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"Miss Lou" Jamaica's First Lady of Comedy (1919-2006)
The Hon. Louise Bennett-Coverley, O.M., O.J., M.B.E. DIP R.A.D.A, D. LIT (Hon)
Louise Bennett was born on September 7, 1919. She was a Jamaican poet and activist. Born in Kingston, Louise Bennett remains a household name in Jamaica, a legend and a cultural icon. She received her education from Ebenezer and Calabar Elementary Schools, St. Simon’s College, Excelsior College, Friends College (Highgate).
She was described as Jamaica's leading comedienne, as the "only poet who really hit the truth about her society through its own language", and as an important contributor to her country of "valid social documents reflecting the way Jamaicans think and feel and live” Through her poems in Jamaican patois, she raised the dialect of the Jamaican folk to an art level which is acceptable to and appreciated by all in Jamaica.
In her poems she was able to capture all the spontaneity of the expression of Jamaicans' joys and sorrows, their ready, poignant and even wicked wit, their religion and their philosophy of life. Her first dialect poem was written when she was fourteen years old. A British Council Scholarship took her to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she studied in the late 1940’s. After graduation she worked with repertory companies in Coventry, Huddersfield and Amersham as well as in intimate revues all over England.
On her return to Jamaica she taught drama to youth and adult groups both in social welfare agencies and for the University of the West Indies Extra Mural Department.
She lectured extensively in the United States and the United Kingdom on Jamaican folklore and music and represented Jamaica all over the world. She married Eric Winston Coverley in 1954 (who died in 2002) and had one stepson and several adopted children.
Her contribution to Jamaican cultural life was such that she was honored with the M.B.E., the Norman Manley Award for Excellence (in the field of Arts), the Order of Jamaica (1974) the Institute of Jamaica's Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture, and in 1983 the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies. In September 1988 her composition "You're going home now", won a nomination from the Academy of Canadian Cinema ad Television, for the best original song in the movie "Milk and Honey."
In 1998 she received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from York University, Toronto, Canada. The Jamaica Government also appointed her Cultural Ambassador at Large for Jamaica. On Jamaica’s independence day 2001, Bennett-Coverley was appointed as a Member of the Order of Merit for her distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture.