Even as a New Orleans native, there are many times that I drive around and have no clue who some of these streets are named after. The “Who Dat?” series is uncovering the history behind these people. This edition is dedicated to Sophie B Wright.
Sophie B Wright is a very small street situated in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans. It can be found when Magazine hits St. Andrew and only goes as far as Felicity Street.
Sophie Wright was born in New Orleans in 1866. She had a lifelong struggle with physical disabilities from a back injury as a child. It’s thought because of this accident that she had a penchant for helping the physically disabled.
Her teaching career began at the age of 14 when she opened up a school for girls in an extra room in her family home. From this start, she began operating the Home Institute a day and boarding school for girls. Within these facilities, she also started a night school for working men and boys.
Wright later helped open the Home for Incurables, a care facility for disabled children in New Orleans, and the Rest Awhile, a retreat for underprivileged women and children in Mandeville.
Sophie did more than just help educate others too. She worked for terminally ill patients and Yellow Fever victims. Being ahead of her time, Wright also fought for prison reform. Sophie also helped champion and get public playgrounds open and expanded their programs.
In 1903, deservingly, Wright was the first woman who received the Times-Picayune Loving Cup award. This is given to a local citizen who contributed most towards social activism and philanthropy.
Before Sophie Bell Wright passed away in 1912, a school was named in her honor. This was the first public girls’ high school in New Orleans. The school named for her can be found at 1426 Napoleon and is still open today.
After her death, a park (near the former site of the Home Institute) was named for her and a statue was erected that still stands today.