You are on page 1of 14

Rajack-Talley, Theresa: Afro-Caribbean Women's Resistance to Race, Class, and Gender Domination International Journal of Africana

Studies 10:2 [Fall 2004] p.14-31

The Caribbean has a long history of colonization and foreign domination that has fueled a process of decolonization and Caribbean nation building. A corollary to the nation building process has been the rethinking and subsequent re-writing of the region's history. One aspect of this history has involved an anti-colonial discourse that began in the 1950s and 1960s and was later influenced by the black power ideology of the seventies, as well as the women's movement of the 1980s. Prior to this process of de-colonization the experiences of Caribbean peoples were reported through the perceptions of visiting planters, missionaries and colonial officials who were predominantly White and male. Black women's experiences were absent from the pages of history and could only be found in the footnotes of the emerging research (Brereton 1995; Senoir 1991).1 The social history of the Caribbean, therefore, had to be re-written in a way that also engendered it (Shepherd, Brereton, and Bailey 1995). The emergence of a gendered social history served to highlight the intersection of various social forces, particularly race, class, and gender domination. These social forces both shaped and were shaped by the experiences of Caribbean women, and none more so than AfroCaribbean women. The social forces that shaped the experiences of Afro-Caribbean women were a result of European political, economic, and cultural domination that extended from the early 15th century to the early 20th century. Colonialism took several forms including slavery that lasted until the early 19th century, as well as economic, political, cultural domination that persisted well into the post-emancipation period. These forms of domination involved control over the form of the economy through structures oriented toward plantation production and the fettered development of a market economy. During these periods, there was exploitation of labor by race/ethnicity, class and sex. Non-Europeans were denied the right to vote, the right to political representation, the right to form private organizations, and the right to organize against labor exploitation. Under slavery, African women who were bought to the Caribbean experienced a disruption of their own gender systems from their West African cultures. During slavery and the postemancipation periods, patriarchy was imposed in every aspect of social life including, religion, family life and structures, and the practice of traditional customs and beliefs. The women were confronted with a contradiction in their gender roles where on one hand the colonialist's Western ideology of patriarchy promoted female-subordination and on the other hand their primary roles were that of field workers and not that as housewives or mothers (Rajack 1996; Reddock 1987, 1998; Momsen 1998, 2002). The colonial labor systems during and after slavery, therefore, treated the Afro-Caribbean women with no gender specific role as laborers but made them dependent, subordinated, and oppressed as women and as plantation slaves in the larger society. This dual nature of Caribbean women's historical experiences resulted in a paradox in which the ideology of patriarchy coexisted with women-centered ideologies that challenge the core characteristics of patriarchy (Mohammed 1998; Momsen 1993, 2002). The resistance of Afro-Caribbean women to all forms of European domination is linked to the continuation of traditional practices and use of symbolism and beliefs that survived over time

and which placed women in central roles to the household, family and society (Besson 1998; Massiah 1984; Mohammed 1998; Momsen 1998, 2002; Reddock 1998). As a result, aspects of the traditions of matrifocal3 and matrilineal4 systems were always present in Afro-Caribbean households, particularly in the period following slavery (Massiah 1984; Momsen 2002). The historical experience of most Afro-Caribbean women, therefore, is one in which women played central social roles and enjoyed limited economic autonomy but were forced to live in a society steeped in a legacy of Eurocentric male domination and sexism. Public and Private Spheres of Domination Afro-Caribbean women's historical and contemporary experiences of domination and resistance have led to studies focused on women's experiences in both the public and private spheres of social life. The feminist literature argues that understanding the relationship between patriarchy and gender is crucial to understanding women's negotiation of their gender identity in both spheres. (Barriteau 1998; Seidman 1994; Walby 1990). Caribbean scholar Eudine Barriteau theorizes that patriarchy operates in both the public and private spheres and the dominance of various elements in one sphere reinforce like elements in the other sphere. From this perspective, the public sphere refers to the systems and structures of society reflected in the politics, economics and cultures of society. The private sphere represents the everyday life experiences of individuals in the household, the family, and the workplace. Barriteau (1998, 2001) presents arguments to demonstrate instances where the public and private spheres are interconnected and combine to create and maintain forces of domination within and between the two spheres of social existence. She further theorizes that there are material and ideological dimensions that operate within and between the two spheres. The material dimension determines how women and men gain access to material resources and are allocated status and power in everyday life and in society overall. The ideological dimension, on the other hand, constructs what is accepted or contested as appropriate statuses in the two spheres. The material and ideological dimensions that Barriteau discusses reinforce each other, and thus change in one affects change in the other. Similarly, change in the material and ideological dimensions in the public sphere affects change in the material and ideological dimensions in the private sphere. The literature on patriarchy and domination in both the public and private spheres supports philosopher Michel Foucault's theory that where there is power, there is resistance. Power is seen as decentralized throughout the institutions of society but also deployed by individuals in their everyday lives. Thus, domination and resistance are viewed as factors present in most relations of power.5 This perspective on power has been used to focus on women's resistance to male domination in everyday life experiences, as well as women's mediation of power in the public arena (Deveaux 1996; Heckman 1990; Sawicki 1988, 1986). Moreover, some have viewed the processes of domination and resistance as interdependent and co-existing in relations of power (Gerson and Peiss 2000). Women are viewed as active individuals who mediate their experiences through resisting complete domination rather than being portrayed as passive victims of domination. Similar arguments are debated in the literature on African-American women's resistance to domination. The everyday forms of the African American women's resistance to domination in

