The Honourable Gladys Maud Bustamante OJ, JP | Questions and Answers
by Kesha Stewart | Associate Writer
During our Annual Heritage Week activities, we usually celebrate our national figures such as our heroes and sole heroine. We also bestow national honours and awards on people from all walks of life for the different ways in which they have served their country. But today we turn the spotlight on a woman whose name is etched in Jamaica's social and political history. We called her Lady ‘B’ or Lady Bustamante but she was named Gladys Maud Bustamante (nee Longbridge). Here are some interesting Q&As about The Honourable Gladys Maud Bustamante OJ, JP.
- Who was Lady Bustamante?
Lady Bustamante was the wife of our first Prime Minister and one of our National Heroes, Sir. Alexander Bustamante.
- Was Lady Bustamante a Jamaican?
Yes. She was born on March 8, 1912, in the small rural district of Parson Reid near Ashton in Westmoreland. She described herself as a welcomed baby though born out of wedlock. Her parents were James Longbridge and Rebecca Blackwood-Longbridge.
- How was she brought up?
She was raised by her grandparents from the age of 3 as her parents left to seek work in Cuba (mom) and St. Mary (dad). She worshipped as a Moravian and began formal education at the Ashton School which she attended until she was 15 years old.
- What happened after she left Primary School?
She began working in 1928 as a pupil-teacher at her old school, Ashton. Later her aunt took her to Kingston to live in Jonestown. She was then trained as a secretary at Tutorial Secondary and where she did subjects such as Typing, Shorthand, Music, Spanish and Accounting. In the early 1930’s Gladys returned to her roots with the intent of using her new-found skills to uplift her community but this was unsuccessful so the ambitious young lady moved to St. James. Specifically, Montego Bay, where she was employed by Havana Sports.
- Why did she return to Kingstion?
In 1934, Ms Gladys Longbridge returned to Kingston, where she was temporarily employed at the Arlington House Hotel and Restaurant as a typist, clerk and cashier. This was a restaurant frequented by some of the leading people in society. Sir. Alexander Bustamante, a businessman at the time, was a regular there.
- How did she become Alexander Bustamante’s secretary?
She finally landed a job matching her training in March 1936 when she was employed by Mr Alexander Bustamante as private secretary at Bustamante's Loan and Securities Company. She served in this capacity for 27 years until 1962 when she became his wife and he, our first prime minister. Whatever role Bustamante played; businessman, trade unionist, or politician she was his trusted secretary. She said her last day of employment was the day after their wedding.
- When did Ms Longbridge become Mrs Bustamante?
They wedded on September 07, 1962. It was almost a month after Jamaica’ independence on August 6, 1962.
- What were some of the roles and activities that made Lady Bustamante memorable?
People describe her as a Social Reformer, Trade Unionist and Women’s Activist.
Gladys’ refusal to sit at her desk while her boss travelled the island inadvertently enabled her to become a social reformer. She was particularly active in the groups her then boss represented at the union level. Among them were port workers and their families and in sugar communities.
She was even involved with children of destitute parents. She maintained an awareness of the needs of the most vulnerable, later serving as patron of the Bustamante Hospital for Children.
For as long as she could, she actively involved herself in voluntary work and charitable institutions such as being a member of the JLP’s Old Age Pension Committee.
While in Bustamante’s employ she became active in trade unionism and she travelled with him throughout the length and breadth of the country. She even acted as head of the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) while he was in prison. She also served as a treasurer and trustee of the entity. Interestingly, it is reported that she challenged the police in defence of Bustamante during the 1938 uprising, and was subsequently placed on the list for those to be sent to a detention camp.
As a women’s activist, one thing she did successfully was lobby against the law which prevented women from working when they got married.
By being supportive of Mr Bustamante in his dynamic roles, she was able to contribute to the fight for equity in the workplace, our right to vote and to our achievement of nationhood.
- Did Lady ‘B’ ever run for political office?
Oh yes, she did! She entered the ring but was unsuccessful in her attempt. Nonetheless, she was intensely involved in initiating the activities that would lead to Jamaica’s independence.
- How many children did Lady Bustamante have?
Lady Bustamante had no children, however, she did have many godchildren, 53 to be exact! They all referred to her by a special nickname, ‘godie’. She was also known for having treats/parties for children as well as the less fortunate during the holiday season.
- Has Lady Bustamante ever been recognized for her contribution to Jamaica?
Lady Bustamante has been the recipient of many awards here and internationally. These are a few:
- Order of Jamaica, 1982
- Golden Orchid Award from Venezuelan Government in recognition of dedication to Sir Alexander Bustamante’s ideals, 1979
- Gleaner Company’s Special Merit Award for Outstanding Service to the Nation, 1984
- Plaque for Outstanding Public Service to Jamaica to mark the end of the United Nations Decade of Women 1976 – 1986
- Long Service Award from Bustamante Hospital for Children for 21 years of Service
- Plaque of Recognition for Work and Dedication from Friends of the Poor Incorporated, Florida 1988
- Woman’s Inc.’s Celebration of Womanhood Award in 1988.
- Certificate of Recognition of National Day of Jamaica, 1990
- A hybrid bougainvillaea was named for her—the Lady Bustamante; it is strawberry red.
When did Lady Gladys Maud Bustamante pass on?
The woman who Sir Alexander Bustamante often credited with his success passed away on the afternoon of Saturday, July 25, 2009, at the Tony Thwaites Wing of The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI). She was 97 years old. She was interred beside her husband at the National Heroes Park.
Lady Bustamante was instrumental in the progress of Jamaica both in support of the endeavours of her husband, Sir Alexander Bustamante, as well as the contributions she made on her own.
I also recommend you read Independence In Jamaica - Events & Activities
- (2021). Retrieved 15 October 2021, from https://nlj.gov.jm/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/bn_bustamante_g_0006.pdf
- Longbridge-Bustamante, Gladys | Encyclopedia.com. (2021). Retrieved 15 October 2021, from https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/longbridge-bustamante-gladys
- The Honourable Gladys Maud Bustamante O.J., J.P. (1912- 2009). (2021). Retrieved 15 October 2021, from https://nlj.gov.jm/project/honourable-gladys-maud-bustamante-o-j-j-p-1912-2009/
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