Phyllis Shand Allfrey

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Phyllis Shand Allfrey

Phyllis Byam Shand Allfrey (24 October 1908 – February 4, 1986) was a West Indian writer, socialist activist, newspaper editor and politician of the island of Dominica in the Caribbean. She is best known for her first novel, The Orchid House (1953), based on her own early life, which in 1991 was turned into a Channel 4 television miniseries in the United Kingdom.[citation needed]

Early life and family background[edit]

Born in Roseau, Dominica, West Indies, in 1908, she was the daughter of Francis Byam Berkeley Shand and Elfreda (née Nicholls), and was baptized Phyllis Byam.[1] Her father's settler family was long established in Roseau. With roots in the West Indies going back to the 17th century, Phyllis later described herself as "a West Indian of over 300 years' standing, despite my pale face."[2]

Her earliest ancestor in the West Indies was Lieutenant General William Byam, a Royalist officer who in 1644 defended Bridgwater against a parliamentary force. Imprisoned in the Tower of London, he was permitted to migrate to the West Indies. After the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660, he was granted estates in Antigua.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Phyllis Shand married Robert Allfrey, an Englishman, and they had five children, including their adopted sons, Robbie and David, from a Carib reservation. Their daughter Phina was killed in a motor accident in Botswana.[citation needed]

In politics, Allfrey founded the Dominica Labour Party. On the formation of the West Indies Federation, this was affiliated to the West Indies Federal Labour Party, and in 1958 she was elected to the new West Indies legislature, representing Dominica. Within weeks she was serving in the government of Sir Grantley Adams as Minister of Labour and Social Affairs and was the only woman minister of the new Federation.[citation needed]

She edited the Dominica Herald and also published and wrote for another newspaper, The Dominica Star, which was in being between 1965 and 1982.[4]


Allfrey died in Dominica in 1986, aged 77.[1] A posthumous collection of her short stories, It Falls Into Place, was published in 2004.[5] She left behind an unpublished novel, In the Cabinet.[6] A collection of her poems, Love for an Island: the Collected Poems of Phyllis Shand Allfrey, was published in 2014 [7]


  • In Circles (poems, 1940)
  • Palm and Oak (poems, 1950)
  • The Orchid House (1953)[8]
  • "It Falls into Place (2004) [9]
  • "Love for an Island: the Collected Poems of Phyllis Shand Allfrey [10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Anne Commire, Deborah Klezmer, Women in world history: a biographical encyclopedia vol. 1 (1999), p. 236
  2. ^ Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, Phyllis Shand Allfrey: a Caribbean Life (Rutgers University Press, 1996), p. 6
  3. ^ Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, Introduction to Phyllis Shand Allfrey, The Orchid House (1996 edition), p, vi
  4. ^ Profile,; accessed 18 November 2014.
  5. ^ It Falls Into Place (Papillote Press, 2004, ISBN 0-9532224-1-1)
  6. ^ Selwyn Reginald Cudjoe, Caribbean women writers: essays from the first international conference, p. 120
  7. ^ "Love for an Island" (Papillote Press, 2014; ISBN 978-0-9571187-5-1)
  8. ^ 1st ed. by Constable, 1953; new edition by Virago, 1982
  9. ^ Papillote Press, 2004
  10. ^ Papillote Press, 2014

External links[edit]