Friday, October 17, 2014
The Honourable Dame Eugenia Charles
Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, DBE was Prime Minister of Dominica from 21 July 1980 until 14 June 1995. She was Dominica's first, and to date only, female prime minister, as well as the nation's longest-serving prime minister. She was the second female prime minister in the Caribbean after Lucinda da Costa of the Netherlands Antilles, and the first woman elected in her own right as head of government in the Americas. She was the world's third longest-serving female Prime Minister, behind Indira Gandhi of India and Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, and the world's longest continuously serving female Prime Minister ever. She worked for many years as assistant to Alastair Forbes. She attended university in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, before moving to the United Kingdom to attend the London School of Economics. She was a member of the sorority Sigma Gamma Rho. She passed the bar and returned to Dominica, where she became the island's first female lawyer, establishing a practice specializing in property law. In 1991 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She helped to found the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), and was its leader from the early 1970s until 1995. She was elected to the House of Assembly in 1970 and became Opposition Leader in 1975. She continued serving after Dominica gained full independence from British rule in 1978. Charles became Prime Minister when the DFP swept the 1980 elections, the party's first electoral victory. In 1981, a group of Canadian and American mercenaries, mostly affiliated with white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan groups, planned a coup to restore former Prime Minister Patrick John to power. The attempt, which the conspirators codenamed Operation Red Dog, was thwarted by American federal agents in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was soon facetiously dubbed the "Bayou of Pigs" after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion.