21 December: Remembering Connie Mark on her Birthday
Connie Mark (21 December 1923 – 3 June 2007) was a Jamaican-born community organizer and activist. During World War II, she served as a medical secretary in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In the early 1950s, she became an activist for West Indians in London after being denied the British Empire Medal. She helped Black servicemen who were overlooked for their services and co-founded the Mary Seacole Memorial Association to recognize the nurse’s accomplishments.
Life and Career
In 1923, Connie Mark was born Constance Winifred McDonald in Kingston, Jamaica. While her family tree included ancestors from Scotland, Calcutta, and Lebanon, Mark also had roots in Africa and grew up speaking Jamaican Patois (also known as Jamaican Creole) with roots in the Ghanaian language Twi.
As a young man of 19, Mark was recruited by the British Military Hospital of Kingston to work as a medical secretary, typing reports of battle injuries. Despite being promoted twice during her ten-year tenure, Mark was not granted the usual pay increase for unknown reasons. Therefore, she became an unwavering advocate for fair pay and continued to advocate for proper recognition of Caribbean servicewomen throughout her life.
When Mark settled in Britain in the 1950s, he became even more passionate about Caribbean culture and became involved in a number of charitable and educational endeavors. In order to inspire pride in the youth of Caribbean and African descent, she organized community events and used oral history and poetry.
At the age of 68, Mark received the British Empire Medal, and two years later was given a Member of the British Empire (MBE) award in recognition of a lifetime of public service.
Legacy of Connie Mark
Her contributions to society at large have left a remarkable imprint. Posthumously, a blue plaque, using the traditional spelling MacDonald of her forebear’s name, was installed in her honour by the Nubian Jak Community Trust at Mary Seacole House in Hammersmith, the former home of Mark.
In 2018, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote, The Voice newspaper listed Connie Mark. She was also named by the Evening Standard on a list of 14 “Inspirational black British women throughout history”
Additionally, on 21 December 2018, Google doodle celebrated Connie Mark’s 95th birthday.
Death & immortality
Connie Mark died on 3 June 2007 at Charing Cross Hospital, following a stroke. Her funeral service was held on 22 June at St. Luke’s Church in West London.