Dame Ruth Nita Barrow

Public Health Nurse, Diplomat, and General-Governor of Barbados

Ruth Nita Barrow was born in Barbados to Reverend Reginald Grant Barrow and Ruth Alberta Barrow in 1916. Barrow grew up in a family of activist and politically active individuals. She attended St. Michael’s Girls’ School and later enrolled as a nursing student at Barbados General Hospital. she went on to complete midwifery training at Port of Spain General Hospital in Trinidad and Tobago. She went on to complete a fellowship at the University of Toronto in 1941. This fellowship included travel to Jamaica where she served as an assistant instructor at the West Indies School of Public Health(1934–50). During her time there she became President of the Nurses Association of Jamaica and was elected to the executive committee of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) World Council. She continued to specialize in nursing and attended graduate school at Columbia University in New York (1962–63)and University of Edinburgh, Scotland (1951–52).

Photo Source from Caribbean Elections

Barrow expanded her influence throughout the West Indies as director of a research project in nursing which resulted in the Advanced Studies in Nursing at the University of the West Indies. Her international reach and influence easily recognized in the various leadership positions she held to advance the treatment of all people. In 1964, she served as Nursing Advisor for the Pan American Health Organization. She was World President of the YWCA (1975–83) and president of the International Council of Adult Education (1982–90). Most significantly, she was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II, Governor General of Barbados in 1990.

Nita Barrow and Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons. Photo sourced from Barbados Underground

Barrows was the only woman to serve on the eight member Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group which worked to dismantle apartheid. During a visit to South Africa in 1986, she went into a restricted town by disguising herself in African garb and head-dress. while there she was able to have open conversation with the residents and their living conditions.

Barrow received various accolades acknowledging her contributions. These awards included the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Women’s Award in 1987 and the Christiane Reimann Award from the International Council of Nurses. Barrows contributions and efforts to influence education, gender relations, and healthcare provide only a glimpse of her dedication to shine light on the Caribbean nations as a leading force. Her experiences as a nurse and public health advocate shaped many of her diplomatic involvements in international organizations like the World Health Organization, YWCA, and CARICOM. Barrow passed in her hometown of Barbados in 1995.


The information above was sourced from UNESCO Memory of the World Register, Barbados Underground, Caribbean Elections, The Independent

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