Eugenia Charles (1919-2005) was the Prime Minister of Dominica from 1980 to 1995. She was Dominica’s first and only female prime minister, and Dominica’s longest-serving prime minister.
She became interested in law while working at the colonial magistrate’s court. After studying law at the University College of the University of Toronto and the London School of Economics and Political Science, she passed the bar and returned to Dominica, to become the island’s first female lawyer in 1949.
In the 1960’s, Eugenia began campaigning against restrictions on press freedom. She helped to found the Dominica Freedom Party in 1978, and was its leader from the early 1970s until 1995, helping Dominica to gain independence from Great Britain in 1978.
In 1980, Eugenia became the Prime Minister of Dominica. The Dominica Freedom Party swept the 1980 elections in their first electoral victory.
She immediately began programs of economic reform, and measures to end corruption. For her uncompromising stance on this and other issues, she became known as the “Iron Lady of the Caribbean”. She was also considered to be a brilliant lawyer and politician, and was determined to preserve the island’s ecology and national identity.
After her retirement in 1995, she took on speaking engagements around the world, and became involved in former US President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center, which promotes human rights and observes elections.
Image of Eugenia Charles courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
KeriLynn Engel is an autodidact and women’s history buff who founded Amazing Women in History in 2011.