the private sphere of social life are linked to their resistance to domination in the public sphere, hooks (1990) argues that women should feel empowered because the power they exercise daily can be used to resist domination and exploitation in the public arena. She believes that transformation of women's status in the public sphere can arise out of transformation of women's status in the private sphere. Similarly, Collins (1991) argues that the empowerment of Black American women is an outcome of women's rejection of theories of domination and a reconceptualization of power within both the public and private spheres. The interconnectedness of the two spheres is seen as important in understanding African American women's multifaceted experiences of domination and resistance to racism, classism and sexism. These perspectives on women's empowerment question the hegemonic nature of patriarchal domination and place center stage the role of women's resistance and interpretation of their own experiences. The focus of the current paper is on the interconnectedness of the public and private spheres of Afro-Caribbean women's lives during slavery and post -emancipation. It challenges the rigid dichotomy of women's experiences into public and private spheres by using the historical experiences of Afro-Caribbean women that illustrated how women's work and sexual experiences in everyday life on the plantations were directly linked to their domination and status in the existing social structures and systems. In a society comprised of two main classes, European plantation owners and African workers, domination and resistance were based on race, class, and gender. Images of Rebellious Women One of the pioneers of research on women in slavery in the Caribbean is scholar Lucille Mair. Mair (1975) argues that enslaved African women and men brought with them to the Caribbean a legacy of fighting to maintain their ethnic freedom and independence. In the West African and Gold Coast regions from where they were taken, women played leading roles in the economic, political, and cultural systems, and were held in high esteem as spiritual leaders. In West African cultures, matrilineal forms of property inheritance were practiced which strengthened the economic status of women. Additionally, matrifocal practices provided women with relatively powerful status within the domestic and familial realms. The matrilineal and matrifocal practices of the West African cultures meant that women played central roles in both the public and private spheres of social life even where polgyny was practiced. Mair's research was particularly focused on the spiritual and political leadership roles of African women. From her research, Mair identified examples of "rebel women" who were believed to possess certain magical and spiritual powers that made them powerful leaders in their communities. For instance, in times of war, the "rebel woman" would provide both strategic military advice, as well as magical charms that would help protect the warriors. Mair identified the "rebel woman" persona as a cultural icon in Caribbean slave communities in which they were usually referred to as Nanny, Queen, Mother, or Priestess. These women took as their role resistance to all forms of domination. Their resistance was located in the public sphere and focused primarily on providing spiritual, civic and military leadership in the struggles against the political domination of their communities. The "rebel woman" was considered a black resistance leader whose determination to fight domination and oppression inspired her followers (Mair 1975).

