Jacqueline-Creft-Charcoal-Dawing-Nimeka-Drakes-1.jpg Cynthia-Gairy-Charcoal-0.jpg

Written by Fayola Moore-Edwards
Images by Nimeka Drakes

Here are highlights from the work of two women in Grenada’s recent history who, as well as being dedicated mothers, contributed substantially to the development and education of our society and paved the way for women in leadership.  

Cynthia Gairy – Charcoal

Cynthia Gairy

Cynthia Gairy, nee Clyne, was born in St. David in 1923.  Coming out of school, she was very skilled in various areas, including music and sewing.   She shared these skills with her immediate community and was even a piano teacher at one point.  She did voluntary social work in her local village, as many knew they could rely on her for assistance. She later married Eric Gairy, who became the first prime minister of Grenada, and started a family.  Despite not having a university degree and while raising her 2 girls, she had a successful career in government, becoming the first woman in Grenada to sit in the House of Representatives in 1961.  After the election of 1967, Mrs Gairy became Minister of Social Affairs, which was responsible for education, health, labour and social welfare.  

At the beginning of the Grenadian Revolution (1979), Mrs Gairy was the only member of Parliament who was not put into prison. This was because they could find nothing inappropriate in her background.  She was known as a pillar of rectitude.  She was passionate about culture, initiating the Lancers festival, a traditional dance festival, between the 60s and 70s.  During her time in office, there were at least 65 cultural groups known throughout the island. Grenada boasted a team of 85 performers for the 1972 Carifesta with the youngest being a 6 year old boy and the oldest, an 83 year old violinist.  She promoted the Homemakers Association (Grenada Branch) and was passionate about research into local produce and how it could be used in various ways.  She would then develop opportunities to impart this newfound knowledge to the population, e.g. food festivals.  When Ms Gairy died in 2018, many remembered her giving nature and love of people.


Jacqueline Creft – Charcoal Drawing


Jacqueline Creft

Jacqueline Creft was born in 1946.  At the beginning of the Grenadian Revolution in 1979, she was the only woman among the original seven leaders of the People’s Revolutionary Government.  During their time in office, she was the Minister of Education and campaigned for universal access to education, driven by an expressed belief that education was a right and not a privilege. Under her leadership, teachers were trained while in service through the NISTEP initiative.  Most of the week, they taught in schools and at least once a week would attend teacher training centres around the island.   To fill in their absence, community members would come in to teach local crafts, fishing, sewing, etc.  Community based training centres for adult literacy and professional development were also initiated.  These were of invaluable benefit to Grenada as it propelled many to succeed in their careers and improve their quality of life.   As an example, some went on to be nurses or managers in their particular institutions.  

Ms. Creft was also interested in sports and culture.  One of her visions was to have a cultural centre where anyone could learn the local arts; e.g. steelpan.  She was only in her thirties when she died but she certainly left an indelible mark on the education system.   She is remembered as a straightforward, natural and simple woman.  She is also remembered as a loving mum, who enjoyed spending time with her son and who happily went to all his school activities. 


Special thanks to:

Mrs Gloria Payne-Banfield (Friend of Mrs Gairy)

Ms Peggy Nesfield (Friend of Ms Jacqueline Creft)


With the threat of Covid-19 breathing down our necks at every turn and life as we knew it uprooted with little warning, it’s hard not to feel anxious about the future and our ability to fight this invisible enemy.  It all seems so daunting but did you know that Grenada  (and the Caribbean) has been in this position once before?  A century ago we warded off a major worldwide pandemic, and survived.  

The Pandemic of 1918-1919

The Spanish Flu  hit our region about 100 years ago.  It appeared in 1918 during the final stages of WWI.  The whole world was reeling from the grief of a four four-year long war when this virulent killer struck. Virology studies and technology were merely decades old and countries were picking up the pieces in war–torn areas.  The world was ill-prepared.  Colonialism was in full swing around the world, including on most Caribbean islands.

The term, “Spanish Flu,” is a misnomer since it originated in the US in the first quarter of 1918.  It was so dubbed because Spain was the only country reporting on its devastation at the time, due to its neutral status during the war. [2].

This (new) influenza virus spread to Europe and then returned to the Americas with renewed vigour.  It killed an estimated 50-100 million, which is a figure revised upwards from the first estimates of  24.7- 39.3 million [2].  Not much is widely known about it because it is often overshadowed by WWI, which occupied press headlines and social statistics records throughout the world[3].

The Flu was said to have come in three waves.  The first wave caused only mild symptoms (although highly contagious), the second was most virulent in spread and mortality and the third wave was less severe.  The Flu affected the Caribbean between September 1918 and the first 4 months of 1919[1].


