Audrey Jeffers
Audrey Jeffers

Audrey Jeffers: History of Labour Day in Trinidad and Tobago

Audrey Jeffers was born in Trinidad in 1898 in an era of developing feminism. Fondly known as the Mother of Trinidadian Philanthropy, Jeffers fashioned the notion of “community care” where communities were influenced to play an active role in lifting those most in need among them.

Audrey Layne Jeffers, who was born in Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad into an upper-middle-class family, received her education at Tranquillity Girls’ School. At the age of 15, she travelled to England and pursued a diploma in social science at Alexander College in north London.

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During her time in London, she played a role in establishing the Union of Students of African Descent, which later became known as the League of Coloured Peoples. When the First World War broke out, Jeffers dedicated herself to working with West African troops and initiated a fund to support them, rallying financial contributions from her fellow West Indians.

Exceptional and respected teacher and administrator

In 1920, she established a junior school at her family’s residence, Briarsend on Sweet Briar Road, catering to underprivileged children. During this time, she earned a well-deserved reputation as an exceptional and respected teacher and administrator.

In 1921, she founded the Coterie of Social Workers, an organisation that offered complimentary meals to underprivileged school children. Subsequently, in 1926, they inaugurated the first “Breakfast Shed”, and expanded its presence nationwide, establishing additional branches as well as homes for the elderly, troubled women, and day nurseries.

Audrey Jeffers also played crucial roles in various initiatives, including the establishment of a dining shed for workingmen on South Quay, the introduction of a Mother’s Day celebration movement in 1927, and the founding of St Mary’s Home in 1928.

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Audrey Jeffers first woman to be elected to the Port-of-Spain City Council

In 1929, she represented Trinidad and Tobago in London at the National Council of Women of the Empire. Additionally, she extended her concerns to address the needs of the elderly, the visually impaired, young working women, and families in distress with infants requiring daycare. This led to the establishment of “Cipriani House” in John John, Laventille and other hostels for young working women. The first day nursery was named after the labour leader Arthur Andrew Cipriani.

Audrey Jeffers strongly advocated for the introduction of a scholarship programme for girls, the formation of a Women’s Police Force, and increased employment opportunities for educated black women. Her efforts as a politician gained her victory in the 1936 elections, making her the first woman to be elected to the Port-of-Spain City Council, enabling her to further champion her causes.

In 1941, she was appointed to the Voting Franchise Commission, and in 1946, she became the first woman to be appointed to the Legislative Council, serving until 1956. In 1947, she played a prominent role in the Constitutional Reform Committee at the national level.

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Received the Chaconia Gold Medal for Social Service

Audrey Jeffers served as an honorary Consul for Liberia and was recognised for her contributions by being appointed as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1959. In 1969, she posthumously received the Chaconia Gold Medal for Social Service in recognition of her dedication to social welfare.

To commemorate her legacy, the Foreshore/Mucurapo Highway was named the Audrey Jeffers Highway, and the Audrey Jeffers School for the Deaf in San Fernando was also established in her honour. Audrey Jeffers passed away on June 24, 1968. Her legacy also lives on in the Coterie of Social Workers of Trinidad and Tobago Incorporated of Trinidad and Tobago, who continue to honour her memory by celebrations and commemorations.


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