Another approach to studying women's resistance to slavery is found in the work of Hillary Beckles who refrains from cultural icon imagery and focuses instead on how the material conditions of the enslaved African women prompted their resistance to slavery on an everyday basis. Beckles work on the everyday life experiences of enslaved African women provides a complementary view to the work of Mair. He identified women who engaged in everyday forms of resistance against domination as "natural rebels." The "natural rebels" did not posses any individual magical or spiritual prowess. Their resistance was directly linked to their daily experiences of exploitation and brutality on the plantations. In describing the lived experiences of slave women in the private sphere of life on the plantations, Beckles (1989) included their roles as field laborers, house servants, marketers and petty proto-peasants, slave breeders, as well as wives and mothers within their own families. In these various roles, enslaved African women resisted domination and exploitation in all aspects of their everyday lives. Beckles accepts Mair's epistemology of the "rebel women" and argues that the culture of resistance forged by the "natural rebel" was also linked to their culture of resistance to forms of oppression in their traditional societies. However, he focuses on how women's acts of resistance were linked to their need to survive under the new social conditions with which they were confronted. The "natural rebel" woman's resistance took various forms including simple nonviolent activities such as feigned illness, ignorance, and pregnancy to avoid overwork. At other times, "natural rebel" women resisted domination and oppression by running away, murdering their slave owners, and participating in organized slave revolts on the plantations. Taken together, Beckles and Mair provide information on AfroCaribbean women's experiences in both the private and public spheres of social life. By focusing on Afro-Caribbean women's everyday experiences on the plantation, Beckles highlights the material dimensions of enslaved women's resistance to domination in the private sphere. Mair's imagery, on the other hand, centers on the ideological dimension of enslaved women's resistance to domination in the public sphere. The accounts of the two forms of slave resistance make weak linkages of how women's experiences in everyday life (the private sphere) are reinforced by the social forces that operate in the public sphere, as well as the interconnectedness of the ideological and material dimensions to women's resistance. This study adopted the two existing epistemological forms of the "rebel woman" and "natural rebel" to reflect the ways that Afro-Caribbean women resisted their exploitative and oppressive conditions in both spheres. The two forms of resistance are applied to corresponding experiences in the public and private spheres of Afro-Caribbean women's social life. Moreover, the public and private spheres are not seen as separate but interconnected and interpenetrating forms. The use of the interconnected forms of resistance helps to illustrate women's resistance to both the material and ideological dimensions of race, class and gender domination. Slavery and Resistance From the middle of the 15th century Africans were exported from their homeland to the Caribbean to develop and sustain a plantation system of agricultural production. This forced migration of labor through the slave trade was officially terminated by the middle of the century but in practice continued until the end of the 19th century. For instance, slavery was legally

abolished in 1834 but in some Caribbean countries it existed until the late nineteenth century. The exact number of Africans taken from their homeland is not known, but it is estimated that in the three centuries of the Atlantic slave trade, over 19 million Africans were removed from Africa (Inikori 2000). Initially more male than female slaves were shipped from Africa to the Caribbean, however, the gender disparity in the slave population did not persist after the 17th century. The disparity closed in most Caribbean societies as relatively more females were enslaved (Beckles 1989, 1999). Caribbean slavery presented enslaved women with a situation that was alien and contradictory to their cultures back in Africa. It presented race, class and gender identities that were unfamiliar and oppressive. Their roles and identities were constantly being constructed and reconstructed by the planter class in order to further exploit the women as Africans and as workers. Driven by their traditions, as well as their everyday life experiences on the plantation, the women resisted all forms of domination. Their experiences indicated that their sexual domination in the private sphere was intractably linked to racism, sexism, and class domination in plantation society. The social forces of domination consisted of both material and ideological dimensions that interacted within and between the public and private spheres of Afro-Caribbean women's lives. In many cases, the interaction of the material and ideological forces in both the public and private spheres of women's lives produced conflicting gender roles and gender identities. European slave-owners consistently reconstructed women's roles as workers and as women to meet the requirements of the plantation economy, as well as the individual needs of the planters. For example, the slave-owners sought to de-sexualize the productive and reproductive roles of African women in both the private and public spheres in order to justify the exploitation of their labor in the interest of capital accumulation (Beckles 1999). There was no distinct gender division of labor in the fields and no provisions were made for pregnant women or mothers with infants. In the plantation production system, women were used as field labor and were not distinguished from male field slaves. African women were also de-sexualized by the laws of slavery that did not distinguish between women and men when it came to legislating punishment for slaves (Beckles 1999; Shepherd 1999). On the other hand, the role of women as mothers was recognized when the importation of slaves became more difficult and expensive. However, women's sexuality was linked to their class status and the gender-specific and personal role as mother was commodified and made public. The breeding of slaves was perceived as a valuable enterprise. Female slaves were deliberately purchased as a commodity and used as a means of reproducing a cheap labor force. In addition, African women's sexuality was manipulated by the planter class and used as a measure of social control to keep male slaves content (Shepherd 1999). Under slavery, African women's sexuality was also linked to their race and ethnic identities and used to justify their sexual exploitation both in the public and the private spheres of social life. For instance, the sexuality of Afro-Caribbean women was defined in opposition to the sexuality of white women. The male planter class stereotyped the African women as having low moral standards, and as promiscuous, loose, and immoral. However, many European men continued to conduct exploitative and violent sexual relationships with African women. These stereotypes were used to justify sexual exploitation of the women on an everyday basis and sexual abuse was

not defined as rape. The Europeans who perpetuated the belief that Caucasian standards of beauty were considered superior to African and Caribbean standards of beauty also described features of Black women in negative ways. Afro-Caribbean women were considered ugly because their skin were not brown or light, or because they did not have straight hair, straight noses and thin lips (Shepherd 1999). Everyday and Public Forms of Resistance Faced with race, class and gender domination, resistance to all types of domination, at all levels, and in both spheres of life became an integral part of Afro-Caribbean women's negotiation of their identity. The forms of resistance were located in the everyday lives of women on the plantations and in the public arena as political leaders and/or spiritual leaders in their communities. Acts of resistance occurred on an everyday basis, as well as periodic and organized resistance to the system of slavery and domination. Many everyday forms of resistance were nonviolent and included escapes from the plantation, work stoppages, insubordination, malingering, lying, as well as other activities restricting production. At other times, everyday resistance took on a violent form and included acts of murder against members of the planter class. Women, however, took part in all forms of resistance and also fully participated in armed revolt. These patterns of resistance elicit parallels to both the "natural rebel" and the "rebel women." Everyday forms of women's resistance in the private sphere of the plantations prompted many slave owners to complain that women were more troublesome than the men, and were often referred to as "bothersome domestics" and "female demons" that had to be punished more frequently than the men. Other examples of women's more violent acts of resistance have been described as "petticoat rebellions" where slave women were reported to have shown little fear of the planter class (Heckles 1989, 1999; Mair 1975; Shepherd 1999). Women comprised the majority of workers in the field gangs and were at the forefront of struggles for better conditions for field workers. These "natural rebel" women showed signs of disapproval to the system of slavery by singing revolutionary songs while working in the fields. After the Haitian revolution in 1791, the women would purposively sing songs about the Haitian revolution because the women knew how annoying this was to the planters (Shepherd 1999). Another form of everyday resistance practiced by slaves was to run away from the plantation. It was difficult for enslaved African women to become runaways because they often had to choose between taking their babies and young children or leaving them behind. However, according to Mair (1975), the familial difficulties did not stop women from "pulling foot" because of their passion for freedom. Women also resisted domination in domestic life on the plantation and used their gender roles as resistance strategies. As mothers they resisted ethnic assimilation of their children and taught their children about their traditional African cultures. The women also engaged in what is sometimes referred to as gynecological resistance where they used certain herbs to induce abortion so as not to reproduce a labor force of slaves (Beckles 1989, 1999; Mair 1975; Shepherd 1999). There are also reports of women who worked as domestic servants in the plantation

