Margaret Cato – Follows her heart
Special Features
April 3, 2009
Margaret Cato – Follows her heart

Margaret Cato has definitely lived a full life, but undoubtedly, even though she is content with her lot and looks forward to meeting her maker, a small part of her longs for the strength to do more – to turn back the clock just a little bit.{{more}}

On May 17, Cato will be 92 years old. She took a brief trip down memory lane with SEARCHLIGHT, relating as much as she could remember about her life.

As she sat on the porch of her New Montrose home having her afternoon tea, Cato told the story which started in 1917, when she was born in Gordon Yard, the fifth of 14 children born to Sidney and Catherine Daniel, up to her time as a political activist and businesswoman.

She related much, including the fact that she was the first female Senator in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the only female parliamentarian at the time of the nation’s independence in 1979.

But interwoven among those things is also an interesting love story.

After attending the Barrouallie Anglican School, young Margaret Daniel began teaching there at age 15.

In 1939, the 22-year-old Margaret started journeying to Kingstown to write her teacher’s exam but ended up entering the nursing profession instead.

Around this time, Cato was also leading a Brownie Guide Pack in Barrouallie. It was at a Girl Guide fund raising dance in Barrouallie that she met her first husband.

A young man approached her at the fundraiser and asked her to dance. She turned him down. The young man’s friend, Kingsley Dennie, also discouraged the young man’s advances, telling him to leave the girl (Margaret) alone.

A short time later, Margaret attended another Girl Guide function, this time, a concert and dance in Kingstown. She again ran into Dennie.

He pursued her and wrote to her brother-in-law, the late educator and Anglican Lay Preacher George Sandy with whom she was living, asking permission to see her.

Love was in the air and she was soon engaged to Dennie.

A broken heart followed.

“While working at the hospital, I used to see this woman come around and just stare at me and then go away, but I didn’t know why,” Cato recalled.

She soon found out that the woman was a “girlfriend” of her fiancé Kingsley Dennie.

“The girl told someone that she heard that Kingsley marrying this nurse girl, who was me, but that I will have the ring but she will always have the man,” Cato recalled.

Margaret promptly broke off the engagement and tried desperately to evade his continual, persistent, and often harassing pursuit.

Young Miss Daniel said she was very close to the Cato family, and word reached young Arthur Cato, who was in Curacao, that she had broken off her engagement with Dennie.

“I got a letter from him saying that he wanted to marry me…so eventually he sent me an engagement ring,” Cato said.

She did marry Arthur Cato, who was the brother of the late former Prime Minister Robert Milton Cato, but not then.

Apparently, Arthur was dealing with a situation in Curacao and did not send for Margaret, who had already resigned her nursing position in preparation for her migration, as planned.

She was unable to contact him for an extended period of time, so she eventually broke off that engagement, sent back the ring, and yes, Kingsley Dennie was still waiting on her.

They were married in 1944 and enjoyed just over 10 years together, during which time they purchased her New Montrose property and he opened a pharmacy on Halifax Street in partnership with two others.

Dennie died in New York in March of 1955, days after the couple arrived in the United States, where Dennie was to undertake a three-month course in the field of Dentistry.

Because of a vision she had shortly after Dennie’s death, Cato, on her return to St. Vincent, took over her husband’s pharmacy.

About eight months later, in true Hollywood fashion, Arthur Cato returned to St Vincent. They met at a party, rekindled the flames, and the rest is history.

They were married, and Arthur, also a pharmacist, continued and expanded the business left by her late husband.

In the mid-60s, then Chief Minister Ebenezer Joshua travelled to England to hold discussions concerning the granting of statehood to St Vincent. Joshua took along his wife and fellow parliamentarian Ivy Joshua as an advisor.

This is when Cato’s political career was born.

She told SEARCHLIGHT that she and several other women felt that Mrs. Joshua wasn’t “qualified” to be an advisor at such a meeting.

Cato, therefore, led a march through Kingstown, which culminated in a rally at Victoria Park in objection to Joshua’s decision.

“Me and the other ladies had strong disagreement about this decision by Joshua,” she explained.

After this demonstration, Cato said she was urged by some of her fellow demonstrators to suggest to her brother-in-law Milton Cato that a Labour Party women’s group be formed. The Labour Party Women’s League was born.

When the Labour Party assumed office, Cato was given a senatorial appointment and had the honour of being part of the first Parliament following the granting of Independence in 1979.

Cato told SEARCHLIGHT that as she looks back on her life, she is content that she helped people as much as she could and made a positive contribution to society.

Her second husband died in 1995.

She is particularity pleased that after clearing her debts, she was able to travel the world, having visited places like England, Germany, Switzerland and Spain.

She never had children of her own, following a miscarriage, but raised one of her nieces, businesswoman Roslyn Fraser, as her own.

She showed SEARCHLIGHT samples of the many types of craft she did and taught others to do throughout her life. Cato also has a passion for preserving fruits and still makes delicious dried damsel, a fact this reporter can attest to.

Cato has been honoured several times in the past for her contributions to nursing, politics and the welfare of children.