Consumer rights activist Eileen Cox passes on

Consumer rights activist and former Stabroek News columnist Eileen Cox passed away yesterday at the age of 96.

Cox was born in 1918 and passed away peacefully in her sleep, her daughter Sharon Westmaas told Stabroek News.

According to Westmaas, her mother was a well-known figure in Guyana and notably formed the Guyana Consumers Association and later became a columnist with this newspaper, writing under the rubric ‘Consumers Concerns’ for several years.

Cox had also worked in a number of other countries including England and Trinidad and Tobago, but Guyana had always been her true love and she was bent on bettering the lives of all Guyanese.

Even as a schoolgirl, Cox had been intent on studying and working in Guyana, and as an adult, she spent about thirty years as Editor of Hansard in the Parliament Office.

Eileen Cox
Eileen Cox

Westmaas described her mother’s greatest achievement as her consumer activism, to which she dedicated the largest part of her life.

“If you say her name, everybody knows her,” Westmaas said; “she’s like an icon in Guyana; she’s done so much, especially for the poor, for women…she was always for the fight of the underdogs.”

Westmaas went on to say, “She made sure people knew what they were buying, the quality they got, that prices stayed realistic…that people didn’t get ripped off.”

Along with her numerous professional accomplishments, Cox was also lauded as a wonderful and inspirational mother. “She wasn’t the type of motherly mother that was typical of her generation; she was always a working mother but she was always there for me and helped me to find my way. She was a wonderful mother and she was an example to me that I could always be different; I didn’t have to be the same and she allowed me to be different and experiment and take risks. It caused me to be independent now as an older woman,” 63-year-old Westmaas said.

Westmaas has two children, she said – a son and a daughter – who were also inspired by Cox and loved their grandmother dearly.

According to Westmaas, her mother had married very late in life and divorced not long after. Cox was a single mother of three-year-old Westmaas at the time, which was especially unusual in those days.

“At the time she got married she had her own home and her husband came to live with her, and when they divorced he had to move out,” Westmaas said with a laugh.

Despite the challenges, Cox nonetheless thrived, Westmaas said. Cox was the breadwinner for others including her mother and daughter.

“She was supporting everyone really, and she still sent me to the best school she could. For her, education was the most important thing so she made sure I got the best education,” Westmaas said. She added that her mother never remarried and instead focused on her only child.

Westmaas went on to describe how her mother’s life was like a beacon to others and was an example of how one ought to live his or her life.

“I think if we cared for each other like my mother did…we’d have a much better society and Guyana, and I hope people remember her with great love because she loved Guyana and the Guyanese people; I hope they have gratitude for that,” said Westmaas.

“Nobody’s looking after consumer education anymore,” she went on, “and I hope somebody steps forward now that she’s gone because it’s something we need in Guyana. I’m sure if she had been active today we would have heard her voice speaking out very loudly about some of the practices we have in Guyana today.”

As time progressed, Cox became weaker with age but her mind never faltered, her daughter said. On Thursday, she went into a coma but hours before that she had been engaging in her daily habit of reading the Stabroek News.

She passed yesterday surrounded in her home by loved ones. She had not regained consciousness.

“I hope that she will be remembered with much love from all Guyanese and [they] will take her as a good example of what a Guyanese should be: hardworking, good company, and honest – absolutely honest to a tee. Honest and generous, that’s my mother and you couldn’t find a better person,” Westmaas said.

Cox is survived by her daughter and two grandchildren.

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