Juliet Griffith. Founder: Police Wives Association of Guyana.
Juliet Griffith is the founder of the Police Wives Association of Guyana. It is the first of its kind in the country. Juliet and her beloved husband were both born and brought up at Golden Fleece, West Coast Berbice. They got married there and after living in Georgetown, New Amsterdam, Bartica and other parts of Guyana, they returned to their birthplace, when they retired to pass the evening of their life, in service of their people.
Juliet Serena Griffith –nee Mitchell was born in April 5, 1905, at Golden Fleece Village, West Coast, Berbice. She was the only surviving daughter, of Joseph and Harriet Mitchell. Joseph and Harriet ran their own meat and coconut oil business – making various products from coconut. They also owned an animal farm consisting of horses, sheep, pigs, goats etc.
Juliet’s siblings –four brothers and two sisters were Joseph, Jonathan, Samuel, Muriel, Patrick and Ruth. They have all passed away. The sons were all in charge of the coconut factory, and the animal farm. Ruth was a teacher and Patrick became a Pharmacist.
Juliet was educated at St. Albans Church of England School at Belladrum, the nearby village.
At the age of 2l years in 1926, she was married to Constable Joseph Griffith of the British Guyana Police Force now known as Guyana Police Force. The marriage was blessed with 5 children (3 boys and 2 girls). Prior to the marriage Juliet worked with her father as a bookkeeper in the family business.
During the 1940’s and l950’s as her husband Joseph Griffith’s status in the Police Force was upgraded -he was promoted to higher positions- and with each transfer, the entire family dutifully and faithfully moved to the various districts with him.
During these years Juliet Griffith observed that while many junior ranks of policemen were improving themselves academically and gaining promotions, their wives ‘were not involved in any developmental process in their lives and were merely onlookers during the developmental process of their spouses.
She was also concerned that families lived in cramped compounds and received a minimum salary; the policemen had the responsibility of supporting their many children from a salary which was below living standards. This caused much anxiety on the wives who did not have enough finances to feed, and provide clothing and other necessities for the household.
Juliet was always an advocate for children welfare and she knew that assisting their mothers would be a positive endeavor to help the children, thus ensuring a more positive atmosphere, and enhancing their future. As each transfer of her husband occurred, Juliet was careful in the choice of the schools for her children, and also as a result she became friendly with the various teachers of the schools. This was an asset in many ways regarding increasing of her communication with the police wives and their children and especially in the aspect of the children’s education.
There were often misunderstandings among the police wives which broke out into open confrontations. These disturbances were at times of great concern to Juliet Griffith. She felt strongly that these concerns coupled with those referred to above needed to be addressed and she vowed that she would form an association of police wives to do so.
Fortunately in l948 her husband was promoted to Senior Superintendent in the Guyana Police Force and Juliet was able to realize her dream to form an association of police wives. As a result of her new status, she was able to get the support of the wives of more senior officers, all of whom were expatriates and on April 27, 1953 the very first meeting of the Police Wives Association was held at her home in the Central Police Station Compound in New Amsterdam, Berbice. There were 24 police wives present and an executive council was formed to be responsible for the smooth functioning of the Association. The Objectives of the Association were:-
l. To develop a friendly atmosphere among police wives.
2. To equip wives to improve the status in their homes through home improvement.
3. To assist in the development of the children of the policemen.
The decision was made that meetings would be held on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. There were adult education classes, cooking classes, dressmaking, tailoring, making artificial flowers and other types of arts and crafts. These were taught by the wives who were proficient in these skills. Furthermore, secondary school scholarships and bursaries were awarded to the children of the policemen. Many of the children who were awarded scholarships graduated with honors and made significant contributions to the work force. They were gainfully employed in many types of businesses, banks, the bauxite company and the Guyana Police Force, to mention a few.
In 1955 two years after the organization’s formation in Berbice, the Georgetown branch was formed. The Police Wives Association moved there and that became the headquarters of the organization. As members of the executive council of the organization moved with their husbands to different locations in the country, other branches were formed. However due to their departure with their husbands, many of the branches did not survive.
Associations were never formed in the interior regions of Guyana because the policemen who were sent to these locations were single or they did not choose to take their families with them.
In 1957, when her husband retired from the Police Force, Juliet Griffith submitted her resignation from the organization, and at a special evening function held in her honor, she was commended for being the Founder of the organization. However, through the years she kept in touch with those who continued to be members of the organization.