The Pandemic in the Caribbean

The virus entered the Caribbean via ships from the US and was seen in Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico from early September, 1918.  Jamaica was one of the worst hit along with Puerto Rico, Belize and Guyana.  The true scale of its impact in the Caribbean is unknown because of various factors; including the non-existence or incompleteness of official social statistics records.  

The overall death toll recorded in the Caribbean was about 100,000. Some areas were ravaged by the disease whereas others were mildly affected.  Disparities in mortality (death toll) and morbidity (infection rate) are attributed to varying factors. Some authorities took early preventative action while others did not.  The late arrival to the Windward Islands may have caused them to experience a weakened strain.  Some governments made the disease quarantinable but stopped short of making it a notifiable disease and, at that time in the Caribbean, hundreds of deaths in poor and isolated areas went unregistered[1].  


The Most Vulnerable

Unsurprisingly, the virus was most severe on the poor, living in small crowded houses or overpopulated areas. The isolated indigenous communities also received a colossal blow.  Reports in Guyana indicate that between 60-80% of the indigenous people were affected at one time and entire communities were obliterated.  Officials in badly affected areas observed that a lost sense of morale seemed to have an impact on mortality.  Those who fared well tended to live in less densely populated areas where it was easy to spend time outdoors[1].  

Whereas common influenza epidemics typically affected children and the very old, large numbers of young people in their 20s fell to this influenza.[3] 


Common Measures Taken in the Caribbean

The common preventative measures taken by territorial authorities in the Caribbean were not unlike those adopted around the world.  There were quarantines on shipping from the USA and other countries, restriction on movements from one parish to the next, isolation of affected individuals, dissemination of information via pamphlets, restriction on gatherings of more than 10 people and suspension of schools and worship gatherings.  The pamphlets contained information about the disease and its spread as well as preventative recommendations and suggested remedies.  Protective masks, a common measure also employed in the USA, were also recommended.  Unfortunately, most of these resources would have been inaccessible to many because of their expense or because of endemic inequities such as those relating to literacy.  

Communities in territories whose governments took little or no action imposed their own  restrictions.[1]


The Windward Islands and Our Neighbours

The Windward islands had varying experiences with the virus’s impact.  St. Lucia saw the Flu’s entry in mid-November and it had spread throughout the whole island by the end of the month, with its highest death rate concentrated in the Roseau valley and Cul-de-Sac.  

In Dominica, the “Christmas Flu,” as it was locally dubbed, was present from late November.  They experienced a mild touch at first and its spread was fairly slow but, by the end of December, it had paralyzed the island.  

As for St. Vincent, anticipating its imminent arrival, several demands for the government to improve sanitary conditions were made early via the press.  The virus exhausted itself within two weeks of its first showing in mid- December, causing only a low death toll.  The press of that period highlighted the interruption of trade in imported fish and meat and the urgent need to improve public health as the most important issues in the wake of the pandemic.

Barbados was very mildly touched with a low mortality rate, although many were infected.[1]


Grenada’s Pandemic Experience

In Grenada, the Flu appeared in early December and by 12th December, 1918,  quarantine measures were in place on trade with Venezuela, Panama, Canada and the United States.  It was declared a notifiable disease before the end of the year.  Its actual toll is difficult to interpret because of seemingly conflicting reports vs records: Medical officers described it as devastating, yet death records don’t reflect any significant increase in that year nor was there a significant number of deaths attributed to the flu.  This could be because of poorly regulated death certification at the time.  One could make an informed guess that, perhaps, the disease was severe for many but not not fatal.


Trinidad and Tobago

Our southern neighbours, Trinidad and Tobago were touched fairly lightly by the disease despite its impact in Venezuela.  The press was vocal, both in its reporting and in demanding action from the government. Trinidad recorded more than 350 deaths from the Flu and pneumonia in that period.  Tobago had no deaths recorded from it whatsoever, although the disease was prevalent in some areas.  One health official stated that the disease was mild and hoped it was a secondary wave of Influenza which “would confer on the inhabitants of Tobago a partial immunity.”[1]


The Takeaway

Our small island and region has done this before.  We confronted a severe pandemic in times when health systems, communication and resources were a lot more limited than they are today.   We sustained injuries but survived with the employment of preventative measures and the leadership of authorities that were quick to action.  In fact, reading about some of these measures was like reading about our situation in Grenada today.  Oh, how history can repeat itself!

But aren’t we in a better situation today? We have more access to healthcare, a better understanding of how viruses work, more access to preventative resources, the ability to transition to online work, learning and worship, quick thinking and responsive authorities, amazing medical professionals and access to ongoing discoveries on COVID-19.  Can we overcome this?  Yes, we can and we will.  Let’s keep calm and follow official guidelines.  Stay Safe, Grenada.




  1. DAVID KILLINGRAY, The Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919 in the British Caribbean, Social History of Medicine, Volume 7, Issue 1, April 1994, Pages 59–87,
  2. Roser, Max (2020). The Spanish flu (1918-20): The global impact of the largest influenza pandemic in history. Retrieved from
  3. [The Great Courses Plus]. (2020, March 26). The 1918 Spanish Flu-A Conspiracy of Silence | Mysteries of the Microscopic World (Part 1 of 3) [Video]. YouTube.
  4. [The Great Courses Plus]. (2020, March 26). The 1918 Spanish Flu-A Conspiracy of Silence | Mysteries of the Microscopic World (Part 2 of 3) [Video]. YouTube.



Independence:  What does it mean to you?

At church one Independence week, the preacher asked, ‘“What does Independence mean to you?” Met by silence from the reticent congregation, he implored the young people to answer the question.  One by one, some stood and spoke out what seemed to be regurgitated independence jargon learnt from their school celebrations: “Independence means freedom,” “coming together as one people,” “unity,” “being proud of our beautiful nation,” “getting together with family and friends.” And others spoke enthusiastically about how they celebrate.

Listening to this exchange made me reflect on how Independence had a different meaning to those born afterGrenada became independent compared to what it meant to the generations born before.  Nonetheless, what everyone has in common is their strong sense of national pride.

My generation was one of the first born after Grenada achieved its Independence status. We never experienced living in a dependent state.  We never knew what it was like to not be a country, to not even have a flag or a national anthem.  We had no idea that a generation before us went to school and sang another country’s anthem.


The School Grade Independence Lesson of Yesteryear

Over 37 years on, I am a culturally sensitive, history-aware and extremely proud Grenadian.  So how did I get here?  Many influences in my life have had a part to play; from the stories told by my parents and grandparents to being exposed to traditional arts from childhood.  If I could trace where it all started, however, I would go back to my school days.  School instilled in my post-independence peers and me an excitement about being Grenadian. School gave me a strong base that motivated me to find out more. At school, we learnt about our country’s history and national symbols, natural resources and products.

This year we celebrate 46 years of being a nation and, in honour of our Independence day, February 7, here’s a list of seven activities we used to do at school that fostered our sense of national pride in the early post-independence years.


  1. Sang the national anthem and recited the pledge of allegiance every day.
  2. Sang songs about the virtues of Grenada.
  3. Practiced for and participated in the national Independence Day parade.
  4. Learned the significance of our coat of arms.
  5. Chorally recited the symbolisms found on Grenada’s flag.
  6. Had our independence treat, which in my school was a hot dog with a snow ice. (We used to be so excited about this!)
  7. Wore our house uniforms the day before independence; each house having one of Grenada’s national colours. This was typical of school houses back then.


How about you? Do you remember doing any of these activities at school?


The Modern Day School-Based Celebration

Curious as to how things had advanced since my school days, I recently visited my primary Alma Mater to see how they were celebrating this year; and what a grand celebratory schedule they had…

Their celebrations kicked off a week before with their Independence road relay, followed by a day for classroom decorating on the themes of Famous Grenadians, Famous places and Flora and Fauna of Grenada.  Finally, on the day before Independence Day (our nationally recognised national colours day) school started with an Independence themed assembly, in which, as the very enthusiastic principal explained, they learned about all well-known Grenadians. Kids presented Prime Ministers and Governors General. There was an exhibition of local dishes, local spices, crafts from local raw materials and floral arrangements. And no Independence celebration would be complete these days without a big plate of Oil Down which the kids ate with gusto.

As I was there, my eyes truly feasted on the vibrancy of the colours emanating from the decorations all around the school, from the flags to the children’s clothing. The school  was just abuzz with a passionate vibe of excitement felt from teachers and students alike. Oh, what a grand occasion it was and, judging from all the colourful outfits worn on the street by students from other schools, I know they were all celebrating in a similarly grand way.  One school I passed had drummers lined up with Belè dancers (all kids) getting ready in the background.  How I wished I could have stopped to witness the spectacle.


That Unceasing Sense of National Pride

It warmed my heart to see how great an affair the schools have made Independence as the years have gone on.  A more elaborate celebratory schedule from what we had but what remains evident is the core value of instilling national pride. I really appreciate the introduction my generation had but judging from what I have seen this year, schools’ influence on our national pride will only get better and better.

As we celebrate 46 years, here’s to all that our nation’s schools, principals and teachers have done and continue to do in making us proud of our nation.  Happy Independence to all!