houses resisting slave oppression by poisoning their owners. Other women who were sent to town as marketers of excess farm produce often ran away with the proceeds from the sales. In the public arena, enslaved women's resistance to race, class and gender domination was more ideologically focused and emerged in resistance at the political level. Individual "rebel women" have stood out in the Caribbean history of slave resistance as fighters and/or priestesses who rallied fighting troops around them. Research in this area is more advanced in the larger Caribbean countries, in particular Jamaica, however, examples of individual "rebel women" can be found in most Caribbean countries. The following examples are just a few of many as research to further document the experiences of these women and others like them, is an ongoing process. One of the more well known examples of the "rebel woman" icon is found in the history of slavery in Jamaica. Nanny of Nanny Town in the Blue Mountains is described as a rebel leader with one of the largest and most formidable groups of rebels amongst the Portland maroons. She was known to be a person with an incredible knowledge of the science of warfare. Nanny was best known for her deep anti-colonial sentiments and vowed to fight the British colonists to her death. Nanny of Nanny Town was also thought to possess great supernatural powers and was considered an "obeah" woman. She used both her supernatural powers and the art of warfare to become one of the most outstanding anti-slavery rebel leaders in Caribbean history. Nanny Grigg of Barbados was also said to have great spiritual and matriarchal leadership powers that she displayed during violent slave revolts. Nanny Grigg was a literate household slave who was credited with informing other slaves of the success of the Haitian revolution and incited the slaves to revolt. As a strong advocate for a militant solution to ending slavery, Nanny Grigg was extremely successful in recruiting a core of militants against slavery, including both enslaved and free African women. Research reports that many women supported the resistance movement led by Nanny Grigg and waged guerilla wars in the interest of freedom. Another popular "rebel women" can be found in "Queen" of Antigua. She was the chief advisor to the Antiguan rebel leader called Court. The name "Queen" was given to her because her role as advisor to the chief rebel was considered as important as the role of the queenmother in the Akan tradition of Africa (Caspar 1996). Another cultural icon from Antigua was referred to as Obbah, an "Old Queen" who held tremendous influence in the slave yards. Obbah's main role was to recruit others to join the resistance movement. In a similar fashion to the other "rebel women" Obbah used ceremonies that reflected the initiation rites in Africa as part of her mobilization and recruitment strategy. Typical of these ceremonies Obbah used the dirt from the grave of deceased ancestors and ex-slaves to reaffirm the new recruits' commitment to the resistance movement. This and other studies show that women resisted slavery not only as individual rebels but as militants in the resistance movement. This is most evident in the history of runaway female slaves who voluntarily joined with rebel mountaineers or maroons. Many of these women became guerilla fighters and in the role of "rebel women" served as logistical support, freedom fighters, spies and informers, and maroon leaders. The presence of these "rebel women" was vital to the anti-colonial movement (Beckles 1989, 1999; Bush 1986; Mair 1975; Shepherd 1999).

Historical accounts of guerilla women reveal that in the early phase of slave resistance in Jamaica, women carried weapons and were deemed equally dangerous as the rebel men (Mair 1975). Guerilla women were also responsible for conducting raids on plantations that sometimes included burning plantation estates to the ground (Shepherd 1999). The women were members of maroon bands that raided existing plantations in an attempt to free other slaves and ruin the plantation estates economically. Fugitive female slaves were also noted to be resourceful in outmaneuvering the authorities. For example, runaway female slaves of Mr. Charles Grosse and Mr. Burrows of Antigua successfully eluded capture and demonstrated their abilities and commitment in resisting enslavement (Caspar 1996). During the anti-slave rebellions of the 168Os many women were tried and executed for their insurrectionist behavior (Beckles 1989). Post-Emancipation Resistance Emancipation in the Caribbean was a process that took place at different times in different countries. The process began in 1794 in Haiti, and continued in the 183Os in most of the British colonies, the 184Os in most French colonies and the 1860's in most Dutch colonies. The period of colonization following emancipation generally led to the formation of independent nations by the 1950s and 60s. During the period of colonization European colonizers still dominated Caribbean countries economically, politically and socially. Foreign imposed race, class and gender domination continued but were met with heightened local resistance. This resistance came in the form of nationalistic sentiments demanding political and social freedom as well as strong labor movements. As Black women, workers, and as people free from slavery, AfroCaribbean women continued to resist all forms of domination. The effect of both the material conditions of life and the inherent ideological beliefs about the role of women resulted in women's continued resistance to race, class and gender domination. The new definition of what was now considered women's status was totally disconnected with the women's everyday economic existence. The women challenged Western patriarchy with the traditional symbolism, beliefs and practices of the matrifocal and matrilineal nature of the African societies. The women used those traditions to remain central to the economic, social and cultural life of their societies and households (Besson 1998; Massiah 1984; Mohammed 1998; Momsen 1998; Reddock 1998). For example, economic decline of the plantation system in some Caribbean societies resulted in mass migration of men in search of work (Momsen 1998; Reddock 1998, Shepherd 1999). In many instances, women became the major bread-winner in their household and could ill afford to stay at home or to only participate in the low wage job sector. The material dimension of women's private lives of having to carry the financial burden of supporting their families and households did not correspond to the ideology of Western patriarchy (Momsen 1988). AfroCaribbean women reacted to their material and ideological situation by engaging in several income earning activities in order to meet their household and familial needs. One of the many forms of everyday resistance by Afro-Caribbean women was to withdraw their labor from the plantation workforce. Many women became peasant farmers with their own plots of land and supported their families through peasant production and wage labor in the informal economy. Many of the women who agreed to go back to work as estate laborers on the sugar plantations did so on the condition that they were paid fair wages. If wages and