In 1960 with the assistance of the Schools’ Cooperative Officer, Ms. Thelma Gaskin, a Police Wives Credit Union was formed. The members contributed monies to the credit union and as a result, these contributions kept the organization functioning, especially during the country’s turbulent years of l960 and l970. At this time, only the Georgetown branch still continued to function and the members, even if there were two , met every month.
After many years, the organization was registered in 2000 under the Friendly Societies Act and interestingly enough as a Workingman’s Club. Donor communities provided funds for the continuation of the organization.
Commissioner of Police, Carl Austin showed much interest, and supported the work of the association. His wife became the first President and there is now a Committee of five members. The decision was made to build a Day Care Center in the name of the Founder – Juliet Griffith.
In 1990 a Youth Club was established as the Youth Club of the Police Wives Association. It’s main project was to improve the status of under- privileged children; building character, involving them in reading, writing, speech training etc.
On October 3, 1994 the Day Care Center building was completed and the 20 year dream of Juliet Griffith was fulfilled – the building was named “Juliet Griffith Day Care Center”. This was very dear to the heart of their Founder. 1994 was also the launching of their magazine “Wives Alive”.
Juliet Griffith and her husband, Senior Superintendent Joseph Griffith made their retirement home in Golden Fleece Village, Berbice. Here again, she was instrumental in forming a girl’s club, (as her husband did with the boys) teaching the young ladies many aspects of being an organized housewife and/or adult young ladies, having cooking classes, learning arts and crafts, and also assisting in improving their educational status just to mention a few.
Leamon McKenzie of Belladrum, now resident in the USA has paid a glowing tribute to ‘Uncle Joe and Cousin Juliet’. Born and raised in the Belladrum community, Leamon had spent years volunteering in community projects and activities, in his teenage years as the youngest member of the West Berbice Youth Council. He is Secretary of Probeldad Wellness and Welfare Association (PWWA). This association was established in April 2007 by alumni of Belladrum Primary School, resident in the USA, with a mission to help improve the welfare of their community, in education health and other social issues. Leamon wrote:
‘The name Joseph and Juliet Griffith, better known as Uncle Joe and Cousin Juliet, resonates throughout the Belladrum community on the West Coast of Berbice, Guyana.
‘Myself, like many others from there, came to know them through Golden Fleece Youth Club, established after they had retired from their respective professions, police officer and homemaker. It was a pillar for a struggling community, where young boys and girls were able to meet three times a week in the afternoon. We played games, beat drums and in many cases our older siblings taught us to read, write and do basic math.
‘Aunt Juliet ( a.k.a Mother) would engage the young girls in sewing, knitting, as well as teaching them the art of preparing a dinner table and communication. On the first Sunday of each month, the youth club would dress up in their all white outfits and march to church for worship. This was a spectacular event for the community, as people lined the road to cheer us on.
‘May 1st, or May Day as we call it, was a day of celebration where youths would dance, plait maypoles, crown the Maypole Queen and participate in various other activities. The day would conclude with a fundraising dance for the club.
‘Uncle Joe and Cousin Juliet also established Penny Bank, where weekly, members would deposit their pennies. At the end of the year they would receive their savings in jubilation for Christmas spending!
‘The club also provided an educational scholarship for two high school students who were successful in receiving many subjects at the General Certificate of Education (GCE).
‘Many of the members who took jobs in the police department or Guyana Defense Force were credited with good discipline and service to the military organization; this came as no surprise, as discipline and education were the club’s main focus.
‘As Uncle Joe and Cousin Juliet grew older and with my parents consent, I continued to be by their sides until they passed away.
‘Due to the guiding and supportive hand of Uncle Joe and Cousin Juliet, I was able to experience things such as my first visit to the city of Georgetown and my first driving classes; many others also received such attentive focus and have used those opportunities to improve their lives in a multitude of ways.’
Juliet Griffith and her husband, were always instrumental in assisting children, guiding them to be outstanding and productive citizens of Guyana and anywhere in the world. Their purpose and recipe for success was always to be diligent in their school work, regularly attend church, persevere in everything they are involved in, being the best that they can be, and always striving to be successful in their lives.
Joseph and Juliet Griffith
Juliet always encouraged her own children to be attentive at school, and to pray before they begin each day especially when they have a test or an exam. She very often assisted them with their homework and helped them to do additional school work at home, more than the teacher required. Her children as they advanced in years explained to her that they benefitted greatly because of the help that was given to them in the previous years.
