Elean Thomas

Elean Thomas (18 September 1947 – 27 May 2004)[1] was a Jamaican poet, novelist, journalist and activist. She was active in the struggle for women's rights in the Caribbean and the movement for Jamaican national independence, as well as working in Latin America, Eastern and Western Europe and Africa.[2] She was married (1988–97) to human rights barrister Anthony Gifford.

Elean Thomas
Elean Roslyn Thomas

(1947-09-18)18 September 1947
Died27 May 2004(2004-05-27) (aged 56)
Kingston, Jamaica
OccupationPoet, novelist, journalist, activist
Notable work
The Last Room (1991)
Spouse(s)Anthony Gifford, 1988–97 (div.)
AwardsRuth Hadden Memorial Award


Elean Roslyn Thomas was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, to a health-worker mother and a father (Rt. Rev. David Thomas) who was a Pentecostal bishop.

She attended the University of the West Indies (UWI) in the late 1960s, reading politics and history, and did postgraduate work in communications at Goldsmiths College, London University.

In the 1970s she was employed as a reporter by the Jamaica Gleaner, and was head of the editorial department of the Jamaica Information Service, as well as working with other small publications.[3] She also served on the executive of the Press Association of Jamaica.[1] In 1976, she was a founding member in Jamaica of the Committee of Women for Progress, championing such issues as maternity leave and equal pay.[3] She also taught history and English in Jamaica, and co-founded the National Union of Democratic Teachers.[4]

Alongside Trevor Munroe and others, she was a founder-member of the Workers Party of Jamaica (WPJ) and, as its international secretary, served on the editorial board of World Marxist Review, which was based in Prague, Czechoslovakia; as a consequence she travelled throughout Europe, while also building strong connections in South Africa.[1]

In Jamaica she campaigned against the 1983 US invasion of Grenada, and in 1984 invited English barrister Anthony Gifford to speak to a human rights committee she set up. They married in 1988, subsequently divorcing in 1997.[citation needed]

Although categorised as a poet, she herself said: "I call my pieces Word-Rhythms. I honestly believe it is pretentious to call them poems. They are merely word-sketches, word-photographs, word-drawings, word-paintings, word-beats."[5] Her first collection, Word Rhythms From The Life Of A Woman (1986), was published in 1986 by Karia Press. In 1988 Karia also published her second collection, Before They Can Speak Of Flowers: Word Rhythms, which had a foreword by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and an introduction by Benjamin Zephaniah.[6]

Her novel, The Last Room, was published by Virago Press in 1991, winning the Ruth Hadden Memorial Award for best first novel published in Britain. Elean Thomas's work is anthologised in Daughters of Africa by Margaret Busby.[2]

Elean Thomas died aged 56 at the Hope Institute in Kingston, Jamaica, on 27 May 2004, after suffering from cancer.[1][3]


  • Word Rhythms from the Life of a Woman, London: Karia Press, 1986. ISBN 978-0946918409
  • Before They Can Speak Of Flowers: Word Rhythms, London: Karia Press, 1988. ISBN 978-0946918928
  • The Last Room (novel), London: Virago, 1991. ISBN 978-1853813214


  1. ^ a b c d Buzz Johnson, "Elean Thomas: Writer with a message of human rights", The Guardian, 31 July 2004.
  2. ^ a b Margaret Busby (ed.), Daughters of Africa: An Anthology of Words and Writings by Women of African Descent, London: Vintage, 1992, pp. 732–39.
  3. ^ a b c Taneisha Davidson, "Journalist Elean Thomas is dead" Archived 5 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Jamaica Gleaner, 29 May 2004.
  4. ^ Carolyn Cooper, "Thomas, Elean (1947–)", in Eugene Benson and L. W. Conolly (eds), Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English, Routledge, 2005 (2nd edition).
  5. ^ "Elean Thomas Biography", jrank.org.
  6. ^ "Before They Can Speak Of Flowers" at WorldCat.

Further readingEdit