Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Una Marson was one of Jamacia's most influential feminist thinkers. She was a poet, playwright, editor, activist and broadcaster.
On the 10th October 2021, Google Doodle, illustrated by UK-based guest artist Sarah Madden, celebrates one of Jamaica’s most influential feminist thinkers—the writer, advocate, and broadcaster Una Marson. Marson was the first Black woman to be employed as a radio producer at the BBC, where she recorded several significant interviews including one with swing band icon Ken “Snakehips” Johnson, which took place on this day in 1940.
Una Marson was born on February 6, 1905, in Santa Cruz, Jamaica. Marson became Jamaica’s first woman magazine publisher and editor in 1928 when she established “The Cosmopolitan”—a publication focused on gender issues and social injustice. The inspiration she drew from London’s political and literary climate led her to move to the city in 1933. Shocked by the racism she encountered, she started fighting for equal rights alongside fellow Caribbean immigrant Dr. Harold Moody, the founder of civil rights group The League of Coloured Peoples.
Marson returned home in 1936 to cultivate a new generation of Jamaican writers. While writing her own poetry and plays—which she often self-financed—she founded Jamaica’s Save the Children Fund. After relocating again to England in 1938, she took a position at the BBC, where she worked with George Orwell, read her poetry alongside T.S. Eliot, and produced the popular weekly program “Calling the West Indies.” First broadcast in 1943, it featured poems and short stories by Caribbean authors, giving an international platform and voice to writers such as Samuel Selvon. It also publicized both a woman's perspective to the largely male-dominated Black Internationalist Movement and a culturally relevant voice to Britain's growing Caribbean community.
Marson’s literary contributions are not widely known, and even less is known of her later life. However, it was her writing and poetry that influenced the broadcasting she is best known for, and has broadened her legacy for future generations to discover. In 2009, her achievements were celebrated with an installation of a Blue Plaque—which honors individuals who have had great impacts on their community and beyond—at her former home in London’s Brunswick Park.
Here’s to a cultural groundbreaker—thank you Una Marson!