Monday, 28 November 2016

2010 the new woman and ‘the dusky strand’: the place of feminism and women's literature in early Jamaican nationalism

Feminist Review
, Volume 95, Issue 1, pp 45–63

This essay analyzes the prominent role played by first wave feminism and by women writers between 1898-1903 as the Jamaica Times articulated a broad-based, middle class nationalism and launched a campaign to establish a Jamaican national literature. Largely overlooked, this archival material is significant because it suggests a subtle yet significant modification of anglophone Caribbean feminist, literary and nationalist historiography: first wave feminism was not introduced to Jamaica exclusively through black nationalist organizations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but rather, it emerged in a broader phenomenon of respectable, middle class nationalism, encompassing the overlapping projects of Jamaican nationalism and Pan Africanism. Thus, it becomes clear that first wave feminism, including white women writers, played a key but brief role in the formation of the middle class nationalism that would later dominate Jamaica's transition to independence. During the first five years of publication of the Jamaica Times, women wrote a significant proportion of the short stories published. However, they became marginalized as black folk culture became the defining symbol of national authenticity. The marginalization of middle class women writers reflects a broader pattern. In adopting first wave feminism from Britain and the United States, Jamaican nationalists reproduced colonial race and class dynamics that established an unbridgeable divide between middle class women, who served as ‘ladies bountiful,’ and the usually darker-skinned compatriots to whom they ministered. This class division continued to limit feminist activism in Jamaica throughout the first and second waves.

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