The Journal of Caribbean History: Volume 52, Issue 2

Article 3
Presbyterian Homes for Indian Girls in Trinidad, 1890–1912 Continuity and Change

Gelien Matthews


The central subject matter of this article is the Homes for Indian girls that female Canadian Presbyterian missionaries to colonial Trinidad established in the period from 1890 to 1912. The major argument is that through these Homes, the missionaries contributed to the westernization of a small group of Indians in Trinidad while reinforcing, to a lesser extent, some aspects of Indian cultural practices. The study is located within the broader history of Indian indentured labour in the Caribbean which unfolded from about 1838 to 1917. Thus, while the geographical parameters are centred on Trinidad, through its six sub-themes the study gives some attention to Indian indentured experiences in the wider Caribbean. This article widens and deepens the discussion by interrogating the past experiences of Indians not in Presbyterian churches and schools but in a small number of Homes, which female Presbyterian missionaries established in no other colony but Trinidad. Its focus, consequently, is to determine the ways by which the Presbyterian Homes for Indian girls in Trinidad promoted the girls’ westernization while alienating them from their traditional culture in the period from 1890 to 1912.