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No Women Jump Out!

Gender Exclusion, Labour Organization and Political Leadership in Antigua 1917-1970


Christolyn Williams

This book aims to provide a history of twentieth-century labour in the British colony of Antigua and Barbuda. It documents the labour and class struggles between landowners and peasants both before and after the legalization and formation of trades and labour unions in 1940. It exposes the political and racial dynamics of British colonialism in the eastern Caribbean as never before. The racial dynamics are evident between white colonial administrators, landowners and mill and factory owners, as they struggled to maintain control over a black and coloured population in a changing world.
The long overlooked history of the role of the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) in facilitating the end of British colonialism is one of the surprising stories of this book, as is the astonishing role of women. Despite their exclusion from labour and trade union history, oral sources show women played a key role as labour organizers who defied employers by planning meetings and actively recruiting union members. They were always there, as domestic workers in urban areas, in the fields and in the factories. They served as recruiters and organizers, carried the lights for outdoor meetings and encouraged and stood behind the union leaders. Despite their central role, they did not «jump out», and their stories became forgotten, overlooked even, in the history of Caribbean labour.


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Part I Backgrounds


Chapter 1 Historical Overview: Labour and Social Conditions, 1834–1917 Because Antigua and Barbuda are peripheral islands in the Caribbean region little analysis has been done by historians on labour, gender or political leadership in these islands. This chapter concentrates on the labour and political systems of Antigua and Barbuda moving from the contract Acts of 1834 to the transfer to Crown Colony government by the end of the nineteenth century. The labour laws encoded in the Contract Acts of 1834 dominated the labour and social conditions on Antigua and Barbuda to the mid-twentieth century. Contracts and other restrictive legislation directed at the rural workforce came to dominate not only working condi- tions between estate owners and workers but social conditions between the largely white estate and factory owners and the majority black and coloured workforce. Contract acts and restrictive labour laws defined class and race relations between white and coloured employers and black and coloured workers. These were the theoretical antecedents to labour conditions in twentieth-century Antigua and Barbuda. The islands of Antigua and Barbuda were colonized in 1632 and 1661 by the British. By the eighteenth century Antigua had been transformed from a f ledgling settler colony into a successful plantation slave economy and remained a slave economy until the granting of immediate emancipa- tion to the estimated 29,000 slaves on the island in 1834. An estimated payment of £425,549 was paid in compensation to the slave owners of Antigua. This compensation did not include the...

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