working conditions were not satisfactory the women joined with their male workers in demonstrations and strikes for better wages and working conditions on the estates. Some AfroCaribbean women also opted to migrate into towns and work as domestics, seamstresses, washers, street vendors and petty traders rather than remain oppressed on the sugar plantations (Shepherd 1999). Afro-Caribbean women played major roles in the public sphere by resisting colonization during the post-emancipation period. The women linked their resistance to racism, classism, and sexism to foreign domination of their countries. For example, in 1840 in Falmouth, Jamaica, emancipated African women led a protest that was an organized as expression of racial solidarity in support of an African indentured servant who was apprehended for leaving his assigned plantation. It was reported that the women felt that the treatment of the African worker was racist, since white indentured servants were not treated in the same way (Shepherd 1999; Wilmont 1995). In another incident, the now free African women resisted cultural domination by fighting against the decision to ban the traditional cultural event of John Cano in Kingston in the 1840s and deemed this attempt as an attack on Afro-Jamaican cultural practices. The historical literature identifies several "rebel women" who were quite militant in their acts of resistance to the oppressive conditions in colonial society. For example, Afro-Caribbean women of Jamaica led several rebellions against foreign domination including the well-known Morant Bay rebellion in 1865. Ann Thompson was reported to have raided the stores for gunpowder and cutlasses. Sarah Johnson is recorded as having participated in raids of police stations for guns and other weapons. Another Jamaican woman, Elizabeth Taylor, was said to have beaten a guerilla volunteer whom she suspected of betraying his mother and therefore his race (Shepherd 1999; Wilmot 1995). Elma Francois of Trinidad believed that Caribbean people should have more say in government instead of being ruled by European colonizers. This was evident in the speech for which she was tried for sedition because in it she espoused an anti-imperialism position. Afro-Caribbean women opposed the colonists' support of male domination of the local political process. Given the long history of women's experiences, interests and reactions to the various relations of domination it was not surprising that what was considered women's issues in the 20th century included factors of class, race, gender, and nationalism. The women opposed the persisting Victorian ideas about women and their roles (Shepherd 1999). By the mid 19th century, AfroCaribbean women had advanced into the public arena as social activists and were later to endorse the turbulent political movements of the 20th century. The resistance of the 20th century Afro-Caribbean "rebel women" was multifaceted and represented causes as diverse as Anti-colonialism, Pan-Africanism, and Feminism. Afro-Caribbean women also expressed their multi-faceted concerns as Black women and as workers. They articulated their concerns in public meetings, trade union activities, political parties, and in newspaper articles. The women spoke out against the lack of universal adult suffrage, which would give working class women and men the right to vote. They argued that taxation without representation was unfair and that it was unjust to expect Caribbean women to share the burden of government without receiving any privileges. Rebel woman Catherine

McKenzie wrote a stern article in the Jamaica Advocate, August 10th 1901, addressing universal suffrages. Race as a factor in social and political issues was integrally related to the Afro-Caribbean women's multifaceted agenda. Rebel women from Jamaica such as Amy Bailey, Catherine McKenzie and Amy Jacques Garvey, spoke and wrote about black consciousness. They encouraged blacks to reject the legacy of slavery that defined them as inferior, and made them apologetic about their complexion and unaware about their achievements. Adina Spencer in Jamaica in an article in Plain Talk, August 24 1935 called for compensation for black people. Elma Francois of Trinidad tried to rally Caribbean people around the ideas of Pan Africanism and black pride and consciousness. Black nurses in Belize and Jamaica joined Garvey's Movement and attempted to address some of the social problems of their nations that they felt would assist in the uplifting of African peoples. The Negro Welfare and Cultural Association (NWCA) of Trinidad that was formed by Elma Francois established a similar focus. As important as issues of racism, classism, and foreign domination were for Afro-Caribbean women, the women did not loose sight of the gender discrimination that was still present in Caribbean societies. Gender discrimination, as a point of contestation, surfaced in the 1930s and 1940s with the emergence of one of the first feminist movements in Jamaica. The leadership of this movement, however, from the very beginning wanted to be distinguished from Western feminism and felt it necessary to argue that to be a feminist does not mean to be anti-male. To these women, feminism was defined as a means for women to speak out against injustice and discrimination. Many women who saw themselves as feminists believed that politics was the route to changing the distribution of political power. They believed that fighting domination in the public sphere was important to their individual freedom in the private sphere. As a result, the feminist movement slowly spread throughout the Caribbean and the leaders of the movement to emerge included Gertrude Protain and Louise Rowley of Grenada, Una Marson of Jamaica, and Audrey Jeffers and Beatrice Greig of Trinidad, all "rebel women" in their own right. In the more contemporary Caribbean, Afro-Caribbean women's resistance to race, class, and gender domination is reflected in the social movements of the 1970s. Women participated in mass demonstrations and in the armed struggles of the 1970s. In fact, many young women played leading roles within the student and popular liberation movements. In Trinidad and Tobago, women were members of the National Union of Freedom Fighter (NUFF) and fought alongside men in guerilla warfare. NUFF fighter and "rebel woman" Beverley Jones was killed in armed struggles on September 1973. Women were also integral to the formation of numerous organizations that developed out of the liberation movements (Pasley 1997). Some of these organizations were socialistoriented and were concerned with race and class oppression. Other organizations developed in this period included a distinct focus on gender discrimination.6 Conclusions This research has examined the social history of Afro-Caribbean women specific to their resistance to race, class and gender discrimination. The research drew on the literature from the Caribbean and African American perspectives on the debate about the interconnectedness of the private and public spheres of women's social lives. This theoretical lens was applied to two

