Una Marson: A Jamaican Feminist Icon

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Poet, writer and feminist Una Marson was the kind of woman who always spoke her mind (whether on paper or not).

Marson was born in Jamaica in 1905 to Reverend Solomon Isaac Marson, a Baptist pastor, and his wife, Ada Wilhelmina Mullings-Marson.

Growing up, she attended Hampton High School. However, she was unable to receive further education due to the lack of a university in the West Indies at the time. 

Despite this, at age 21, a determined Marson became the assistant editor of the Jamaican Critic, leading her to become Jamaica’s first “woman-editor” publisher. 

Shortly after, in 1929, according to The National Library of Jamaica, Marson founded a monthly magazine called The Cosmopolitan; her early foray into feminism focused on issues women face regarding their gender.

She then began publishing her own poetry, articles, plays, etc., in the early 1930s, some of which include Heights and Depths, Tropic Reveries, and At What Price.

As a result of her love for authors like Shakespeare and Keats, in 1933, Marson moved to London, England.

Soon after, Marson became involved with and was secretary of the League of Colored Peoples, an organization whose primary focus was to challenge racial inequality. 

Marson continued to speak out about racism, even traveling to Istanbul in 1935 to address the Congress of International Women on racism and gender equality.

According to New Internationalist, she would later write a poem about the event for her collection titled Towards the Stars, which explored the many aspects of Marson’s identity as both a woman and Jamaican. The collection also includes poems detailing her life experiences, as well as ones in Jamaican Patois, such as The Stone Breakers, showcasing a strong connection to her roots.

She founded the Readers and Writers Club and Kingston Dramatic Club two years later and created the Jamaican Save the Children Fund in 1938. Marson returned to London that year (after splitting time between there and Jamaica). 

There, she worked for the BBC as an assistant for Calling the West Indies, which began in 1939, eventually becoming Caribbean Voices. The fourteen-year program started in 1944. A year later, Marson returned to Jamaica and published Towards the Stars, her final collection of poems.

Marson died in 1965 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica, leaving a significant impact on Jamaican and Caribbean history as a whole. 

Additionally, Marson penned a 1937 autobiography which remains to be found.

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