efrancois Elma François

Elma François born in 1897 was moulded by loss, oppression and struggle. In her formative years, Elma Constance François grew with eyes wide open in a colonial St. Vincent where racial discrimination and a lack of political activism among working-class blacks were an accepted reality. In 1919 she migrated to Trinidad where she found niche in the budding labour movements of Cipriani and Howard-Bishop. This would not last however, as François saw beyond the exclusivity of socialist-style leadership of the labour movement and sought to be closer to the workers. She is credited with promoting a grassroots approach to the mobilization of the working class. Ever conscious of her African heritage, François was a founding member of the Negro Welfare Cultural and Social Association (NWCSA) that sought the empowerment of black people and particularly black women whose voices were continually silenced in the political sphere. Here, François can also be credited for forming the first notable gender-neutral space for political activism, where men and women worked jointly against colonial oppression. In 1987, she was posthumously declared a national heroine of Trinidad and Tobago. She died in 1944.