19, July, 2024

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Thelma Vaughan: Stepping in Front

Thelma Vaughan was the wife of Hilton Vaughan, a distinguished person who was a former Minister of Government without portfolio, as well as Attorney General and Editor of the Barbados Reporter (a local newspaper).

Thelma Vaughn distinguished herself and carved a niche for herself beyond the shadow of her politically illustrious husband. After leaving school, Vaughan commenced her teaching career at St. Paul’s Girl’s school. She soon resigned from the profession and shortly after joined the Barbados Welfare Limited. In 1944, she went to Jamaica where she became involved in the second social welfare course organized by Professor T.S. Simey who at that time was Social Welfare Officer of the Colonial Development and Welfare Organization.

Upon her return to the island, Vaughan worked mainly in the parish of St. Andrew but gave her time freely to similar welfare committees in other parishes throughout the island with special emphasis for day care services for children. In 1946, just two years after leaving the teaching profession she was awarded a Scholarship to the London School of Economics (LSE) where she obtained the Diploma in Social Science. She returned to the island in 1948 and one year later was appointed to the post of District Officer when the social welfare department was created.

Hers was a rapid rise given the relative lack of mobility for women during the period. After acting in the post of District Officer for a mere nine month she was promoted to Senior District Welfare Officer following the departure of Ms Betty Arne in 1950. After a decade, her appointment was finally confirmed effective September 25th 1960. After a storied and successful career in education and later, the social services, Vaughn died on March 10th 1966. The Thelma Vaughan Memorial Home, established in 1971 with Violet Baird as its first Matron which is situated at the Glebe in St. George is named in her honor. Today the home caters to children and adults with both physical and development challenges ranging from age 3- 18. In addition to being the wife of Hilton Vaughan she was also the sister of the late Daphne Joseph Hackett.

The Thelma Vaughan Memorial is a lasting testament to the legacy of Thelma Vaughan.

Credit: Sylyan Spooner, The University of the West Indies.

The Thelma Vaughan Memorial Home is an associate member of the Barbados Council for the disabled.

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