Historian Trevor Marshall has called for a national memorial to outstanding Barbadian women from the 20th century who helped build and shape today’s society.
Delivering the inaugural Hildegarde Weekes Memorial Lecture at the Grande Salle of the Central Bank last night, Marshall said there were many women besides the only national heroine Sarah Ann Gill who had made significant contributions to creation of the 21st century Barbados, warning that “unless we highlight their work, they would soon be forgotten”.
Weekes, who passed away in 2015 at age 96, was the first Chief Probation Officer of Barbados.
She was described by Marshall as “one of the country’s stalwart daughters of the soil” and one of the greatest champions of the underprivileged.
Commending the Probation Department for launching the annual lecture series in honour of Weekes, the historian said: “This exercise must continue. It must take its place alongside the Sir Winston Scott Memorial Lecture, because we must turn the spotlight on outstanding and accomplished humanitarians, not just economists, in this island, most of them being women.
“Other groups and institutions in this society should develop their own lecture series on female nation builders of Barbados. Those ladies who gave blood, sweat and tears and toiled to bring the Barbadian nation to the point where today our record of caring for our own people, especially the poor and underprivileged [are] second to none in this hemisphere,” the retired head of the Barbados Community College’s History Department insisted.
The historian also spoke of a need to “pay due respect to the magnificent women who found an island desperately in need of humanitarian service and gave it unstintingly over the long years of the 20th century”.
As a probation officer and before her historic appointment as the first female head in 1974, Weekes was said to have assumed the role of truant officer, searching for and rounding up youngsters who frequented areas known for harbouring children, including the wharf where they dived for money, according to the department.
“She investigated their circumstances and provided the necessary intervention,” it said of Weekes, who also established the Soroptimist Village and Activity Centre for senior citizens at Eden Lodge, which was later renamed after her.
For her achievements Weekes earned the Barbados Service Star for teaching and probation services; the Queen’s Medal in Commemoration of Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee; and Medal of Coronation of King George VI and the Queen.