‘The Women’s Self Help Price list’ featured here is the only artifact that speaks to Barbados’ proud tradition of charity and charitable organizations. The Women’s Self Help Association, its official title, but known simply as the Self Help by Barbadians and visitors alike was the brain child of Lady Gertrude Gilbert Carter the American born wife of Barbados’ Governor Sir Thomas Gilbert Carter.
In addition to being an; artist, architect, landscaper and urban planner Lady Carter was also an early feminist who saw the need for an organization designed for the improvement of women through their own means. With this in mind on the March 13th 1907 Lady Carter convened a meeting at which a temporary committee was formed ‘for the purpose of inaugurating a Women’s Self Help Association’ in Barbados’.
Out of this initial meeting a pamphlet was produced that outlined two of the immediate aims of the committee which were: (1).To create a Women’s Self Help Association similar to those already in existence in Trinidad and Jamaica and (2). To rent ‘two rooms in as prominent a place in Bridgetown as possible, accessible to tourists and visitors to Bridgetown with the purpose of selling needle work, lace, paintings and photographs, also jams, jellies, cakes and sweets; -in short, anything made by the women of Barbados which is found to be saleable, well made and attractive’.
Originally the Self Help was located on MacGregor Street but eventually was relocated to its more traditionally known location of upper Broad Street; adjacent to Trafalgar Square later renamed National Heroes Square.
The Price List itself features a wide variety of delicacies like breads, sandwiches, puddings, layer cakes, pastry’s, biscuits, savouries, patties, preserves as well as ice creams and iced coffee. Beneath the heading ‘Puddings’ plum puddings were to be had at .60 cents and .72 cents for coconut bread.
Under the header ‘Breads’, Yeast buns were sold at .24 cents per dozen and choice loafs at .30 cents per loaf. Biscuits included scones at .2cents for one and short breads at .72 cents per pound.
On the 31st May 2011 the Women’s Self Help, after 104 years of unbroken operation, ceased operations and with it one of Barbados oldest charities. The Women’s Self Help Association Price List speaks to the history of philanthropy and feminism in Barbados.