The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), an Agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, commemorated the 112th anniversary of the birth of noted Jamaican Agnes ‘Aggie’ Bernard. She was a modern Heroine of the labour movement, and she fittingly received a wreath-laying exercise at her tomb at the National Heroes Park on Thursday, March 24.
Ms Lillian Reid, the Interim Executive Director of the JCDC, laid a floral arrangement on Bernard’s tomb in celebration of her life and her contribution to the Jamaican political landscape.
Born on March 24, 1910, Agnes ‘Aggie’ Bernard or ‘Miss Aggie’ was one of the foremost pioneering female activists in Jamaica’s labour movement. During the 1938 Labour Riots, which is known as a pivotal point in Jamaica’s political development, she went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the sustainability of the riots.
Who was Miss Aggie?
Miss Aggie, who was then a laundress who provided services to the ships that docked at the Kingston waterfront, committed her entire though meagre savings of 5 shillings and 6 pence to purchase food and provide refreshments for approximately 200 men during the two-week strike in Kingston.
As a tremendous reflection of self-sacrifice, she maintained an unwavering commitment to the labour riots, even though this meant putting her laundry business at risk. As a result of her support, the dock workers were able to secure a wage increase, but their action also encouraged strikes elsewhere.
Agnes Bernard continued to live a remarkable life advocating for the rights of the Jamaican people. In 1976, she was awarded the Order of Distinction from the Government of Jamaica for her outstanding services to the trade union movement. The Inter-American Commission of Women also honoured her in 1979, with a unique Certificate of Merit, for her work in the development of women in Jamaica. Miss Aggie died one year later, on October 7, 1980.