Pauline Henriques

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Pauline Henriques
Pauline Enriques, Caribbean Voices 1952 (cropped).jpg
Pauline Henriques, on BBC's Caribbean Voices in 1952.
Born(1914-04-01)1 April 1914
Died1 November 1998(1998-11-01) (aged 74)
Brighton, Sussex, England
Other namesPauline Crabbe

Pauline Clothilde Henriques (1 April 1914 – 1 November 1998), known to all as Paul, was a Jamaican-born English actress. In 1946, she became the first black female actress for British television. She was also the first black female Justice of the Peace, and was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1969. She worked extensively with unmarried mothers and worked as a counsellor with, and later Secretary to, the Brook Counselling and Advisory Clinic.[1]

Early life[edit]

Pauline Henriques was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to Cyril Charles Henriques, a wealthy merchant, and Edith Emily Delfosse.[2] One of six children, she moved with her family to England from Jamaica in 1919, as her father wanted to give his children an English education. Her elder brother, Cyril George Henriques (1908–1982),[3] became a Lord Chief Justice of Jamaica and was knighted in 1963.[1]

Another brother, Fernando, was a President of the Oxford Union in 1944, and a published author.

Pauline and her siblings are mentioned in an exhibition about Jamaican families and their roles in the UK during the Second World War in Southwark.[4]

In 1932, she enrolled in the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts to study drama. During this time she experienced challenges due to roles that were available to her, she explained in a later interview, ″I appeared in many school productions, but I had to play my parts in white face, including Lady Bracknell and Lady Macbeth! I went along with it because I was very anxious to learn my craft, and to be taken seriously as a dramatic actress. You see, I couldn't sing or dance, and dramatic roles were non-existent for black actresses, so I had to "white up" to gain experience."[1]

In 1936 Pauline married Geoffrey William Heneberry (1909–1994). Their daughter Gail (born 26 March 1937) later married Keith Critchlow, artist, author, and professor of architecture in England.

In 1948 Pauline Henriques married the actor, Neville Cobbiah Crabbe (1923–83), with whom she had one son, Biff Crabbe (born 1953). In 1969 she married Joe Benjamin (1921–1995), taking on three step-sons Mark (born 1952), Simon (born 1956) and Adam (1958). Pauline died in Brighton, Sussex, in 1998.[1]


Acting and radio[edit]

Pauline Henriques was a regular presenter on Caribbean Voices for the BBC's West Indian Service, from the show's inception in 1943.[5]

She broke more than one glass ceiling in her time, the first of which was as the first Black female actress on British TV in 1946. Cast as Hattie Harris in a 1946 BBC television version of Eugene O'Neill's play All God's Chillun Got Wings,[6] she continued to perform on stage and screen in a variety of roles during the 1950s.[7] She was also cast as Ella in The Heart Within.[8]

In 1948, she became a founding member of the Negro Theatre Company and directed a variety show called Something Different [9]

She acted in the BBC's A Man from the Sun, a television drama documentary that for the first time portrayed the lives of Caribbean settlers in post-war Britain.[10]


During the latter part of her career, then known as Pauline Crabbe, she worked extensively in counselling unmarried mothers and was involved in championing counselling for pregnant teenagers, especially those under the age of 16, to determine whether abuse had been involved.[1]

From 1957 to 1969, she was first welfare secretary and then Deputy General Secretary of the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child.[11] In 1966 she helped form the Havistock Housing Trust, and in the following year was appointed to the Housing Corporation.[12] From 1969 to 1971, she worked as a Conciliation Officer with the Race Relations Board, before moving to the London Brook Advisory Centre to work as first Secretary and then, from 1976 as Senior Counsellor until, in 1980, she was appointed as the National Vice-Chairman until her retirement in 1986. In 1977, she featured as a speaker at the Altrusa Convention,[13] as the Secretary to the Brook Advisory Centres.[14] She was also interviewed at length for the British Library's National Sound Archive.[15]

For Channel 4's Faces of the Family show in 1994, Pauline appeared as the matriarch of an extended family.[16]

For her role and responsibility towards women, she was quoted in the First Woman Sheriffs in the United States on the front page:

"Any woman who is a first in a field previously dominated by men has the responsibility of opening doors for other women."[17]


Featured in:

  • Bourne, Stephen (1998), Black in the British frame: Black people in British film and television, 1896–1996, Cassell, and (2021), Deep Are the Roots: Trailblazers Who Changed Black British Theatre. The History Press.
  • Murray, Jenni (1996), The Woman's Hour: 50 Years on Women in Britain. BBC Books.
  • Nicholson, Mavis (1995), What Did You Do in the War, Mummy? Chatto & Windus.
  • Pines, Jim (editor) (1992), Black and White in Colour: Black People in British Television since 1936. BFI.


  1. ^ a b c d e Bourne, Stephen (21 November 1998). "Obituary: Pauline Henriques". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022. Retrieved 29 January 2022.
  2. ^ Edith Emily Delfosse (1876–1945),
  3. ^ Cyril George Henriques (1908–1982),
  4. ^ "Keep smiling through: black Londoners on the home front 1939 to 1945" Archived 22 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Southwark Council.
  5. ^ Peskett, Louise (11 December 2015). "Pauline Henriques: A pioneering and inspirational woman". Sussex World. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  6. ^ "All God's Chillun' Got Wings (1946)", Internet Movie Database.
  7. ^ "Pauline Henriques (1914–1998)", Internet Movie Database.
  8. ^ "The Heart Within (1957)", Internet Movie Database.
  9. ^ "Black British Plays Post World War II -1970s By Professor Colin Chambers". National Theatre Black Plays Archive.
  10. ^ "Man From The Sun, A (1956)", BFI ScreenOnline.
  11. ^ Stuart, Rosalind (4 November 1964). "A Wanted Child May Still Face Unhappiness". Glasgow Herald.
  12. ^ "Breakthrough" for House Societies, Evening Times, 28 July 1967.
  13. ^ "Altrusa Convention Dates Set", The Press-Courier, 10 July 1977.
  14. ^ Brook website.
  15. ^ Simons, Andrew. "a studious celebration: black history month at the NSA" (PDF). Playback: The bulletin of the British Library National Sound Archive. Retrieved 24 June 2022.
  16. ^ Rees, Jasper (12 February 1994). "Television/ The year of the over-extended family". The Independent. Archived from the original on 25 May 2022.
  17. ^ First Woman Sheriffs in the United States of America, Reocities.

External links[edit]