by Afi Martin
Ivy Inez Joshua and Ebenezer Theodore Joshua should be named jointly as national heroine and hero of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Ivy has the distinction of being the first woman to be elected to the Legislative Council in 1957 and became opposition Leader in 1979. She was also a primary organiser in the formation of the Federated Industrial and Agricultural Workers Union (FIAWU) in 1952.
While there is little public objection to Government bestowing such an honour on E.T., I contend here that Ivy and E.T. should be honoured as a duo. Ivy and E.T. together waged war against the landowning class hence the reason why one banana farmer in 1958 had referred to Ivy as ‘Eve’ and E.T. as ‘Adam’. Ivy’s activism was indeed pioneering at a time when women were subordinated to men in the private and public spheres. Some feminists have advanced the view that the chief reason for Ivy’s political success was her charismatic and powerful husband. I wish to offer an alternative view; that is that Ivy and E.T. together built an unbreakable bond that ensured success at the polls for 20 years. Ivy had 22 years of unbroken service. Ivy and E.T. had accounted for two seats for the PPP, two seats in the Legislative Council/Assembly and two votes in the different political theatres. The two were in fact one – idem partibus. They were lifelong partners in politics, hence, the reason why the people dubbed them ‘Mammy and Pappy’.
Ivyism, Ivy Joshua’s approach to politics and governance, rested on her commanding manner and no-nonsense posture. With her ascendency, she became marked as an object of ridicule; she was often the subject of public criticism and mockery. She had evidently become for many “more of a thorn in the flesh than ever”.
Ivy’s role in the turbulent strikes between 1957-1962 at the Mt. Bentinck estates was not sophomoric. One colonial official writing on the strikes noted, “Mrs. Joshua was the more dangerous of the two”. Her rhetoric of social justice and inclusion, along with her rights- based approach often came into conflict. For instance, Ivy’s interference with the Public Works Department in 1963, which was later dubbed the PWD Scandal, scarred Ivy’s political image. She was ridiculed by the local elite and middle class for her actions. Some questioned if her interference was to provide political patronage while sceptics wondered if she had indeed pocketed the funds.
Nora Peacock, a white Vincentian newspaper editor and feminist, offered a reasonable explanation on the issue when she wrote several years later: “I believe if money was misappropriated, it found its way into the hands of the poor. Not into the far from opulent pockets of Ivy”.
Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, has suggested in his 2019 publication, The Political Economy of the Labour Movement in St Vincent and the Grenadines, that the Joshuas did not skim public funds for their enrichment as they lived frugal lives. In the 1990s, Ivy spent her last days being cold, hungry, lonely and sick; she was a shadow of her former self. She died in 1992, about a year after E.T. had died.
Mammy Joshua was just as charismatic as Pappy Joshua and her other male colleagues. Her political praxis was the glue which kept the PPP together and made it a major force for more than two decades. The brutal nature of Ivy’s arrest in 1969 demonstrated that Ivy and E.T. were equal under political oppression. Name Ivy Inez Joshua national heroine.
Afi Martin is a PhD Candidate in History, The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus