Saturday, March 7, 2009

Women’s History Month (Part I of II): Recognizing our Virgin Islands Foremothers

We take this month: Women’s History Month,  to celebrate the lives of women who have made an indelible mark in the Women’s Movement by promoting and advocating for the rights of women. I am not necessarily referring the women’s movement in the context of women’s suffrage in the U.S. vis-à-vis the advocacy efforts for the passage of the 19th Amendment, equal pay (See  NY Times Story on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) and other points of equality advocated by American women (See Women’s Rights Movement in the U.S.)  but the efforts of our Territory’s illustrious foremothers who blazed amazing paths.  On October 1, 1878, also known as Contract Day (See St. Croix Source Article on discussion of Bill No. 27-0170) our 3 Queens: Queen Agnes, Queen Mathilda and Queen Mary long before women leaders from around the world gathered in Mexico City to convene the First World Conference on Women (1975) to discuss and develop among other things a Plan of Action to address gender equality and gender discrimination, literally carried the torch not just for rights of women but rights of all those affected by the conditions of the post-slavery Danish West Indies era. Queen Mary, Queen Agnes, and Queen Mathilda understanding that they were essentially sharecroppers: victims of economic imperialism; living in a post-slavery society reminiscent of slave-like conditions, wherein the chattel-slavery shackles were removed but they were still bound to toil the land, laboring often times for free, burned 43 sugar cane plantations - 879 acres - from the Prosperity Estate to the Peter's Rest Estate (See VI Daily News article: Chanting crowd bearing torches observes Fireburn's 129th birthday). Our Queens in carrying  out this huge act of bravery, paved the path of the Virgin Islands Labor Movement!

I believe that their actions set the tone for future community activism by Virgin Islands women and should be and should have been an inspiration for our past and current women leaders in taking hold of a torch to illuminate the rights of all.  Let us take this time to embrace the work and lives of our Virgin Islands women: women business pioneers, political party founders and politicians, educators, lawyers, doctors, all of the Virgin Islands women of our past who have taken their place in history by grabbing hold of a torch and blazing an admired pathway: a pathway leading to the recognition and advancement of human rights for all.


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  2. Reposted on Virgin Islands Watch: (Women Build the VI Labor Movement!)