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Marguerite Wyke
(May 1908 - 1995)
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Marguerite N. Wyke, OBE
Former Member of the West Indies Federal Parliament

Marguerite Wyke was a Trinidadian politician and a former Senator in the West Indies Federation.

Early life and education

Marguerite N. Abrams was born in May 1908 in New Jersey to Jessie B. M. (née Wardlaw) and James Edward Abrams She was the oldest child of the Pullman porter, James, having younger siblings James Jr. and Bessie (or Jessie). Abrams graduated from Lincoln High School in 1926 and then went on to study at New York University. Simultaneously taking art courses at the Grand Central School of Art, she graduated with a degree in English literature. Continuing her studies, Abrams completed a teaching degree at theNew Jersey State Normal School at Jersey City.

Career

By 1929, Abrams was working as a teacher in the Jersey City Public School System. Abrams began publishing poetry, in such journals as Opportunity Magazine and taught until her marriage on 18 February 1933 to David Arnold Wyke. He was a Trinidadian physician who at the time of their marriage was working in Toronto, Canada as the only black physician in the city. The young couple moved to Toronto after their marriage where David continued his work as a doctor and Marguerite continued publishing, contributing to the Canadian Forum. The couple were part of the politically active West Indian community living in Toronto. While her husband was politically conservative, Wyke's politics were leftist and she joined the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) while living in Canada.

In 1946, the couple relocated to Trinidad, where Wyke became affiliated with the Caribbean Socialist Party. Continuing her writing, she published articles for The Teachers Herald, the journal of the Teacher's Economic and Cultural Association (TECA). In 1952, she and her husband traveled to Europe for further education. While he studied in Scotland, she attended courses at the Sorbonne in Paris and also studied under Étienne Martin at the Académie Ronson. Wyke also took courses and graduated from the University of the West Indies. She actively cultivated development of the arts in Trinidad, serving as a committee member of the Trinidad and Tobago Art Society, of which she became vice president in 1956. She brought artists and writers, like Karl Broodhagen and Langston Hughes to Trinidad.

In 1953, Wyke renounced her U. S. citizenship to become a Trinidadian citizen, with the intent of helping Eric Williams in his rise to prominence. She was involved in the PNM from early days, making speeches, serving on committees and writing for the newspaper. In the mid-1950s, she worked with working-class women through the projects of the Women's League for the People's National Movement (PNM). She assisted in the compilation of reports evaluating the Trinidadian economy and society and served on the committee which analyzed appointing West Indians to positions to govern their own affairs. During the same time frame, Wyke worked on the planning of the Caribbean Festival of the Arts and made several trips to other islands to attend music and art festivals.

When the West Indies Federation was established in 1958, Wyke was appointed as one of the two women Senators to serve in the national parliament of the new federal state. Wyke represented Trinidad and Tobago along with Deonarayan Maharajh and the other woman Senator was Bertha Higgins of Antigua and Barbuda. She actively pursued legislation to secure the rights of West Indians, working on legislation to fight racism, including urging the British parliament to protect Caribbeans living in Britain and protect workers from exploitative recruitment policies. Wyke was opposed to free movement among the Caribbean islands, fearing that large influxes of people would over-tax limited resources. She also worked to establish the first art scholarships on the island to help young artists gain their education and protested the use of women in beauty contests held to improve tourism prospects.

After her service in the Senate, Wyke returned to artistic pursuits and promoting development of the arts, as well as heritage protection programs. In 1961, she exhibited works for the opening of Nina's Art Gallery, one of the first galleries to open in Trinidad. She was chair of the committee organized to prepare for the celebrations of Trinidad and Tobaggo's Independence, which featured a calypso competition..  In the 1970s, Wyke served as the chair of the advisory board to the Central Library of Trinidad and Tobago.

In her lifetime, though Wyke worked in multiple artistic media, including fused glass, mosaic, painting, and pottery, she was most known for her sculpture. She produced works which are held in private collections throughout the Caribbean, Canada, Denmark and the United States.

Honours and awards

Wyke was honored as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1963 for her service to Trinidad and Tobago as chair of the Independence Celebrations Committee.

Personal life

Wyke was married to husband, Dr. David A. Wyke, a Triniidadian.

Death and legacy

Wyke died around 1995.

In 2002, the Cultural Center Art Gallery of the Inter-American Development Bank in Port of Spain, hosted an art exhibition for the country's 40th anniversary of independence. Wyke was one of several featured artists included in the show.

Resources

PHOTO GALLERY
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Sen. Bertha Higgins of Antigua and Barbuda (right) and Sen. Margurite Wyke of Trinidad and Tobago (lef) observing the ornamental mace of the West Indies Federal Parliamnet (1958). [Ebony, June 1960]
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Sen. Margurite Wyke of Trinidad and Tobago is seated among her male colleagues while awaiting opening of the the legislative session of the Federal Parliament. [Ebony, June 1960]
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Sen. Margurite Wyke of Trinidad and Tobago with President of the Federal Senate Dr. Arnot Cato. [Ebony, June 1960]
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President of the Federal Senate Dr. Arnot Cato. with Chief Minister of Jamaica Norman Manley, 1958. [Ebony, June 1960]
Sources
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marguerite_Wyke
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QUICK FACTS
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Occupation Artist, Musician, Politician
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Date of Birth May 1908
Place of Birth Jersey City, New Jersey, USA
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Date of Death 1995 (aged 86-87)
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Notable Accomplishments
Member of the Senate of the West Indies Federation: 1958-1962
RELATED RESOURCES
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Trinidad and Tobago
Dominica West Indies Federation
POLITICAL AFFILIATION
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West Indian Federation Labour Party
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