epistemological forms that originated from studies of Caribbean women's resistance to slavery. The study found that the two forms of resistance the "natural rebel" and "rebel woman" correspond to Afro-Caribbean women's experiences in the private and public spheres of life during slavery, as well as in the post-emancipation period. The two forms also illustrated that Afro-Caribbean women's experiences in the private sphere were inextricably linked to their experiences in the public sphere, so much so, that in many instances the private was the public. Theorizing these epistemological forms also helped to conceptualize the material and ideological dimensions of race, class and gender domination that was the social context of women's experiences. The "natural rebel" women resisted the material conditions of their everyday lives because it was oppressive and counter to their role as women in their traditional women-centered African cultures. The "rebel women" also drew on their African cultural traditions and assumed ideological leadership within their communities to resist both material and ideological domination during slavery and the post-emancipation period. In both cases, women's sexuality and role as women were linked to their race and class status on the plantation and in society. Afro-Caribbean women did not concentrate on women's rights in isolation to other forms of oppression and linked resistance to struggles against economic, political, cultural domination with gender domination. Further research will be important to understanding the processes in which Afro-Caribbean women resisted domination in both the private and public spheres of social life. It is also important to further investigate how Afro-Caribbean women's everyday forms of resistance reinforced and was supported by the rebel women's forms of resistance in the public sphere of social life. An elaboration of the interconnectedness of women's resistance in the public and private spheres would provide additional data on the material and ideological dimensions of domination and women's resistance to domination. It would also help in understanding why for women of color it is difficult to separate gender domination and resistance from race and class domination and resistance. NOTES 1 Prior to the emergence of women-centered studies there were some pioneering works by Eisa Goveis and Lucille Mair on slave women's experiences, Barry Hingman on slave families and households, and Verena Martinez-Alier research on marriage and sex in slave communities among a few others 2 In the Caribbean people of African ethnicity are referred to as Afro-Caribbean. In this article Afro-Caribbean women are sometimes used interchangeably with African women in the Caribbean 3 Matri-focal refer to the central role of women in everyday life 4 Matri-lineal refer to the practice of determining one's ancestry through the maternal line. 5 See Michel Foucault. "Two Lectures," in Power/ Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon, trans. Colin Gordon et al (NY: Pantheon, 1980).

