Women of the carribean

Added: Dave Tynan - Date: 16.11.2021 01:05 - Views: 26772 - Clicks: 8308

There is a continuing discourse on the engendering of history of the Caribbean. As a part of that discourse, leading historians such as Bridget Brereton and Blanca Silvestrini suggest that the process should include the text and testimony of women.

For the English-speaking Caribbean, a of their letters written to friends, relatives and business associates have survived. Among the surviving sources are the published correspondences of four women associated with four English colonies in the region. Their letters provide useful indicators of how women felt and acted in the past. As a part of that discourse, leading historians such as Bridget Brereton and Blanca Silvestrini suggest that the process should include the texts and testimonies of women 1. In this way the writers of Caribbean history can move beyond using a feminist construct to analyze traditional sources.

The use of the texts of women is only one of the methods being examined in the search for a new construct to engender history. Oral testimonies are also very important in the engendering process, especially in the Caribbean where oral tradition is a characteristic feature of life. Such testimonies are also vital to a fuller understanding of the historical experience of the Caribbean as women were not always given the same educational opportunities as men and so were less likely to have penned their views and recorded their experiences.

And even when educational opportunities were provided for women, there were class differences that excluded a ificant of Caribbean women from being among the lettered. They are only useful in reconstructing a more immediate past. Their usefulness diminishes as the more distant past is examined. It must be noted however that a more interdisciplinary approach, using historical anthropology may in fact strengthen the case for oral testimonies.

In light of all this, the written text takes on added ificance if the distant past is to be recaptured. Women are probably the best expression of this in the multifarious way they live their lives. They live multiple lives in unison 3. The storyteller is oftentimes a woman. Thus the history of the Caribbean can not be written from a single gender perspective, male or female, or merely from the public sphere.

The written history of the Caribbean, to be valid, needs to reflect this textured existence, especially when so many non-government organizations and women have played ificant roles in the evolution of the region. Despite the institutionalized invisibility imposed on women, there is enough material in the traditional sources to write about their role. Gail Saunders confirmed this for the Bahamas.

She indicates that revisiting traditional sources with a feminist eye will reveal much about women 4. At best, this can only produce contribution history, a male derived perspective of what women did and did not do. Readily available are some published texts for the twentieth.

The surviving texts must be traced in the process of enriching the historical knowledge of the region. Is there an adequate of surviving texts? The suggestion has been made that not much of what women wrote survived 5. The few surviving pieces tell their own story. It also speaks of the persisting androcentric approach to history. Jerome Handler 6 suggests that even fragments can be useful to those seeking specialized data. These letters were written to relatives, friends and business associates.

Among the surviving letters are the published correspondences of four women associated with four islands in the English-speaking Caribbean The initial reading of these letters provide useful indicators of how women felt and acted in the past. In the closing decade of the twentieth century women have become quite prolific writers.

This paper focuses on letter texts written in the period — As published s, the letter books which form the primary material for the survey, raise these and other questions related to historical theory. How should these letters be classified? Are they primary or secondary sources? This question has particular relevance to the late eighteenth century letters from Jamaica which were edited in such a way that only excerpts were given from most of the original letters. However, since substantial extracts were provided, the historian using the texts will still find them useful. In any event since most sources used by historians are at best fragmentary, the extracts can only be seen as primary material.

But how available were publication opportunities for women in the Caribbean before the twentieth century? Twentieth century material is readily available in most instances, but what of the earlier centuries? Source guides surveyed suggest that some opportunities were available. A of newspapers and periodicals were published since the nineteenth century.

There was at least one in the English speaking Caribbean since the first half of the eighteenth century. Some of the texts include poems, letters, speeches and articles. These women were also aware of what was happening in the wider world. Reliability of texts surveyed rests on the fact that they can be authenticated by other sources. It is therefore remarkable that ordinary family letters and those written to friends have survived at all. It may have been only the sentimentality of recipients, which offered a chance of survival.

This appeared to have been the case of the letters from Jamaica written to Jane Brodbelt, a preteen girl attending school in England in the seventeen eighties. The editor of the published letter entitled Letters to Jane from Jamaica ,made reference to the type of sentimentality which aided survival :.

