During the 1950s great strides were made by way of innovation and development in the steelpan throughout Trinidad.
The first recognised all female steelband, Girl Pat, became a turning point for the steelpan movement.
Girl Pat was founded in 1951 by Hazel Henley, a pianist and school teacher at St Crispin’s Anglican School, Woodbrook. The band was named after a yacht that was moored at Chaguaramas Bay.
At this time many of the middle classes in society began to form steelbands of their own to perform at their social events as opposed to carnival.
The members of the steelband were all Hazel’s friends and also of social standing. They were Irma Waldron, Celia Didier, Eleanor ‘Ellie’ Maria Robertson, Joyce Forde, Norma Braithwaite and Eugene Gowen.
Their panyard was at Hazel’s home, 79 Picton Street, Newtown. They rehearsed regularly and gained great popularity within the community.
Their instruments were sourced from Ellie Mannette, a renowned pan tuner and maker of the day. He gave the members lessons to get them started, and later Hazel took charge of teaching the steelband music.
The steelband progressed quickly and soon began to perform at civic functions, then a tour of Guyana. In 1955 the band went to Jamaica and some time after this tour Girl Pat was disbanded, partly due to work commitments or personal development in their personal lives.
Although short-lived Girl Pat has paved the way for women to enter the steelpan fraternity: not only as supporters, but as instrumentalists.