Ladies of the Land

Our Agricultural Heroes

The agricultural burden in the country side of Barbados has fallen heavily on the women field workers.

Before mechanical harvesters and loaders made their appearance in the late 70s it was the women who carried the heavy bundles of cane on their heads and climbed ladders up the side of trucks to hand the bundles to male workers on the top of the truck.

Ladies of the Land - Heading Cane - Blackmans Plnt -1979-bds41-14

The planting and weeding was also mainly done by women. Men did most of the cane cutting and handling of mechinery such as driving tractors and working in the sugar factories.

It seems to me that women have always had the hardest work in Bajan agriculture.

They were often there in the fields, rain or shine, and when I did photos the women always had humourous responses to being the center of attention.

Ladies of the Land - Easy Hall Plnt - Elsie Lashley 1980-bds44-29

When I returned to Barbados in 1974 I started to photograph some of the field work being done at the plantation nearby - Mount Wilton, St. Thomas.  

This is where I met Edna McLean and her colleagues planting sugar cane ratoons.

Edna McLean, Mt. Wilton Plnt. St Thomas

I regret that I didn't spend more in-depth time with these subjects in particular – I was not a very good journalist – very few names, no interviews, no first person descriptions of what their whole day was like.

The great reward of getting these images more accessible to the public is that I am slowly finding out names of some of the people as others who knew them can fill in the missing details.

It is fantastic to have a visitor say "That's my Dad in this photograph with Queen Elizabeth" or that someone who worked directly with the workers of a particular plantation can name the person – as was the case with Elsie Lashley pictured here with her huge umbrella - could this be the umbrella that Rihanna was talking about?

Ladies of the Land - Easy Hall Plnt - Elsie Lashley 1980-bds44-34-sepia
  • These photos are absolutely beautiful and as you mentioned it would of been nice to have they names.

  • Wonderful photos! It is clear they worked hard, yet I also read they live longer than the rest of the population.

    • Hi Linda – Glad you are enjoying the pics – so glad to be getting them out of their dungeons! Those ladies were very tough, but also very kind – often you would come home and find a few yams on your front step. They also loved to laugh and tease each other and any photographers that happened to be in the vicinity ! Great souls.

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