6 Pasley (1997) notes that in Trinidad and Tobago the Black Power Movement of the 1970s failed to adequately address the triple exploitation of the Black woman based on her race, class and sex. REFERENCES Barriteau. E. (1998). "Liberal ideology and contradictions in Caribbean gender systems," in Christine Barrow (ed) Caribbean Portraits: Essays on Gender Ideologies and Identities. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers and The Centre for Gender and Development Studies, UWI _____. (2001). The Political Economy of Gender in the TwentiethCentury Caribbean. New York: Palgrave. Beckles. H. (1989). Natural Rebels: A Social History of Enslaved Black Women in Barbados. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press _____. (1999). Centering Woman. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers. Besson. J. (1998). "Changing perceptions of gender in the Caribbean Region: The case of the Jamaican peasantry," in Christine Barrow (ed) Caribbean Portraits: Essays on Gender Ideologies and Identities. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers and The Centre for Gender and Development Studies, UWI. Brereton, B. (1995). "Text, testimony, and gender: An examination of some texts by women on the English-speaking Caribbean, from the 177Os to the 192Os," in Shepherd et al. (eds) Engendering History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspective. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers. Collins, P. H. (1991). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge Press. Deveaux. (1996). "Feminism and Empowerment: A Critical Reading of Foucault." In Susan Heckman (ed) Feminist Interpretations of Michel Foucault. PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press. Caspar, D.B. (1996). "From the Sense of Their Slavery: Slave Women and Resistance in Antigua, 1632-1763". In David Barry Caspar and Darlene Clark Hine (eds) Black Women and Slavery in the Americas: More than Chattel. Indiana University Press. Gerson and Peiss. (2000). "Boundaries, Negotiations, and Consciousness: Reconceptualizing Gender Relations." In Michael Kimmel (ed) The Gendered Society Reader. NY/Oxford: Oxford University Press. Heckman. S. (1990). Gender and Knowledge: Elements of a Post-Modern Feminism. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

hooks, b. (1990). "Choosing the Margins as a Space of Radical Openness," in Yearnings: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics. Boston: South End. Inikori. J. (2000). "The slave trade and the Atlantic economics, 1451-1870," in Verene Shepherd and Hilary Beckles (eds) Caribbean Slavery in the Atlantic World. Kinston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers. Mair Mathurin. L. (1975). The Rebel Woman in the British West Indies During Slavery. Jamaica: Institute of Jamaica for the AfricanCaribbean Institute of Jamaica. Massiah, J. (1984). Employed Women in Barbados: A Demographic Profile, 1946-1970. Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies. Mohammed. P. (1998). "Towards indigenous feminist theorizing in the Caribbean." In Feminist Review 59 pp. 6-33. Momsen, J. (1993). Women & Change in the Caribbean; A PanCaribbean Perspective. Kingston, Jamaica: and Bloomington: James Currey, Ian Randle Press. ______. (1998). "Gender ideology and land," in Christine Barrow (ed) Caribbean Portraits: Essays on Gender Ideologies and Identities. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers and The Centre for Gender and Development Studies, UWI. ______. (2002). "The double paradox," in Patricia Mohammed (ed) Gendered Realities: Essays in Caribbean Feminist Thought. Centre for Gender and Development Studies: The University of the West Indies Press Pasley, V. (1997). "Black power, gender ideology, cultural change and the beginnings of feminist discourse in urban Trinidad in the 1970s." Working paper published by the Centre for Gender and Development Studies, University of the West Indies, Trinidad. Rajack. T. (1996). "Neither peasant nor proletariat: the paradox of development for Caribbean women and men in peasant households," Doctor of Philosophy dissertation, Arts and Sciences: University of Kentucky. Reddock. R. (1987). "Women in revolt: Women and the Radical Workers Movement 19341937". In The Trinidad Labour Riots 1937: Perspectives 50 Years Later, ed. Roy Thomas, UWI, ExtraMural Department, St. Augustine, 233-263. ______. (1998). "Contestations over national culture in Trinidad and Tobago: considerations of ethnicity, class and gender" in Christine Barrow (ed) Caribbean Portraits: Essays on Gender Ideologies and Identities. Ian Randle Publications in association with the Centre for Gender and Development Studies, UWI. Sawicki, J. (1986). "Foucault and Feminism: Toward a Politics of Difference" In Hypatia 1, Fall 1986: 32, 26

_____. (1988). "Identity Politics and Sexual Freedom." In Irene Diamond and Lee Quinby (Eds.)- Feminism and Foucault: Reflections on Resistance. Seidman, S. (1994). Contested Knowledge: Social Theory in the Postmodern Era (3rd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Senior, O. (1991). Working Miracles: Women's Lives in the English-Speaking Caribbean. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Shepherd, V. (Ed.). (1999). Women in Caribbean History. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers. Shepherd, V., Brereton, B., and B. Bailey. (Eds.). (1995). Engineering History: Caribbean Women in Historical Perspective. London: James Curry Publishers/ Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers. Walby, S. (1990). Theorizing Patriarchy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Theresa Rajack-Talley University of Louisville Copyright National Council for Black Studies Fall 2004 End Session Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Accessibility | Site Map