100 Anniversary of the birth of Dame Eugenia Charles today

Dame Eugenia with President Ronald Reagan at the White House, announcing the Grenada invasion to the world, 25 October 1983.

Dame Mary Eugenia Charles was a Prime Minister, lawyer, politician, and journalist. She was born on May 15, 1919 at Pointe Michel village, southern Dominica. She was educated at the Convent High School, Roseau, and St. Joseph’s Convent, Grenada. She read law at University of Toronto and was called to the Bar at Inner Temple, London in 1949. She began private practice in Dominica that year.

She wrote anonymously for the Herald and later the Star newspapers. She was in the vanguard of those who founded the Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) in 1968 following demonstrations against the passing of Seditious and Undesirable Publications Act in July.

Failing to win the Roseau north seat in the general election of 1970, she entered the House of Assembly as Nominated Member that year. In the 1975 general elections she contested and won the Roseau Central seat and became Leader of Opposition.

She was a delegate at the constitutional Conference for independence at Marlborough House, London in 1977 and was an active spokesperson in the public meetings related to this. Many of the present sections of the Constitution, such as the Republic and Presidency, Single Chamber Parliament and Elections Commission are due to her interventions.

She became the first Caribbean woman Prime Minister when the DFP won the1980 general elections. Her first term was dedicated to reconstruction of housing, roads and other infrastructure destroyed by Hurricane David and in getting the business of government and foreign relations back into order.

This was made more difficult by destabilization and the attempted coups of 1981 and the court cases that followed.

Her government was re-elected in 1985 with a reduced majority and again in 1990 when the United Workers Party (UWP), formed in 1988, became the main opposition in parliament. In 1991 she was knighted as Dame of the Order of Bath by Queen Elizabeth II at Harare, Zimbabwe, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference.

She retired from the House of Assembly and as Prime Minister in 1995. Dame Eugenia was best known outside of Dominica for her anti-communism during the last years of the Cold War in the Caribbean and, as Chairman of the OECS, for leading the invitation to the United States government under President Ronald Reagan to invade Grenada in October 1983 to restore democratic parliamentary government after the assassination of Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. In her last years she suffered from dementia and was flown to Martinique for medical treatment after a fall, where she died in hospital on 6th September, 2005 at 86 years of age.

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  1. Ibo France
    May 17, 2019

    DNO, why did you choose to juxtapose these two photos? Ronald Reagan was a devout racist as California’s governor and as President of the US. I, personally, do not hold Eugenia Charles in high esteem. She once declared that a bad election is better than no election about general elections in a neighboring Caribbean country.. Shows how shallow she was. She did nothing really transformative for her own country.

  2. Big Bannan
    May 16, 2019

    Probably the most plausible Dominican leader by far. A true legend. I grew up with parents who didn’t like her but i’m old enough now to realize my folks were dumb as a brick.

  3. Pablov
    May 16, 2019

    With all due respect, not a very smart woman. She was quite naive. It’s no wonder D’ca remained very poor during her reign.

  4. May 16, 2019

    It is so dumb ..she would have turned 100…Well she is dead..That’s what GOD allotted to her 86.. it’s all over.. her birth days ending 86..It is so stupid,,she would have turned 100..And she did not..
    Look at the living..I hope you’ll are enjoying yours for it will soon be over and you fly away…

  5. Sybil nowell
    May 16, 2019

    Should not be honoured she sold the caribbean,just like Patrick John sold Dominica. She lacked unity.
    But still may she continue to rest in perfect peace.

  6. Sybil nowell
    May 16, 2019

    Ms Charles should not be honoured in any way, she is as bad as Patrick John. She sold the caribbean to the devil.
    In terms of a human being she lacked unity.

  7. Dominica
    May 15, 2019

    Indeed a woman of great admiration. The Dame was not perfect, but when it came to accountability, honesty and integrity no one can stand in her shoes compared to what we have today. After one time is really another!

  8. Without Animosity
    May 15, 2019

    Happy Birthday Mamo. May your spirit of integrity in guarding the public purse be a salutary lesson to those who now lead and to those who shall come into public office in the future. We shall remember you.

    • May 16, 2019

      A blind rat could guard the public purse in mamo days as the public purse was empty. Mamo never took advantage of her connections with Reagan and Thatcher to get any meaningful assistance for Dominica as a leader she was a failure.

  9. Not Me Alone
    May 15, 2019

    I was a freedomite until 2000 when I became a friend of my foe, the DLP just to vote UWP out. I did so because Mamo told us to “get them out at any cost”and I was so stupid to listen to her and vote them out. By listening to her see where we found ourselves in with ROSIE, Pierro, MAMO and Charles Maynard all gone and left our country in disarray. I know my fellow freedomites will not be happy to hear that from me but they should know that I speak the truth no matter who gets hurt. While Mamo was seen as a powerful leader but she destroyed her legacy. I blame her for causing UWP to win in 2000 because we had a brilliant Bryan Allen we embraced but she wanted Cabon and that hurt us. I hold her responsible for causing UWP to be voted out although they never strayed too far from what they met by the DFP, like the American Eagles, flying to DA and many more DFP projects. I hold her responsible for where we are today and to me, she destroyed her good legacy her last 3 yrs.

    • May 16, 2019

      Dominica is not in disarray, it is in much better shape than when Mamo or Edison was there. The disarrangement is in your mind not in reality.

  10. common man
    May 15, 2019

    She was the chief manufacturer of the waste we have had since 2000. At all cost!

  11. time has told
    May 15, 2019

    do your research about the Reagan Era and the US’s war on drugs in the 80’s. The US was importing drugs into America and other countries in the region. The Caribbean was plunged into the War on Drugs by the same monster that provided crack and cocaine to the Caribbean and the US.

    Yes Reagan and Mamo were good buddies, but i do not think Mamo knew or understood what the US government were doing. Just ask Oliver North and the contras what went on. I was alive in those times. I remember my parents intently looking at his trials on CNN but not understanding what it was really all about. Now after reading and looking at documentaries, i do.

    Ronald Regan and his wife are responsible for the crack/cocaine epidemic that began in the 80’s and is still prevelant today. Unfortunately, Mamo that was your friend.

    Thank god, or maybe not even thank God, because the people rose up against the Grenadian Government for a reason, but Reagan came through when Grenada was popping off. Mamo…

    • out of south city
      May 15, 2019

      some people may not like your comment but that’s the truth.

    • Nrt
      May 16, 2019

      True statements. Simple research reveals the racial component of their crooked war on drugs. Sad, very sad.

  12. Asaka
    May 15, 2019

    Happy Birthday to the Iron Lady – my inspirator – from young she let me know that as a woman everything I wanted in life was possible. I pursued further education and am working on my Doctorate currently. When I speak of Dominica, I speak of the examples of strong females that I had in my life growing up including our Prime Minister Mary Eugenia Charles. Excellent article and pictures – thank you for sharing DNO.

  13. jamie
    May 15, 2019

    Greatest woman ever,loved her and to this day,not the waste we have as a leader today,may your soul rest in peace Mamo.

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