The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 40, Issue 1

Article 3
Imagining Womanhood in Early Twentieth-Century Rural Afro-Jamaica

Henrice Altink


Abstract

Storytelling was an important means of gender socialization in early twentiethcentury rural Afro-Jamaica. This article examines messages about appropriate female behaviour in two collections of Jamaican folktales: Walter Jeckyll’s Jamaican Song and Story (1907) and Martha Warren Beckwith’s Jamaica Anansi Stories (1924). It concentrates in particular on the ideas conveyed in the tales about motherhood and the place and roles of married women. It demonstrates that the tales articulated three models of womanhood that built on African and Europeans norms of femininity and argues that rural Afro- Jamaica’s past of slavery and colonialism explains the emphasis placed in the tales on female submission and male domination.