FIFTH SUGGESTION: RACHEL PRINGLE
Let’s recap from last week’s episode. We’re looking at Bajans who should replace Nelson de Green Man in town. There’s a criteria given on how we should look at it and I promised some suggestions, here’s my next one.
I’m liking how every post I’ve done so far speaks on something currently happening in our country. It goes to show that nothing new is under the sun but rather just adapting to the current setting. Right now, there’s an ongoing discussion as Rihanna has been set to become our latest National Hero. With this came about a conservative viewpoint from her dress, her contributions and the lifestyle she lives *bigfackingchupse*. This points me in the direction of our heroes being relatable to our consciousness.
Barbados despite what some may think is a very progressive country, and though we haven’t reached the pinnacle of female empowerment, we’ve done a good job thus far: The abortion rights act of 1982 (first Caribbean country to do so), The family law act, the sexual harassment law act. Then in 2018, we saw our first female Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, at a point where 2 women lead the opposing political parties. Now in 2021 we have replaced the monarchy with President Sandra Mason. Our latest hero has been called everything in the book by conservatives for her sex positive lifestyle, forgetting she was domestic abuse victim, won numerous humanitarian awards, redefined beauty standards for every gender and came from humble beginnings – but before I go on a tangent on this, lemme say, there’s a legend of a Barbadian woman who faced these issues of misogyny and abuse before Rihanna and propelled a legend of sex positivity in Barbados. I say legend because after research, sadly I found out she might be an oral mythical legend that was conjured up to keep black successful women in their place. A plan which was designed in its time to work, but in today’s world actually fails. The legend of: RACHEL PRINGLE
Before the conservatives get on their high horses about Rachel Pringle , let me tell you, a lot of what you think you know about her or what you think about her stems from racism and misogyny. Rachel Pringle’s narrative was curated by white men who sought to use her as a cautionary tale to curb women’s power and power of sexuality. They felt to demonise her as a sexual deviant and erase the contributions she should be exalted for as a woman and a pioneer.
This is the story according to the legend: Born Rachel Lauder in 1753, she was born into slavery by a slave mother and fathered by a Scottish school master. She was sexually abused and raped by her father till she was 14. Captain Thomas Pringle, bought her and manumitted her. Later, he married her, setting her up with a house in Bridgetown.
Pringle left his wife to return to military life. Not to be caught struggling financially, Rachel turned the house into a hotel for military personnel coming to the island. The business eventually turned into a brothel as well. Prince William Henry visited her hotel and in a drunken stupor, he and his cronies trashed the establishment. In a detailed letter with estimates, Pringle wrote to King William IV and was awarded damages.
In 1796, an offensive caricature of Rachel Pringle was created. For centuries we were made to believe that a portrait of a very large dark skin woman was that of Rachel Pringle. The artist, who never once visited Barbados heard about the legend of Rachel Pringle and felt to create an allegorical concept of sexuality in the slave economy. Rachel would’ve been a brown skin woman with stature and not of the mammy archetype we were fed. Though today we celebrate body positivity and acknowledge more than ever the beauty of dark skin, this caricature was used to show her as ugly and monstrous.
Pringle owned several houses, land, furnishings and different businesses and even owned 1/3 of the businesses in Bridgetown. A Black woman doing this during slavery? Nice! Her story was manipulated to be a tale of curtailing black women’s sexuality. Despite her economic success, she could not tell her own story because she was illiterate. In a post colonial world, where we push women’s rights and values, Rachel Pringle should be on that list of pioneers. We owe it to Rachel to tell her story and right the wrongs. We owe it to her and every black girl who was a victim of a sexual crime and not allow their stories to be filled with shame but strength. Her story should be about black women using their power to wield against colonialism. From slave girl who was constantly sexually abused by her father to an economic success is a story worth celebrating.
Rihanna isn’t the first with a similar tale, but she’s the one receiving the Hero status (I’ll write extensively about that another time). For now, The Legend of Rachel Pringle from an oral traditional perspective deserves a monument that reflects women’s struggle, perseverance and a huge ‘fack off’ to misogyny and racism. Would be cool for Rihanna to do the unveiling too actually!
“Everybody Hates Kupa” is a weekly column written by Matthew ‘Kupakwashe’ Murrell.