Submitted by Yardbroom
We celebrate Heroes Day, honouring those men and women who by great achievements have made us proud to be Bajans. Their acts recorded, names well known and images in some instances, adorn the bank notes we spend in our daily lives; a constant reminder of the contribution they made to our society. In some instances their names are known on the international stage and there, accorded the same reverence as in Barbados for deeds accomplished in specific endeavours…..we are proud of them all.
It is fitting that just a few days since the celebration of Mother’s Day in Barbados – dates in other countries sometimes differ – a gentle reminder should be given of other heroes. May I introduce you to my heroines. Individually their names are not written in books,and perhaps you have only a fleeting thought of them but here they are.
Women on the plantations working in the fields, backs bent under an unremitting sun, then like sentinels stood erect when the driving rains came. Far distant from any structure or shelter they just were drenched. Yet they toiled and toiled again, to ensure their sons and daughters were able to attend those schools and colleges they thought were a gateway to a good education. Now many attorney’s chambers in Bridgetown, with brass plates burnished bright, record the names of eminent professionals whose grandmothers and great grandmothers made that sacrifice, for them to glide easily in their flowing robes and pristine white collars.
Domestic servants, who kept their children “mentally” far away from how they earned a living. Early to rise in the morning, family chores outlined, responsibilities delegated and in some cases, through the muddy tracks they trod to work in other people’s houses. Until the return journey late at night, when only lamps flickered in humble abodes. They kept their thoughts to themselves, mindful of where they wanted their children to be schooled and not to give the impression to their employers that they wanted their children to attend the same school as theirs. That could be a mistake, and they knew it.
Hawkers, who plied their trade with a business acumen built on life’s hard experiences. Be nice to customers, for repeat trade and price your goods to make a profit, and then save and save again. They might not have known how to write their names with a flourish, but they knew what they did not want their children to do. Therefore willingly they carried a heavy burden, not only on their heads but in their hearts.
Those who sold pudding and souse by the side of the road on Saturday nights and built a reputation for cleanliness, honesty and the taste of their fare, all under the illumination of a kerosene lamp. Activities and sacrifice the youths of today in modern Barbados, know nothing of.
Some a little more genteel, clinging to respectability but yet equally driven, sold sweet breads from a side window in a private dwelling. Everyone in the neighbourhood knew of their baking skills and pencilled in as a Saturday treat one of their loaves. I can think of one particular very well established family, but so far are they removed from such activities….it is as if it never happened.
Those mothers surely achieved their objective. They sought not riches but an education for their children and a gateway to better things. For the children who found exacting a programme of education. Extra lessons after school were sought, they had to be paid for on a tight budget this was not easy. The family “mantra” then came into play “cut and contrive” and the money was found.
I should not forget the dressmakers beavering away to ensure those who had withdrawn money from the Civic in Swan Street and had purchased cloth were able to have it made and ready for the Exhibition in Queens Park….a delight for many. Often those mothers stayed at home and allowed their sons and daughters to parade their finery in the Park. The family budget could only stretch so far.
Mother’s Day has now passed but after it we have time for reflection, it is not only a day it is more than that, for some mothers it was a lifetime. Many mothers in Barbados “laboured” long and very hard for the education they allowed their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to have.
It would be a dereliction of responsibility, now that some are highly placed and have influence, not to use that education to uplift those less fortunate than themselves.
The “women” who made great sacrifices are no longer with us, their names are not recorded for what they did, but be in no doubt they are Barbadian heroes as well, because they gave little Barbados a resultant professional class from working class roots.
When those who were not born on the rock – Barbados – or lived here for sometime, accuse us of being insular for holding on to the little we have with both hands. It is because they do not know our history, and i do not mean the history that is written in books….women of the soil you are not forgotten.