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The life and times of ‘Granny’ Rose

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It is no surprise that, as a devoted son and weekly columnist in this paper, I would take the opportunity to pay tribute to a woman, who, like many others of her time, made humble, but very important contributions to this society and its development.

But this tribute is much more than one to my mother, the priceless Germaine Rose, for I attempt to highlight her sterling contribution and achievements, not just to praise her, but moreso, as attribute to the many other unsung ‘Sheroes’ in our society who have made similar contributions, and hopefully, as a source of inspiration to the thousands of young mothers today. Heaven knows how such inspiration is needed!So where do I begin?

Only, naturally, with her role as a mother, indeed a Mother, par excellence. A mother of six, a journey which began before she was 20, she struggled in very difficult circumstances financially, to ensure that we were provided for, schooled formally and informally, and had the values that she cherished instilled in us all. More than that, Germaine Rose was not just mother to her offspring for throughout her life we had to share space and her mother’s love with a succession of foster children who she brought up as her very own.

Many humble women in our society have been performing this task with little reward or recognition.None of these detracted her however from being a devoted wife. It may be of interest to many to know that she was a fervent champion of women’s rights, not afraid to speak out or express her views in the media.

Yet, unlike some “advocates’ of today, she saw no contradiction between being a devoted wife and mother, with her own strong views on equality for women. Incidentally, in the month when we celebrated Mothers’ Day, how could we forget her pioneering role along with the leadership of the YWCA, in organising Mothers’ Day activities to honour the mothers of our society?‘Granny’ Rose is best remembered for her tremendous contribution to early childhood education.

The YWCA pre-school programme bears her hallmark, but she began long before that. In fact, she started a school in our own humble two-bedroom home at Long Wall. That belief in children, in guiding and caring for them, was her lifelong passion.

Many people today complain about “not finding time” for activities, but my mother’s teaching was that one had to “make time”, not try to find it.She was constantly organising concerts, picnics, outings, even camps for us and the children whose lives she touched, ensuring that our holidays were enjoyed, but also spent rewardingly. You could not be around her without having to read something, for she placed a premium on reading.

Only this week, I noticed in the media discussion about getting children’s mas in schools. Germaine Rose did this, ages ago, organising a mas band from the ‘Y’ for Kiddies carnival, but so busy were we trying to get the big bands to take over children’s mas, that we could not see the value.

It would please her heart greatly if this could materialise, better late than never.Her love of mas, of music (she was a real ‘dancer girl’), never affected her devotion to her Christian beliefs.

She never subscribed to the fundamentalist view that having fun is wrong, and as a true Caribbean woman, mas, for her, was very much a part of her culture.

Every one of her children, and most of her grandchildren as well, had a mas experience.I must mention too, her political experience. It is not widely known that she used to ‘board’ the late Ebeneezer Joshua, whose offices were downstairs of our humble home in Long Wall.

Later, she shifted her support to the labour party, becoming active in its women’s movement, but with the onset of the progressive movement and the active role of her sons in it, became a strong supporter of the United People’s Movement (UPM).This never deterred her from her Christian beliefs and devotion to her church. She played a leading role in the Anglican Mothers’ Union for many years and was a pioneer in spreading the Anglican community to the Redemption Sharpes area in Kingstown.

She did not however restrict her Christianity to the Anglican community, for her older children were sent to the Gospel Hall, Seven Day Adventist, a real diversified Christian experience!As we celebrate her life, it would be well to dwell on her fundamental values, those of humility, honesty, respect for others, loyalty, tolerance and in our own way try to uphold them. Our society would benefit greatly if we can recognise those mothers among us who strive to inculcate these fundamentals in our children, for it is a Christian saying that “if you love the Lord, love his children”. What greater tribute can we pay to ‘Granny’ Rose and the many other Grannies of our world!

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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