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Females do best with BLP

Women are the backbone of the Barbadian society. They have always been in their roles as nurturers, homemakers, partners, entrepreneurs, and continue to be even in this age where they dominate the key professions in Barbados.

From its inception 78 years ago, the Barbados Labour Party recognised the influence of Barbadian women and encouraged them to join the organisation. No wonder the first woman to contest a seat for the House of Assembly, Muriel ‘Nellie’ Weekes, was on a BLP ticket when she took the plunge in 1944.

The first female Member of Parliament was also a BLP team member. Ermy Bourne (late Dame Ermy) took her seat as the representative for St Andrew in 1951. The first female Cabinet minister in Barbados was appointed under a BLP regime when Billie Miller (now Dame Billie Miller) and the “Great Combination” team under “Tom” Adams romped to power in 1976. Dame Billie also served as Barbados’ deputy Leader of the Opposition from 1993 to 1994, and from September 1994 to 2003, became the first to serve as deputy female Prime Minister.

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The BLP also appointed the largest number of female Cabinet ministers to sit in Government at the same time. This was throughout 1994 to 2008 when Billie Miller, Mia Mottley and Liz Thompson served. Mottley went to become Barbados’ first female Opposition leader.

These apart, women have also served in BLP administrations as chairpersons or members of statutory boards and of the party’s national and executive council.

The decision to form the Women’s League came about as increasing numbers of females were joining the party’s ranks and it was recognised it was best to have a separate entity to specifically address their concerns as well as to enlighten and empower them at that time of revolutionary transformation in Barbados under Sir Grantley Adams. In September 1958 the Women’s League to officially launched.

The league was also seen as a vibrant force to support the activities of parliamentarians, and the party generally, to assist the underprivileged in the community, as well as to educate and inform its membership through talks and seminars on the art of public speaking and canvassing.

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Much of this early work was due to the foresight and dynamism of Mrs. Laurine Payne ably supported by Mrs. Maradell Greene and Mrs. Joan Graham.

Prior to the formation of the league, members met in Passage Road, The City, at a house generously lent by Mr. Darcy Scott. The first president was Mrs. Doreen Ward (afterwards Lady Ward), the vice president was Mrs. Muriel ‘Nellie’ Weekes, the secretary was Mrs. Greene and the assistant secretary was Mrs. Payne. Mrs. Graham completed the membership of the executive committee.

Over the years, the league has become a loyal, tireless arm of the party. Every female of the BLP automatically becomes a member of the league and is entitled to participate in its programmes.

The league is maintained primarily through fundraising and subscription fees. It gives donations to such functions as senior citizens lunches at Christmas or in times of community disasters. In addition, attention is given to some of those residing in senior citizen’s and children’s homes.

During general or by-elections the women give invaluable support through canvassing, speaking on platforms and working at campaign offices.

Other presidents of the League have been Doreen Lady Ward, Maradell Greene, Beryl Dottin, Maria Craig, Milroy Reece, Dame Patricia Symmonds, Jessica Odle, Volta Lowe, Joan Williams, Betty Waithe, and Patricia Parris; vice presidents include Laurine Payne and Edna Nicholls and Mona Alleyne; secretaries Greta Greenidge, Norma Weekes, Marlene Moore, Beryl Bridgeman, Quinzel Herbert and Margaret Murphy. The treasurers have been Erlita Trotman, Ernesta Yarde and Alma Deane.