The letters were edited by Geraldine Mozley, a descendant of the addressee. She reported that she found the letters in a drawer, apparently forgotten Most of the letters were written by Ann Brodbelt, a native of Jamaica who lived with her husband, Francis Brodbelt, a physician of Spanish Town, the capital town of the island at the time. The recipient of the letters from Jamaica was Jane Brodbelt, the youngest of three children of the Brodbelt family. At the time the letters began, the other two children, Nancy and Rigby, Jr. Her letters gave an insight in the leisure activities of the town and the way middle class white women lived their lives in eighteenth century Jamaica.

These letters were written from Barbados between and Elizabeth Fenwick, with her son-in-law, operated a school for elite children. She wrote to her friend, Mary Hays, about her experience in that island. She spent seven years in Barbados, and her letters end with plans to move on to the United States of America. Her letters plot change, in her own life and in the life of the colony as she experienced it. They are useful indices of such themes as female friendship, family life, education in Barbados and economic patterns in the region.

They project an understanding of slavery from the perspective of someone who was not at first involved, but who was forced to accept the system as the only way to get the servants needed. The contradictions of the system were clearly presented in her responses over time. Adele Hart, the writer, was a visitor whose perspective was that of the tourist seeking the curative and rejuvenating qualities of the region.

She accompanied her convalescing mother to the island and appeared to have known very little about it when the decision was taken to go there. Her letters detailed her activities, give rich information on the social and leisure time activities in that family of islands in the first half of the nineteenth century. She described the Bahamian landscape. Her descriptions point to a possible theme for exploration in the history of the region environmental history. Many of her letters make reference to aspects of the built and natural environment.

Born in Dominica in the late nineteenth century, she spent her formative and teenage life in that island. She migrated to England in the early twentieth century and so most of the letters in the published collection were written from outside the Caribbean to friends, business associates and her daughter. The ificance of her letters rest in the fact that her perceptions were shaped by the Caribbean and that bits and pieces of her letters recall her Caribbean experience.

These bits and pieces raise the question of the relationship between memory and history. They suggest a theme of alienation of the Caribbean emigrant, which is worth exploring as part of a broader theme of Caribbean Diaspora. The letters of these four women in particular are valuable sources for the study of Caribbean history, a Caribbean outside of the plantation. They are valuable for a study of the essential fabric of Caribbean life.

While each set of letters provides useful information on specific islands at specific periods in their history, they also suggest some common features of life in the Caribbean. However, there is an unexpected treatment of the issue by these women. The response of new arrivants like Fenwick gives an insight in the difference between England and the colonies on the colour issue :. We cannot admit a Creole pupil, yet some are very rich. I would wonder they do not remove to England.

The answer may rest in the dichotomy between the periphery and the centre in colonial experience. The dichotomy is suggested in other instances in the letters and suggests a major theme for exploration in the process of engendering Caribbean history. So Ann Brodbelt was concerned that her daughter Jane had not yet acquired the « complexion of an English girl ». In she was still passing on this advice to her daughter for the benefit of her granddaughter. Brodbelt wanted her daughter to have an erect posture. Fenwick was impressed with the dress and posture of female slaves who attended the white students at her school while being disgusted with the general attitude and conduct of the blacks as she saw them :.

They always attract my eye from the symmetry and beauty of their forms as well as their fantastic attire She shared this attitude with some whites who had coloured favourites. White male visitors were often in praise of the coloured female they encountered in the Caribbean She tells of her struggles to get jobbing slaves to work without physical punishment. Her view of them was not very positive :.

Fenwick acquired slaves but persisted in referring to them as servants. This tendency is probably reflective of the difficulty she had accommodating herself to the infamous institution. However, the racial tension suggested in the Fenwick letters was not found in the letters to Jane. The letters in fact give a perspective of female domesticity through the eyes of the women. The texts not only provide an understanding of domestic life during slavery, but also give an idea of how women viewed domesticity. As a working woman, Fenwick did not seem to handle household matters very well and her daughter clearly found it difficult to cope with household duties and childcare.

The domestic struggles of that Barbadian household are not reflected in the letters from Jamaica. The Brodbelt women seemed not to be bothered by domestic matters. There is in fact a silence on domestic matters, which could be due to the fact that unlike the letters of Fenwick, which were written to an adult friend, the letters from Jamaica were written to .

However there is a picture which is painted in the very silence on the matter for Anne Brodbelt and her cousin Anna Millward.

Women of the carribean

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