Just an Affair

That afternoon, Carol guided the boat to its next anchorage on Norman Island and tried not to dwell on thoughts of Joshua.  The Elendil plowed into oncoming waves and Caryl focused on the feel of the sea beneath the boat, on the coolness of the helm beneath her hands.  She concentrated on the heat of the sun bathing the roof of the pilothouse and on the wind that caressed her face like an old friend, bringing to her nose the sharp scent of salt and sea.  Joshua receded from her mind and Caryl began to feel more relaxed than she had in days.
"Will you be taking me on the hike?"
Caryl jumped as if bitten, turning around on her stool to stare at Joshua.  Her pulse thundered in her ears and she realized she was only fooling herself.  She was wildly attracted to this man.  Feeling nothing for him was not an option, not if he was anywhere within sight, smell and sound.
"Umm.  No.  I don't know...Richardson...'" she stuttered.  She had forgotten about the blasted hike.
"Captain.  Captain, why so flustered?" he asked her softly, his brown eyes warm.
"Nothing.  I'm not flustered, I mean," she hissed.
Reaching out, Joshua grabbed her left hand.  Instinctively, she tried to snatch it back but his grip was firm.
"Why don't you wear a ring?" he asked, turning her hand over.
"Because I'm not married.  Isn't that the usual reason why?"  She managed to twist her hand out of his grasp.
"You could be one of those people who don't wear their rings, hiding the fact that they're taken or something.  I'm not sure I'm buying this celibacy thing."
"Good, because I'm not selling and I don't lie.  If I were married to the man of my dreams, I'd be proud to wear his ring."
"And who is he, this dream man?"  Joshua's lips twitched in amusement.
"I haven't met him yet," Caryl snapped.  And if it's you, you'll be the last to know.
"Yes, but what will he be like?  You must have some idea.  Otherwise, how will you recognize him?"
"Why do you want to know?  It isn't any of your business."
"It could be."
Caryl decided to ignore that.  "I have no idea what he'll look like or how he'll be but my heart will know him."  The one thing she was sure of was that he would be completely single, no wife, no girlfriend, no nothing lurking in the background.

From the Field to the Legislature: A History of Women in the Virgin Islands

"Responsible for collecting the food, black women were also the ones responsible for preparing family meals.  They supplemented the food distributed by the master with the produce they themselves grew.  The importance of slaves' provision grounds in helping to round out their diet should not be underestimated.  The fresh vegetables and starches they grew probably staved off severe malnutrition, since the food doled out by the estates was less than adequate to meet what we now know to be the requirements of a nutritious and balanced diet.

Black women prepared a variety of dishes redolent of their African heritage.  Pepperpot, a stew made with red pepper, some form of meat, and other seasonings, was popular in the territory and elsewhere in the region.  Toulama, a ground provision or starchy vegetable that, when grated, produces a starch similar to arrowroot, was also a favorite and was used to make fungi, a jelly-like pudding.  Fungi could also be made from cassava, which was a staple on the African continent.  The word 'fungi' itself is a strong indicator of Virgin Islanders' African heritage.  In the Twi language fugyee means a soft mealy of boiled yam; in Kimbundu funzi means a "cassava mush;' and in Congo fundi means 'flour or porridge.'  Ducknoor, once a common local favorite, is a sweetbread made with green corn, flour, coconuts, and other ingredients, then boiled in a banana leaf.  This was originally a Twi dish, known in their language as 'boiled maize bread'...

Though black women's leadership and involvement in their community's cultural life was extensive, it was their involvement in the territory's internal economy that sometimes led directly to their independence.  In 1824, the government statistical officer reported that 2,933 enslaved men and women cultivated gardens for their own benefit.  But it was women who built up a huckstering business around what they and their partners grew.  In one report, mention is made of Diana, one of a group of manumitted slaves, whose partner, Jeffrey, a slave belonging to a Mr. Pickering, worked her grounds, assisted by hired slaves from Pickering's estate.  Grounds requiring the use of so many additional hands suggest that Diana was involved in the biggest internal retail business of the time - huckstering.

The 1828 Blue Book for the Virgin Islands relates that 'hucksters carry about goods in trays for sale.  This traffic is carried on generally by female coloured persons and slaves.'  In fact, Dougan reported seeing many Free African women 'at the intervals granted to them for their meals, bringing to town on their heads very heavy loads of wood, which they had collected for sale with a view of adding to their comforts and those of their children.'  Their huckstering allowed black women to earn money for their labor, which in turn allowed for a measure of economic and even physical freedom.  It also allowed them to re-create a role that many might have played in their homeland...

That women were successful at marketing and other ventures may be inferred from the return of manumissions recorded in the Registry Office between 1 January 1825 and 1 October 1830.  Of the forty-six slaves who paid for their own manumission, twenty-eight were women, some of whom also paid for their children.  One woman, Mary Taylor, paid for herself and for her mother.

Although some freed women encountered financial difficulties, it is clear that others were nevertheless able to establish small businesses.  Not all were hucksters or petty merchants.  A few opened boardinghouses or arranged to let out rooms.  The House of Commons Parliamentary Papers mentions Sally Keys, a free colored woman in Road Town, at whose house one of the men investigating the status of slaves in the Virgin Islands stayed.  Keys, like the taxpayers mentioned below, was one of several slave-owning women who also were assigned Free African apprentices.

Some free women were able to parlay their cooking, midwifery, and other skills into ownership of land and slaves.  Frances Slaney, a free colored woman from Road Town, is said to have bought a cotton plantation with the money she earned as a seamstress."

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