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The Dominica Freedom Party (DFP) remembers the late Dame Mary Eugenia Charles on what would have been her 101 birthday. She was born on May 15, 1919 in the village of Pointe Michel, daughter of John Baptiste Charles widely known as JB, self-made man, mason, landowner, businessman, exporter of local produce to Britain and the United States of America, politician and owner of the Dominica Co-operative Bank, known as the penny bank and Josephine Nee' Delauney a very practical woman who raised her well.

Miss Charles was an attorney by profession and the first Dominican born woman to become a lawyer. Apart from attending primary and secondary schools in Dominica and Grenada, she was educated at the London school of Economics and Political Science and the University of Toronto.

She entered politics in 1968 with a group of Dominicans who called themselves the "freedom fighters" to oppose the Seditious and Undesirable Publication Act referred to as "Shut your mouth Bill" proposed by the then – ruling Dominica Labour Party of Edward Oliver Leblanc. Later that year the group formed themselves into the Dominica Freedom Party and she was elected political leader. She contested unsuccessfully the Roseau North Constituency in 1970 and was appointed to serve as a nominated member of the Dominica House of Assembly. She contested successfully the Roseau Central Constituency in 1975 and won every other election thereafter until her retirement from electoral politics on June 14, 1995.

Dame Mary Eugenia Charles led the Dominica Freedom Party from 1968 to 1995 and served Dominica well as Leader of the Opposition, 1975 to 1980. When the DFP swept the polls with a landslide victory in the July 21, 1980 general elections she became Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. The party again won the general elections in 1985 and 1990 and she continued as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. The first and to date only woman Prime Minister of Dominica. She was appointed a Dame of the British Empire in 1991.

The DFP government under her leadership brought stability to the country and contributed significantly to the development of Dominica and its citizens. Just to highlight some of the areas of achievements: housing, education, healthcare, stronger economy, island-wide road rehabilitation programme, repairs, building and regular maintenance of feeder roads, proper administering of law and order, expansion with strong support services to the agriculture sector with regular inputs to farmers, markets for agricultural produce, rural electrification, construction of schools and health centres, created a positive enabling environment for investment and expansion of businesses which saw the creation of new jobs both in the private and public sectors. These development projects were, among others, successfully undertaken during the 15 years reign of the DFP government.

"MAMO", as she was affectionately known, and referred to in many circles as "The Iron Lady of the Caribbean", without a doubt did a great job as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of our beloved country, the Commonwealth of Dominica, and performed with integrity, honesty and transparency. She led her government and country with consistency.

She was taken to a hospital in Fort – de – France, Martinique for hip surgery and died from pulmonary embolism on September 6, 2005. Her funeral mass took place at the Pointe Michel Roman Catholic Church and she was laid to rest at the Pointe Michel Catholic Cemetery.

Dame Mary Eugenia Charles made us proud. Gone but not forgotten.

May her soul rest in peace.


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