Who was Elizabeth Finn?


We were founded in 1897 by a pioneering 72 year old woman, Elizabeth Finn. She saw how easy it was to move from financial resilience into extreme poverty and wanted to find a solution.

Over 120 years later we are still fighting the same cause. But who was Elizabeth Finn and why are we still following on in her footsteps?

We asked Deborah Skinner, a care home manager at Elizabeth Finn Homes.

Who was Elizabeth Finn?

Elizabeth Finn was the founder of the Distressed Gentlefolks Aid Association (DGAA) (now known as Turn2us), a charity that began in her London home. She really was an innovator.

At the age of 72 she went to a social gathering and read accounts from people who were living in poverty. The people in attendance who heard this were so moved that they volunteered to fundraise and became determined to take action to fight poverty.

She was quite extraordinary. In many was she was a model Victorian. She was said to be shy and modest but she also spoke seven languages, was a talented musician, was well-read and a devout Christian. She devoted her long life to charitable works.

Why did she create the DGAA?

There was a very severe economic recession at the end of the 19th century. Many people from professional or services backgrounds fell on hard times and there was no welfare state to help these distressed gentlefolk.

Elizabeth decided to do something to address the silent suffering of people in her circle of society.

What would Elizabeth think of the 21st century?

I think she would be surprised to find it so fractured and sad that a lot of people don’t seem to care about each other.

But more positively I think she would be encouraged to see the power of good that has come from the work that she started and that was carried on by her daughter and we are still seeing today.

If you could meet Elizabeth Finn, what would you say to her?

I’d thank her for having the courage to speak out and for thinking about her fellow human beings at a time when there was no welfare state to support them.