Bios of People of Scots Descent Sophie B. Wright
The Wright family in Louisiana has been made
famous by the wonderful career of Sophie B. Wright. She was born in New
Orleans on June 5, 1866, when all over the South there was ruin and
discouragement. Her parents, accustomed to luxury, were reduced to
poverty, and little opportunity for making a living. At this time, under
these circumstances, in his home, came Sophie B. Wright, who, under
great handicaps, was destined to become one of the great factors in
bringing order out of chaos and hope out of despair, and in giving an
education to hundreds who otherwise would have grown up in ignorance.
When 3 years old she fell, injuring her
back and hips so that for 6 years she was strapped in a chair. When 9
years of age she was able to hobble around on crutches and went to
school, where, in 5 years, she learned all the public schools of the
city could give her. Miss Sophie B. was then 14 years old, small for her
age, crippled almost beyond endurance and only an 8th grader, but she
borrowed some unused benches from a public school building to fill a
room in her mother's cottage and hung out her sign "Day School for
Girls." This was the beginning of a school career which afterward
became one of the great educational influences in this part of the
This school was of necessity confined to
elementary pupils, but as it gradually grew, Miss Sophie saw that a day
would soon come when she could carry her pupils no farther, so she
arranged at a normal school to teach mathematics in return for
instruction in languages, and did this in addition to carrying on her
own school. At 16 years of age she was teaching in 2 schools and
studying in one, and her own school growing all the time. Before she was
18, her school outgrew its quarters, so she found a large house at $100
a month rent. She signed the lease without money to pay 1 month rent,
but succeeded in borrowing this $100, for which she had to pay 12 per
cent a month interest. She thus secured her large building, and her
school continued to grow, and in spite of the high rent and high
interest, she paid all and put away a little money in the bank besides.
In those days New Orleans was poor and
hundreds of young men and even children were working in shops and
factories with no educational advantage, and to all such the door of
opportunity was opened by a peculiar circumstance. A circus became
stranded in the city, and among those left almost penniless was a young
acrobat about 25 years old. He wanted to prepare for a civil service
examination, but there was no visible way to do so for one entirely
without means. He walked the streets seeking some way to meet his
difficulty, when his eye caught the sign, ''Day School for Girls.'' He
stated his case to the little crippled mistress of the school, and she
said if he could come in the evening she would teach him free of charge.
Thus she opened the doors of her school to the stranded young acrobat,
and this was the beginning of what grew to be a great free night school,
which increased in numbers and importance until it outgrew the building
in which it was held and passed over to the city, which has 8 night
schools in its system and over 50 teachers.
The Day School for Girls has grown into
the Home institute, a day and boarding school for young ladies and
children, which, although Miss Sophie B. Wright has passed to her
reward, is ably continued under the directions of Misses Jennie K. and
Mary R., sisters of Miss Sophie B., whose death occurred June 10,1912.
The school is located at 1440-1446 Camp street, and is thoroughly modern
and hygienic in all its appointments. It has an able corps of teachers
and the conduct as well as the attainment of each pupil is cared for by
the directors of the school. The curriculum has been worked out with
much care. Arithmetic and grammar are studied through the entire course
and either French or Latin is an absolute requirement of every pupil in
a regular course. The boarders all wear uniforms and simplicity in dress
is always aimed at. Pupils accompanied by teachers attend lectures,
concerts and places of amusement, but those of the boarding department
cannot leave the school without a chaperon. In every way the health,
conduct and attainment of the pupils is looked after much more
effectively than in the average home.
Miss Jennie K. and Mary R. Wright,
teachers, directors of the Home institute, are daughters of William H.
and Mary S. (Bell) Wright. William H. Wright was born of Scotch
parentage in Montreal, Canada, but came to New Orleans when quite young.
He served through the whole 4 years of the Civil war on the Confederate
side. He was first in the navy, then in the 14th Louisiana infantry and
afterwards transferred to Ogden's battallion. His father was born in
Dumfries and his mother in Edinburg, Scotland. Mary S. Bell was born on
Oak Bluff plantation, in St. Mary parish, La. Her ancestors were all
planters, her father having been a native of Tennessee and her mother of
Missouri. Besides the Misses Jennie K. and Mary R. Wright, the other
children of Mr. and Mrs. William H. Wright were: Sophie B. Wright,
founder of Home Institute and the free night school; Mrs. C. W. Kay,
William H. Wright, Salaun, expert accountant; Malcolm B. Wright, of
Hammond, La. Miss Jennie K. Wright belongs to the King's Daughters, to
Stonewall Jackson Chapter, U. D. C., to the Alumnae association of the
city normal school, from which school she graduated about 1879. Miss
Mary R. Wright belongs to the Home Institute Alumnae, the King's
Daughters and the Woman s club.
Source: Louisiana: Comprising Sketches of
Parishes, Towns, Events, Institutions, and Persons, Arranged in
Cyclopedic Form (volume 3), pp. 581-583. Edited by Alcee Fortier, Lit.D.
Published in 1914, by Century Historical Association.
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