September 24, 2023

First Woman to Wear the Silk Gown of Law

First Woman to Wear the Silk Gown of Law

First Woman to Wear the Silk Gown of Law


Chief Folake Solanke born 29 March 1932, in the family of late Pa. J.S Odulate at Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State in southwestern Nigeria. Solanke attended Ago Oko Primary School before attending Emo Girls School in Abeokuta. She later attended Methodist Girls’ High School Lagos, where she took first prize in English and Mathematics consistently. In 1949, Solanke obtained the West African School Certificate, became School Prefect and Games Captain, and at the West Africa School Certificate Examinations she became the first student of the school to obtain grade one certificate.

She spent a year at Queen’s College, Lagos before she proceeded to Newcastle University (then University of Durham), England, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts (2nd Division) degree in Latin and Mathematics in 1954. In 1960, Solanke was admitted into Gray’s Inn, London to read for a degree in law. In 1962, she returned to Nigeria to practice law.

Upon her return to Nigeria in August 1962, Solanke began her law career at the chamber of late Honourable Justice Michael Adeyinka Odesanya (Rtd), while she taught Latin and Mathematics at Yejide Girls Grammar School in Ibadan, Oyo. She moved to the law office of Chief Frederick Rotimi Williams as junior counsel after she got called to Bar in 1963.

And in 1981, Solanke made the history in the country, set pace for the coming generations, challenged her fellow women to dream on and make it a reality. She became the first female Senior Advocate of Nigeria and the first Nigerian female lawyer to ever wear the silk gown.

After her huge feat, she didn’t stop there, she rose through the ranks of Zonta International, first serving as the District Governor for Africa and then as International Vice-President. In 1988, 1990, and 1994, Solanke ran for election to the International Presidency of the organization (she did not run in 1992). She lost the first two times, but won the third time, being elected in Hong Kong on 21 July 1994 as the 42nd International President, the first non–caucasian, African president of the organization since its establishment in 1919.

We celebrate our Women in History. We celebrate our women!


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