A Giant Passed

Ford's accomplishments will not be forgotten.

Ford’s accomplishments will not be forgotten.

How absolutely regrettable that those who would have benefited most from her endeavors quite likely never had the opportunity to meet her in person, to shake her hand, to hear her inimitable voice or even to read about her numerous achievements on behalf of Saint Lucian women. And how regrettable, too, that we continue to eulogize the best among us, female and male, only when they are in no position to hear our words of appreciation! 

If indeed it’s true that all things must pass, then let the change begin with the passing of Ione Erlinger-Forde, physically a small woman, oh but how large and ubiquitous are the footprints she leaves behind. It’ll be a long time before her shoes are properly filled.

Nothing about Ione Erlinger-Forde was ever commonplace. Indeed, she represented in her prime a woman way ahead of her time. Today we may talk glibly about human rights, about the rights of women in particular, and not expect to be excoriated by other women who had grown up knowing their place. And that place, rest assured, was never at the forefront of anything. Not even at the forefront of their own personal lives.

It took blood, sweat and tears to take us where we are today, free to speak out about the abuses once suffered in dark silence by women of all ages, whether wives, single mothers or helpless little girls. The abusers of women never cared about the age of their victims. Making matters worse was the secrecy that surrounded even the most atrocious crimes against women, including rape and battery.

Ione Erlinger-Forde put an end to that. At any rate, thanks to her sustained efforts, more women than ever before are refusing to be silent victims inadvertently perpetuating the evil that men do. Ione Erlinger-Forde will live on as one of our greatest soldiers in the war against domestic abuse, regardless of the victims’ gender.

She also fought all her life for economic justice for women. She was as feisty as she was generous. And not only with her time. Quite often Ione was left no other choice but to dip into her own pockets when the deprived and battered needed assistance  not immediately available elsewhere.

I might add at this point that I got to know Ione quite well, especially during the period when I was a minister for gender affairs. I am proud to say my office gave unconditional support to the Crisis Center, Ione’s brainchild, and of which she was for a long time president. Our combined efforts also led to the establishment here of the Family Court Act, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, the Affiliation Amendment Act and eventually to the Shelter for Abused Women.

I will forever take pride from having known and worked and marched with Ione Erlinger-Forde, always in the best interests of Saint Lucian women. While we mourn her passing, let us also celebrate her accomplishments on our behalf, at a time a whole lot less accommodating and conducive than today. How ironic that much of Ione’s work was done without hoopla, without rants . . . alas, more than might truthfully be said of others who might’ve done more to keep her name always at the forefront of the local women’s movement.

But it is never too late to make amends. Hopefully, a monument in her honour will soon be erected in an appropriate place, so that future generations will know as much about home-grown Ione Erlinger-Forde as we do about Rosa Parks and Dr Martin Luther King. For indeed Ione was our combined Rosa Parks and Dr King.

May her spirit thrive in our hearts and in our minds and in our future endeavors for the benefit of all who live in our beautiful country but are too often inadvertently unappreciative of the giants that walk among us until, worn out and tired, they’ve returned to their maker.

May Ione Erlinger-Forde be forever remembered—even as she rests in peace!

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