Every year DELANCE finances a prize for a woman entrepreneur who is keeper of an artistic or technical tradition in her country. For the year 2008, DELANCE has chosen a group of women lace makers from Portugal.
When busy fingers generate prosperity...
Pico Volcano erupted, soil for agriculture was drastically reduced, and the population had to find new ways of earning a living. Many men took to whale hunting and the women found in traditional lace-making, the way to survive and succeed.
This activity was taught to a few women on the island in the early 20th century by a family, which came from the United States, known as the Lemos daughters. They taught the women on Pico Island to use a special needle and delicate cotton thread. Until then, the women had only used wool to make clothes and blankets. But from the early 20th century, all 8-10 year old girls learned to make lace.
From 1922 onwards, Rosa Garcia took the lace to sell it on the nearby island of Faial, home to the famous Peter Café where people from all over the world met and which became a selling place for the lace to be taken to Portugal, the USA and south America. Each lace-maker would specialize in a task, which meant the piece of lace would go from hand to hand till it was completed – a lovely example of community collaboration.
The work was paid according to the amount of thread used. The women on the island organized their daily household chores in order to have as much time available to make lace, even at the expense of their sleep.
This creative strategy invented by the women enabled the community’s survival. It allowed families to gain, little by little , access to medical assistance, to build houses, buy ships and finally send the children to Faial Island to study.
Today, the lace continues to provide a major portion of the family income, enabling the children and grandchildren to embark on their studies on the mainland and elsewhere.
The lace is now a certified product that is present in national and international exhibitions and museums around the world.
WWSF Women's World Summit Foundation, Geneva