Frances Claudia Wright
Picture of Frances Claudia Wright.jpg
Frances Claudia Wright
Born Frances Claudia Wright
5 March 1919
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Died April 2, 2010
Nickname West Africa's Portia
Nationality British Subject, Sierra Leonean
Education Dame Alice Harpur School, Gray's Inn
Frances Claudia Wright, OBE (5 March 1919 – 2 April 2010) was a prominent Sierra Leonean lawyer during the 20th century. Known as "West Africa's Portia", in 1943 Wright was the first Sierra Leonean woman to pass the bar in Great Britain and to practice law in Sierra Leone.
1 Early life
3 Legacy and honors
Frances Claudia Wright was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, to Claude and Eva Wright. Her father Claude and his brother Ernest Jenner were born in England to Sophie Slocombe, an English woman, and the Sierra Leonean man Claudius Ernest Wright, then a student. He later became a lawyer who served on the Legislative Council of Sierra Leone and as mayor of Freetown. Like his father, Claude studied law. He passed the bar at age 21, at the top of his class. He went to Sierra Leone from England in search of his father, finding that he had died and left Claude's half siblings in debt. Deciding to settle in the Creole society of Freetown, Wright set up a practice and revived his father's Gloucester Street premises.
Frances's mother was Eva Smith, who was the outside daughter of Francis Smith, the second Sierra Leonean to qualify as a lawyer. Francis Smith was the brother of Claudius Wright's mother-in-law and was the half-brother of Adelaide Casely-Hayford. Smith had served as puisine judge on the Gold Coast after attending QEGS in Wakefield, England.
To satisfy her father's aspirations for a child to succeed him as lawyer, Frances Wright studied at Bedford Girls' Modern School in England and was called to the bar from Gray's Inn in 1943, during the Second World war. She sailed for Sierra Leone on the ship SS California, but when this was sunk off North Africa she lost all of her possessions and had to be rescued by HMCS Iroquois.
Wright made her way to Sierra Leone and joined her father's practice. She proved a force in the judiciary of Sierra Leone, once confronting Andrew Juxon-Smith with the expectation that she would be arrested. She served as the President of the Bar Association.
Wright never married. In 1991 she left the country at the outbreak of the Sierra Leone Civil War and settled in South Kensington in England. Her father's practice in Freetown was destroyed in the war.
Frances Wright died in England on 2 April 2010.
Legacy and honors
Wright was awarded an OBE by the Queen of England for legal services.