Women Making Freedom: Rethinking Gender in Caribbean Intra-Regional Migration from a Curaçaoan Perspective
Allen, Rose Mary
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In recent decades, the number of scholarly publications on the feminization of migration has grown exponentially, as women increasingly migrate in the contemporary era of globalisation. Although migration is rooted in Caribbean history, very little attention has been paid to the autonomous migration of women in the past and they have been made invisible by sidelining gender in historiography. Yet, in similar ways to men, women in the Caribbean left their countries and migrated to seek employment elsewhere. The intra-migration movements of women from Curaçao to other Caribbean countries provides sufficient evidence that also women from a Dutch colony in the Caribbean participated independently from their males in these migration dynamics. After emancipation in 1863 in the Dutch colonies, a large group of people of African descent, both men and women remained at the bottom of the social hierarchy and used the demand for labor in other Caribbean countries to realize their aspirations. My paper, “Women Making Freedom: Rethinking Gender in Caribbean Intra-regional Migration from a Curaçaoan Perspective” draws on archival documents and some auto/biographies of Curaçaoan women who have participated in intra-Caribbean migrations in the 19th and 20th century. I will look at the experiences and concerns of these working-class women, migrating from one post-emancipation Caribbean society to another at a time when these societies were still struggling to deal with the legacy of slavery and colonialism. The paper also situates the migration of these women in the wider context of Caribbean women participating independently in migration movements in search of work and it will consider the implications for studying migration as a survival strategy for women in particular in post-emancipation Caribbean societies.