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Known as “West Africa’s Portia,”  Frances Claudia Wright (1919–2010) was the first Sierra Leonean woman to be called to the Bar and to practice in Sierra Leone. She was admitted to Gray’s Inn in 1938 and Called on November 17, 1941.

Born into a prominent legal family—both her father and grandfather were distinguished lawyers in Freetown—she was educated in England, returning to Sierra Leone in 1943 to join her father’s practice. The war was ongoing as Frances sailed home on the SS California, and off the west coast of Africa, the ship came under heavy attack and was wrecked. Fortunately, Frances managed to get home via Casablanca, but she lost all of her possessions, including her wig and gown.

Frances took over her father’s practice in Freetown and, in due course, became the head of a set of chambers of women lawyers, establishing herself as a distinguished and courageous practitioner. She represented many of the large international companies in Sierra Leone and was appointed Legal Adviser to the British High Commission. She also took on cases that directly involved women’s rights and became President of the Bar.

Frances returned to England when the civil war broke out in Sierra Leone in 1991.

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