Louise ‘Miss Lou’ Bennett was born in Kingston on September 7, 1919. Growing up, she always had an irrepressible sense of humour and a flair for dramatics. Over the years, she grew to become one of the island’s most beloved icons, proudly elevating the Jamaican dialect from something to be ashamed of to something to be highlighted and celebrated.
- The young Louise wrote her first dialect poem at the age of 14. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, she was regarded as an embarrassment. Speaking dialect was felt to be socially unacceptable and only the poor and illiterate spoke patois. The British (Oxford) accent was regarded as the epitome of cultured speech.
- She made her first major public appearance on Christmas morning of 1936, when she performed at the annual concert at the Coke Methodist Church. The then 17-year-old recited a poem she had written in Jamaican dialect and received a prize of one guinea ($2.10) from MC Eric Coverley, who would later become her husband.
- Miss Lou had a regular Sunday column in The Gleaner, for which she was paid 10 shillings and six pence ($1.05). The column came about after managing director Michael deCordova heard her at the party and asked her to submit poems for publication, even though the paper had refused to publish her work on previous occasions.
- Miss Lou was the recipient of a number of significant national, regional and international honours and awards. These include the Silver (1965) and Gold (1979) Musgrave Medals; the Order of Jamaica (1974) and the Centenary medal of the Institute of Jamaica (1980). Miss Lou was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) for work in Jamaican literature and theatre in 1960 and in March 1988, she was honoured at the Second Annual Caribbean American Awards of Excellence in Miami. On Independence Day 2001, she was appointed as a member of the Order of Merit.
- A multi-talented performer, Miss Lou’s catalogue of work includes books: Humorous Verses in Jamaica Dialect (1942), Jamaican Verses and Folk Stories, Laugh with Louise (1962), Jamaica Labrish (1966), Anancy and Miss Lou (1979); records: Jamaica Folksongs, Folkways (1953), Jamaica Singing Games (1953), Miss Lou’s Views (1967), Listen to Louise (1968), Carifesta Ring Ding (1976), Miss Lou Live London (1983) and more.