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Ruth Nita Barrow (1916-1995)

Ruth Nita Barrow on 1991 Barbados stamp

Nita Barrow was a leading Caribbean nurse and social justice advocate whose work was influential throughout the Caribbean and internationally. She graduated from the Barbados General Hospital and then the Midwifery School in Port of Spain, Trinidad. She studied next at the University of Toronto, then the University of Edinburgh (in both of which she earned diplomas). She obtained her BSc in nursing in 1955 from Columbia University.

In 1956 she returned to the Caribbean to become principal nursing officer for Jamaica, in which post she influenced nursing education in six Caribbean countries and the West Indies School of Public Health. She was the first matron of the University College Hospital in Jamaica, the first president of the Jamaica Nurses Association, the first nurse appointed for the Caribbean by the World Health Organization and the first woman to head the Medical Commission of the World Council of Churches. She was nursing advisor to the Pan American Health Organization. She served in Canada as a member of a Primary Health Care team organized by six universities. She helped organized the Non-governmental Organization Forum for the United Nations' Women's Decade, prior to its meetings in Nairobi in 1985. She was the only woman of the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons to visit South Africa to assist in the ending of apartheid.

Barrow as well held high office in a number of voluntary organizations, notably the YWCA, the World Council of Churches and the International Council of Adult Education. She came from a politically active, progressive family; her father was an Anglican priest, her younger brother the founder of the Democratic League and prime minister of Barbados.

As a nurse Barrow was a strong advocate for people (especially women) controlling their own health care. She took part in the World Health Organization's Technical Discussion at the World Health Assembly in 1988. She was made a FRAN in England and received many honorary doctorates. She was made Dame of of the Order of St Andrew.

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