The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 47, Issue 1

Article 4
“To the Scandal of the Public”: Sexual Misconduct and Clashing Patriarchies in 1930s Dominica, British West Indies

Cecilia A. Green


In this paper I use the case of sexual “misconduct” in the teaching service in
1930s Dominica, British West Indies, to explore the different points of view
represented in the government’s disciplinary proceedings against John Edwin Theophilus Roberts, Inspector of Schools on the island. He was charged with “having brought his office into contempt by action to the scandal of the public and to the prejudice of discipline and the proper administration of the Colony” as a result of an illicit affair with a female assistant teacher twenty years his junior and under his direct supervision. This paper uses two main archives – the documents concerning the disciplinary action against Roberts and contemporary issues of a local nationalist newspaper – to explore the race–class–gender representations of Roberts himself, the young schoolteacher, the colonial administration, and “the girl’s advisers”, her lawyer, Cecil Rawle, and local planter– patron–boss, H.D. Shillingford, leading lights in the island’s tiny native political elite and owners of the previously mentioned newspaper. The objective is to shed light on hegemonic–colonial gender, colour, class and sexual mores, the complex and compromised nature of the emerging nationalist order, and the forgotten casualties of both.