Imagining Caribbean womanhood

Race, nation and beauty contests, 1929–70

Rochelle Rowe
Search for other papers by Rochelle Rowe in
Current site
Google Scholar

The Caribbean Post's treatment of West Indian femininity reflected the growing significance of the beauty contest in the British Caribbean. Phyllis Woolford, 'Miss British Caribbean' of 1948 was pictured on the cover of the Post, epitomising modern Caribbean womanhood. This book examines the links between beauty and politics in the Anglophone Caribbean, providing a cultural history of Caribbean beauty competitions. It discusses the earliest Caribbean beauty competition, 'Miss Jamaica', launched in 1929 on the cusp of Jamaican cultural blossoming, and explores the emerging radical feminist voices amidst the cultural revolution. The 'Miss Trinidad' beauty competition, started in 1946, doubled as the search for an annual 'Carnival Queen', and represented the power of the moneyed white elite against an emergent black political force. The image that emerges of Barbados's 'Carnival Queen' contest is of a decidedly bourgeois contest, in which the 'creme de la creme' of Marcus Jordan's account were the most esteemed 'young ladies' of middle-class society. It examines the institutionalisation of the 'Ten Types' model and provides examples of copycat competitions elsewhere in the Caribbean. The 'Ten Types - Miss Ebony' contest was championed as a lesson in Jamaican racial democracy for other, less advanced, West Indian audiences. The book highlights the radical vantage point of exiled Trinidadian-born communist-feminist Claudia Jones who launched a Caribbean beauty competition in London. The burgeoning black beauty culture of London was imagined, through the West Indian Gazette as a pragmatic means of acquiring the respectable appearance that was 'race-pride' work.

Abstract only
Log-in for full text


‘Imagining Caribbean Womanhood is a ground-breaking study that reveals the complex interweaving of beauty culture, gendered experience, and nationalism in a pivotal moment in Caribbean history.’
Jessica P. Clark, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of History, The Business of Beauty: Gender and the Body in Modern London
June 2020

‘Historians often publish their first books by obligation... Second books are often the books that historians want to write. To her credit, Rochelle Rowe's first monograph reads like it is her second...Rowe's writing demonstrates both clarity of mind and expression and is free of foggy jargon. Rowe's work, grounded in the cosmopolitan colonialism and multiculturalism of the Caribbean, will be of note and interest to social and cultural historians of the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Great Britain, and the Atlantic world.’
Michael Edward Stanfield, American Historical Review
June 2020

‘It is also one of very few historical studies that focuses on colourism, a phenomenon which has its origins in slavery and has continued up to the present. Rowe's book then constitutes a major addition to the fields of Caribbean women's history and race history. ’
Henrice Altink - Professor Modern History & author of Public Secrets: Race and Colour in Colonial and Independent Jamaica
June 2020

‘Imagining Caribbean Womanhood is an outstanding contribution to studies of creolization and hybridity for its rigorous attention to these concepts as value laden and embedded in performances of the body in West Indian popular culture and nationalisms. I highly recommend Imagining Caribbean Womanhood to popular and academic audiences interested in the politics of beauty and decolonization movements.’
Patricia van Leeuwaarde Moonsammy, Dickinson College
June 2020

  • Collapse
  • Expand

    • Full book download (PDF with hyperlinks)
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1862 299 18
Full Text Views 698 66 7
PDF Downloads 1122 125 7