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Rosa Linton remembers when women could not vote

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, July 16, 2014    

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ROSA Ruth Linton, who celebrated her 100th birthday on July 7, clearly remembers the period up to 1938 when women were not allowed to vote in elections.

"Men alone had votes; women were not counted in that," Linton — founder and former principal of the Summer Hill Basic School in St James — told the Jamaica Observer in an interview at her Summer Hill home last week. "I think it was sometime after I had my first child in 1938 that women got the privilege to vote because I never voted until 'late up'. I think I voted about six times after that," she said.

It was not until 1944 with the introduction of Universal Adult Suffrage in Jamaica, a system that extended voting rights to all adults irrespective of race, sex, gender or social class, that women were allowed to vote.

According to Linton, before that women could not take part in any aspect of national decision. "They couldn't be politicians. So [having] a woman prime minister would never happen back then," Linton stated.

And while there were no shootings and killings as a result of political rivalry, she said there were rivalries of different kinds in that early period of electioneering.

"They filth in A B Lowe's car; he was running for the Labour Party at the time," Linton said. "It was vicious but altogether different from now, because nobody was killing one another. They said what they wanted to say against each other but no killing."

But Linton said Jamaica was very peaceful in those days. "People were free to walk, people were neighbourly. You don't have much of that today," the centenarian said. "That seems to die out."

The centenarian also has fond memories of Christmas celebrations when she was a little girl.

"Christmas time we as girls got up early mornings, draw the chocolate tea or coffee and we visited homes like our grandparents and we give them early morning breakfast. We were so free and happy we could walk as we like and there was no fear. People can't do that now," she added.

"... Christmas time you had drum playing early morning. You could hear the Kettle drum playing in the community square and the base drum was loud! It was always a nice time," Linton said. "Sometimes they had picnic and merry-go-round and all those things. It was a big celebration, and we would ride the merry-go-round. But those things don't

exist now."

Linton, meanwhile, said young girls back then would never be caught exposing their bodies. "Women used to dress properly; now is pure 'out-of- orderness'," she said. "Women not dressing now. The dresses weren't necessarily long but you were properly covered. You didn't have people wearing those 'short-up' things under their bottoms. No sah! That was not allowed in my days as a young lady coming up. The way I see some ladies now, I wonder if I could expose my body. Back then you have respect for your body, even up to now I respect my body. Your body was private, sacred. I wore sleeveless dress, but covered. No exposures," Linton told the Observer.

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