Updated: Mar 25, 2021
Each year, the 8th of March marks International Women’s Day, a celebration of the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women from all over the globe. Samoa is no exception and from world renowned chefs, legendary hoteliers and trailblazing professors to local political leaders, the Treasured Islands of the South Pacific are not short of great female role models.
Born in 1897, Aggie Grey was a pioneer at a difficult time for women in business. She made her name through her hotel located in the centre of Apia: The Aggie Grey’s Hotel and Bungalows. Built in 1933, this elegant building was deemed the only accommodation option suitable to host the cast and crew of Return to Paradise, a classic Hollywood movie filmed in Samoa in 1953, featuring silver screen icon Marlon Brando.
Thanks to her drive, determination and connections to Hollywood royalty, Aggie really contributed to the start of modern tourism on the island of Upolu by playing host to a myriad of A-list celebrities including actors Gary Cooper, Robert Morley and Dorothy Lamour. Her name is still around today. Her beloved hotel still stands proud in the capital city and she is also believed to be the inspiration behind the character of Bloody Mary in Tales of the South Pacific, a book published in 1947 and later adapted into the Broadway's musical blockbuster South Pacific. Her legacy also includes the Grey Investment Group, a private Samoan tourism company still operating today with assets throughout the Pacific.
Masterchef judge and renowned chef trained under Michel Roux Jr, Monica Galetti was also born in Samoa. She fondly recalled her childhood during a recent interview on BBC’s Desert Island Discs, calling it “paradise with beautiful clear waters” adding that Samoans are “some of the friendliest of people you will come across.” From mango picking and collecting eggs on her family’s plantation, Monica has certainly come a long way. As chef proprietor at the Mere restaurant in London, she is also juggling being a mother and a successful TV presenter.
Samoan culture has always promoted women’s empowerment. At the very heart of its society, the Matai - or village chief – system is open to both men and women. This key role within the community involves decision-making in fonos (village councils) but it is also a stepping stone towards roles in the Samoan Government as only registered Matais can enter parliament. In 2018, The ‘Women in Leadership in Samoa’ (WILS) Project was funded and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Government of Samoa. This programme aims to grow the leadership skills of young female Matais and has so far helped around 100 women from 50 villages across the islands.
For more information please contact:
Samoa Tourism Authority
Tel: +44 208 877 4512
Notes to editors:
Samoa: The Treasured Islands of the South Pacific
The islands of Samoa - The Treasured Islands of the South Pacific - are the true heart of Polynesia. Ten islands of stunning wild beauty, Samoa - or Independent Samoa as it is now known so as to avoid confusion with American Samoa, is paradise waiting to be explored. From powder soft beaches, to warm tropical seas, colourful coral reefs alive with marine life. The rugged, lush interiors reveal endless wildlife, waterfalls and hiking trails.
Images available upon request.