined the Peer Leadership program and developed public speaking skills, connected with positive role models and built her confidence. Susan is now a community educator, has re-connected with her family and is mentoring new members of the Peer Leadership program.