For the sake of history

Wednesday, July 23, 2014    

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Dear Editor,

IN reference to your Memories of Jamaica article by Donna Hussey-Whyte in the Observer of July 16, 2014, entitled 'Rosa Linton remembers when women could not vote', there are a couple of political points made that need to be clarified and put into context.

But first, let me congratulate Ms Rosa Linton of Summer Hill, St James on the attainment of her 100th birthday and commend her on the extent of her wonderful memory of past events in historic Jamaica. Not everyone who reaches such a milestone is able to relate past happenings so vividly, and the Observer must also be commended for this feature which must be a source of interest and education to many people. However, a lady who reaches her century can be forgiven for omitting a few details in her story.

For instance, it is certainly not true to say that before 1944, women "couldn't be politicians". While it might be true that no woman became a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in the old political system prior to '44, a few women did make their mark as prominent politicians in parochial board (parish council) politics and served with distinction among the males.

There were women like Iris Collins, a businesswoman in Rosa's parish, who was a councillor for five years before becoming, after adult suffrage, the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives, as JLP member for North West St James; Mary Morris-Knibb, educator, who served in the KSAC for eight years and was an independent candidate in St Andrew in 1944; Marian Louise Bovell, agriculturist, who served in the St Catherine Parochial Board for eight years (1939-47) and was also an independent candidate in that parish in '44; and the renowned educator and social worker, Amy Bailey of Manchester, who was a founding member of the PNP in 1938.

However, while I'm in no position to challenge Ms Linton's statement that "they filth in A B Lowe's car" during electioneering in the '40s, I can state as fact that he was not "running for the Labour Party at the time" or any other time, nor was he in any way connected to the party. But it does show that clearly the public's indignation towards politicians, and even one such as an influential black man like A B Lowe, started much earlier than we all thought.

Born in 1874 at Somerton, St James, Arthur Benjamin Lowe, the powerful and eloquent last MLC for St James, 1936-44, shunned both the JLP and the PNP. And, like most former MLCs, ran as an independent in both the1944 and 1949 general elections. A member of the St James Parochial Board for 42 years (1903-45), he was heavily involved in the banana and sugar industries of the parish. Lowe contested the rural South East St James constituency — roughly the same area now represented by Derrick Kellier.

In 1944, he was defeated by the JLP's Robert Cecil McFarlane by just 40 votes, polling 2,898, with Ernest Morris, another independent, getting 2,283. In a seven-man race in 1949, he was drubbed by independent Stanley Scott by 1,907 votes, polling 2,204. The PNP's Max Carey ran third with 1,349, and JLP incumbent Robert Cecil McFarlane placed fifth with 1,150.

As we continue to accumulate historic pieces of our past for the present and future generations, accuracy is essential to their value.

Troy Caine





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