Women of the Masses

Daphne Campbell and ‘left’ Politics in Jamaica in the 1950s
  • Linnette Vassell


The aim of this exploratory article, based primarily on the oral testimony of Daphne Campbell, is to give space to the presence of this one woman whose experience can mirror that of the women who were involved in organised political action in Jamaica in the 1940s and 1950s. She stands in the tradition of women like Adina Spencer, called ‘woman of the masses’, and Sátira Earle, who were committed stalwarts for change on behalf of the poorer classes.1 This glimpse into the life of Daphne Campbell allows for an exploration of the issues relating to working-class women’s political activism, the interests that are defined and the goals that are pursued, particularly in the context of an anti-colonial thrust.


Management Committee Iron Curtain Finance Committee Party Group Oral Testimony 
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  1. 1.
    Ken Post, Arise Ye Starvelings; The Jamaican Labour Rebellion of 1938 and its Aftermath (Hague-Boston-London: Martinus Nijhoff, 1978), p. 151, 152, 171, 241, 291. See also Linnette Vassell (compiler), Voices of Women in Jamaica 1898–1939 (Department of History, University of the West Indies, 1993) pp. 27–28.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Linnette Vassell, ‘Voluntary Women’s Associations in Jamaica: The Jamaica Federation of Women, 1944–1962’, M. Phil. Thesis, University of the West Indies, Mona (1993) p. 299.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Roberta Clarke, ‘Women’s Organisations, Women’s Interests’, Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 35, No. 3 (1986) pp. 107–56.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Richard Hart, Rise and Organise, The Birth of the Workers and National Movements in Jamaica (1936–1939) (London: Karia Press, 1989), pp. 16–20; Trevor Munroe, The Marxist ‘Left’ in Jamaica 1940–1950 (Mona, Jamaica: ISER, 1978).Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Trevor Munroe, The Cold War and the Jamaican Left, 1950–1955: Reopening the Files (Kingston, Jamaica: Kingston Publishers, 1992), pp. 99–144.Google Scholar
  6. 31.
    This focus was very much in line with the then current position of the Communist movement on the ‘woman question’ coming out of the United States, for example. A response to the question ‘What is feminism and why must it be fought against?’, defined feminism as ‘A bourgeois ideology which holds that men are the ‘cause’ of the oppression of women, and that the ‘liberation’ of women can be realised through winning legal and formal equality under capitalism. It is harmful to the working class, first, because it conceals the class basis of the oppression of women, and second, because it fosters the so-called battle of the sexes rather than the necessary working class unity of men and women in a common struggle against a common oppressor. Feminism is not to be confused with the healthy fight of women for equal rights and full participation in the struggles of the working class. According to this doctrine, ‘sustained working class struggles for women’s rights’ and ‘education of working women in the Marxist-Leninist ideology’ were the ‘most effective ways to combat feminism’. See Irene Epstein and Doxey A Wilkerson (eds), Questions and Answers on the Woman Question (New York: The Jefferson School of Social Science, 1953), p. 12.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Department of History, U.W.I., Mona, Jamaica 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linnette Vassell

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