Wright, Elsie 1901 - 1988


Elsie Wright was a photographer active in the 20th century, famous for co-creating the "Cottingley fairies" photographs.

Elsie Wright was born at 26 Greaves Street, Bradford, on 19 July 1901. Wright was the daughter of Arthur Wright, mechanic and engineer, and his wife, Pollie Curtis. At the age of four she moved with her family to Canada but returned four years later to Cottingley, where her father resumed his previous employment.

With cousin Frances Griffiths, Elsie Wright experimented with photography in her teenage years. Griffiths and Wright created photographs featuring "fairies" in their back garden in Cottingley. The photographs later caught the attention of Edward Gardner of the Theosophical Society and Arthur Conan Doyle, who had become interested in the paranormal following the death of his eldest son during the First World War.

Conan Doyle arranged for cameras to be given to Elsie and Frances so that they could take some more fairy pictures. The girls managed to produce three further ‘fairy’ photographs; these, together with the original two, were reproduced in the Strand Magazine and in Doyle's The Coming of the Fairies, published in 1922. The photographs grew in notoriety and spread across the world.

In 1926 Elsie Wright emigrated to America, where she met her future husband, Frank Hill. After their marriage they moved to India, where Frank worked as an engineer, and eventually returned to England in 1949. They had one son, Glen.

Though media interest subsided, the ‘Cottingley fairies’ continued to capture the public imagination. Elsie and Frances were interviewed in magazines and on radio and television; in 1978 the BBC broadcast a 'Play of the Week' based on their story, entitled Fairies. It was not until 1983, however, that the full story was revealed, when Elsie and Frances finally admitted that the photographs were fakes and that the fairies were in fact nothing more than cardboard cut-outs.

Elsie died in Nottingham in March 1988.