Mary Eugenia Charles

(1919—2005) prime minister of Dominica

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(b. Pointe Michel, Dominica, 15 May 1919; d. Fort-de-France, Martinique, 6 Sept. 2005) Dominican; Prime Minister 1980 –95 Educated in Canada and Britain, Eugenia Charles practised law in Dominica between 1949 and 1970 and in 1968 founded the conservative Dominica Freedom Party (DFP). She was elected to parliament in 1975 and five years later led the DFP to electoral victory over the discredited Dominica Labour Party (DLP), hence making her the first woman Prime Minister in the Caribbean.

Surviving a series of plots and even an attempted coup, Charles became established as one of the Caribbean's most robust defenders of conservative values. She was the foremost regional supporter of the 1983 US invasion of Grenada and was at President Reagan's side when he announced the invasion to the world. She was also an enthusiastic proponent of privatization and structural adjustment, frequently confronting Dominica's trade unions. Dubbed the Caribbean's ‘Iron Lady’, she was instrumental, together with Jamaica's Edward Seaga, in setting up the Caribbean Democratic Union of right-wing parties in 1986.

Eugenia Charles won a further overwhelming election victory in 1985 and was narrowly re-elected in 1990. Having announced that she would retire at the time of the 1995 elections, she handed over leadership of the DFP to Bruce Alleyne in 1993. With the DFP losing the elections, Charles duly retired, claiming that her fifteen years in office had amounted to a ‘thankless task’, and returned to her law practice. She became a Dame of the British Empire in 1991.

From A Dictionary of Political Biography in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Politics.

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