Friday, 25 May 2007

All About My Mother .-- Part 2

Why did I call my mother a feminist, a description she probably wouldn't have agreed with? Mainly because she went out to work, in spite of the objections of her mother and her two older sisters. She worked as a teacher ... and this is where I wish I had asked more questions! My mother was taught by Miss L. McDougal and later became a teacher at Miss McDougal's school. I have never been able to discover Miss McDougal's first name ... yet I actually met her, after I was married and had returned to Jamaica for one of our regular visits. My mother and I were shopping downtown and ran into Miss McDougal. I vaguely remember a very elderly lady and could not now for the life of me describe her, but what absolutely struck me was the love and respect my mother showed to her. I think each of us has at least one teacher from our school days who made an impression on us and it was obvious that Miss McDougal meant a great deal to my mother.

It has not been easy trying to find out about this period in my mother's life. Thinking about it now I have to confess I don't even know what schools my two aunts went to. I was, however, able to find out the name of the school my mother attended ... it was called Victoria Girls' School and was located at 28 Victoria Avenue, and its Headmistress was Miss McDougal. I found this information through research in the online edition of the Jamaica Gleaner, which has been a tremendous resource.

Among my mother's possessions is a photograph of her in an attractive costume, holding a tambourine, and it was this photo that prompted me to delve more into her school days.

There is nothing on the photo to say where it was taken or what the occasion was, but I think I may have discovered that! After numerous searches in the Gleaner on the name "McDougal" I came across a couple of stories about prize giving functions at Victoria Girls' Secondary School. One in particular may hold the answer to the mystery of the photograph. This is from the Gleaner of December 20, 1912, and begins:

"The breaking-up of the Victoria Girls' School, No. 28 Victoria Avenue, conducted by Miss McDougal, came off sucessfully at St. George's Schoolroom by kind permission of the Rev. J. L. Ramson on Tuesday night last; His Grace the Archbishop presided during a portion of the function and, on retiring, his place was taken by Mr. McFarlane, Principal of the Mico College".

The story goes on to relate that Miss McDougal, after giving a report on the school, announced that she was closing it and taking the position, offered to her by Sister Madeline, of Headmistress of the Deaconess Home School. This new school would become Arcadia School ... more of that later ... but to return to my mother ... further on in the story is the following:

"The programme was then proceeded with and the children acquitted themselves remarkably well. The Ribbon and Tamboureen [sic] Drills, which were admirably executed, were highly appreciated, as was testified to by the prolonged applause of the audience".

Surely this photograph has to be of my mother doing the Ribbon and Tambourine Drill! She would have been about eighteen at the time.

After she left school my mother taught under Miss McDougal at the Arcadia School which was located at 13 West Avenue, Kingston Gardens. In the Gleaner of May 22, 1922, I found a report on the Prize Giving at Arcadia School. The pupils had recently presented an operetta at the Ward Theatre, the proceeds of which were donated to the Wortley Home Orphanage at Constant Spring. In her report on the work of the school Miss McDougal thanked "her assistants, viz: Misses Berry, Noad and Smedmore for the whole-hearted interest and careful training of the pupils to which alone the success of the entertainment was undoubtedly due". In the prize list is the following: Form IVb prize, awarded to Muriel Dias by Miss Smedmore; Form IIIb prize, awarded to Olga Holtz by Miss Smedmore.

My mother got married April 27, 1926, but she seems to have kept a connection to the school even though she did not work after marriage. The Gleaner reports on May 19, 1927 on yet another Arcadia School Prize Giving at which my mother, now referred to as Mrs. Levy, awarded the prize for Cambridge Senior Exam to Geraldine Bodden. By now, however, she was the mother of a young child, my brother Micky, who was born April 2, 1927, and her teaching career was over.


patricia said...

Fascinating! You did some great detective work. It's nice to finally have a logical explanation as to why Grandma would be dressed up like that with a tamberine...

Aaron said...

Good window into the possible choices that shaped working women's lives in the early 20th century. Did your mother have to leave her teaching post because she was married and had a child; or a personal choice?

Dorothy said...

Well, Aaron, I don't know. It may have been a personal choice. I think my mother was traditional enough to believe that a woman should stay home with her children after she was married.

Arras Memorial

Arras Memorial

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore

Trooper Victor Dey Smedmore
My uncle Victor