The children have all done well. Owen Griffith, the eldest was a Medical Research Biochemist, he worked at Beckman Instruments in California and he was a world lecturer in centrifuge application methods. Maurice Griffith – a Chemical Laboratory Technologist, worked at Interfaith Medical Center, B Brooklyn, New York. Dorrie October nee Griffith, a registered Operating Room Nurse in an Ambulatory Center in Sarasota, Florida, is now retired and living in Sarasota, Florida, U.S.A. Eileen Robinson was Records Supervisor at the University of Guyana. Conrad Griffith – a retired Copier and Laser Printer Technician is now residing in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Owen, Maurice and Eileen are deceased.
Grand daughter Jacqueline Perry paid this tribute to her beloved and highly honoured grandparents. She wrote:
‘As I recall spending my school holidays with my grandparents I have nothing but admiration that floods my memories. When my Dad (Owen, oldest offspring of Joseph and Juliet Griffith) insisted that I spend the greater part of my school holidays with his parents (my grandparents), I thought how boring. I went to school in Georgetown and now I have to spend my school holidays in the “country” (Golden Fleece West Coast Berbice). As a teenager, that was not a fun way to spend my school holidays! Little did I know that I would still be in school! Before I went out to play I had to finish my homework. I had to write an essay on my time spent with my grandparents which my grandmother (Granny) graded before I sent it to my Dad. What each of my grandparents instilled in me at a very young age was the importance of self-sufficiency, independence and interdependence.
‘Granddad would awake in the early morning hours, whistling as he started his day. I tried to pull the covers over my head and then eventually would get out of bed. I would help him feed the chickens, pick fresh fruits and vegetables from the gardens and looked forward to breakfast which Granny cooked. Granddad taught me the principles of budgeting. He showed me how to maintain simple accounting principles of income and expenses. I learned that I could not spend what I did not have. First things first were to pay all my expenses, set aside monies for saving and then “mad” money (money for fun). I also had to have money for church offering on Sunday. Until this day, I live by these basic principles. Granddad did not speak much, but always inquired how I was doing in school and if I was “behaving” myself (i.e. listening to elders). He shared his passion to help the younger generation by teaching them life skills i.e. money management, value of an education, self-respect, integrity, perseverance. Granddad was an encourager and a firm disciplinarian coupled with his unselfish desire to have you succeed.
‘Granny came alongside and softened the “stern” edges of Granddad and helped me understand the importance of independence. She would say to me …. It is alright to want to marry; however make sure you have a good education and can keep a “roof over your head”. As a married couple, she was always there for Granddad and respected him. Granny would come to my rescue (in a respectful way to Granddad) if she thought Granddad was too hard on me especially when I wanted to go out to play before completing my school work or assignments. She taught me the same life skills as Granddad in addition to table etiquette, personal grooming, home economics and social skills. I owe the social skills I live by to Granny especially when I am in business settings. Granny and Granddad showcased the Golden Fleece Boys and Girls Club before Princess Margaret. I still remember that day distinctively and I thought what an honor to prepare/teach young boys and girls how to act/perform in the presence of a Royal Officiate. Granny was well respected by all and had a driving passion to develop young women beyond their imagination.’
Juliet Griffith died on October 26th, 1991. She was laid to rest on November 2nd, 1991, after a memorial service which was held at St. Alban’s Anglican Church, Belladrum, in celebration of her life.
Thus a noble soul of Guyana quietly and with dignity ended her role on the world stage. She was interred in her village Golden Fleece into the soil from whence she came. She lived a model life as Cousin Juliet, servant of her people and as devoted wife and mother. Her indelible footprint on the sands of time is the Police Wives Association. Bless her.
Daughter Dorrie paid this tribute: ‘They were dedicated parents and all that they have taught us we have used all of it successfully in our lives and of course passed it on to our children and we do pray that they are passing it on to their children as time goes by….’
For compiling this biography, the author acknowledges with grateful thanks the invaluable help of the daughter of Joseph and Juliet, Dorrie October, who provided all the information and checked several drafts before completion.
Also greatly appreciated are the contributions from grand daughter Jacqueline Perry and from
Leamon McKenzie of Belladrum, the Secretary of Probeldad Wellness and Welfare Association.
July 21. 2015.