St. Vincent and Grenadines Association of Toronto

Elma Francois

Elma Constance Francois (1897-1944)
- A Politician and Activist ahead of her time


Elma Francois
[Photo from: http://www.trinicenter.com/Gilkes/2002/0311.html]

A brief introduction to a remarkable woman

One Trinidadian writer described Elma Francois as "one of the most vociferous Africentric activists in the history of Trinidad & Tobago and the Caribbean". But many Vincentians are unaware of the fact that this outspoken lady was actually born in the northeastern village of Overland in St. Vincent. It has been suggested that Elma had 'Carib blood', based on the surname 'Francois' and the location of the family home - Overland.

As a young girl Elma Francois found employment in the sugar factory at Mount Bentick. During those days life in St. Vincent was very difficult for labourers, especially women. This led the socially minded Francois to fight for the advancement of her people and she organized the labourers at the sugar factory. The owners of the factory did not take kindly to this and promptly fired her.

Following the ravages of a hurricane in 1898 and a volcanic eruption in 1902 Francois moved to Sion Hill on the brow of Kingstown. Sion Hill was a settlement of workers for the surrounding estates and other workplaces of Kingstown - a perfect environment for an activist like Francois. It is speculated that a visit of Marcus Garvey to St. Vincent may also have made some impression on the young Francois.

While living at Sion Hill, Elma liaised with one Albert James with whom she had a son. Following a stint fighting in World War I, James settled in Trinidad. In 1919, Elma also migrated to Trinidad, leaving her two-year-old son behind in St. Vincent. She spent the rest of her life in Trinidad where she made a name for herself as a leader for the entire Caribbean in ameliorating the plight of people of African descent. In 1987 she was declared a national heroine of Trinidad and Tobago

The achievements of this remarkable woman are well chronicled in the following websites:

http://www.nalis.gov.tt/Biography/ELMA-FRANCOIS-labourleader.htm

http://www.raceandhistory.com/selfnews/viewnews.cgi?newsid1036352845,67538,.shtml

http://www.cafra.org/article.php3?id_article=312

Fred Prescod
Horticultural Educator

 

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