First Women

First Women: Stella Thomas Is The First Woman Magistrate In Nigeria

   

“You have made puppets of African Chiefs. Progress shall come from real understanding and co-operation, not by your dictating to African nations. We do not need you to send more anthropologists to Africa to advise on developments. We Africans, with education are able to develop our own systems and determine what is best for us”

Whenever her name is mentioned, Stella Thomas’ response to the former Governor-General of Nigeria, Lord Frederick Lugard’s lecture always come to fore.

Stella is the first African Female Lawyer and Nigeria’s First Female Magistrate. Born in 1906 in Lagos to a Nigerian businessman of Sierra Leonian heritage, she attended the Annie Walsh Memorial School in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

She gained admission to the Middle Temple Inn of Court in 1929, where she studied law and became the first African woman called to bar in Great Britain in 1933.

She joined groups that spoke and fought against racism in Britain and was known for her political activism, which won her great accolades among other activists. She was a prominent figure in women’s civic and social organisations.

In 1935, she was registered at the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone and in November 1935, she was registered in Nigeria. After seven years of practice in 1943, she was appointed a magistrate and  became the first Nigerian woman to sit on the bench.

In 1944, she got married to a fellow Sierra Leonean barrister, Richard B. Marke. She retired in 1971 and passed away in 1974 at the age of 68.

 

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