Janet Jagan: The First Woman President of Guyana
Janet Rosenberg Jagan (October 20, 1920 – March 28, 2009) was a Jewish-Guyanese public figure, politician, and journalist who served as the President and Prime Minister of Guyana. She was the first "White" woman to become the President of Guyana and the first woman to be elected as a president in South America.
Janet Jagan was born in Chicago to the Rosenberg family, a Jewish family of modest means. While working as a nurse in a Chicago hospital, she met Cheddi Jagan, a Guyanese dental student at Northwestern University who later became a prominent public figure in Guyana, including serving as the President of the country.
Janet and Cheddi Jagan married in 1943, and in the same year, they moved to Guyana, which was then under British colonial rule.
In 1950, the couple co-founded the People's Progressive Party (PPP) in Guyana. Janet Jagan served as the secretary of the party for the next 20 years.
In 1950, Janet Jagan was elected to the Georgetown City Council, and in 1953, she was elected to the House of Assembly, where she served as the Deputy Speaker. Despite their party's victory in the elections and the formation of a government, the Jagans were imprisoned by the British colonial authorities. In the subsequent elections in 1957, Janet Jagan was re-elected to the Parliament and held various ministerial positions from 1957 to 1964.
Janet Jagan edited her party's newspaper, "Mirror," from 1973 to 1997 and supported a strong Marxist line. She served as a parliamentarian for the longest period in Guyana's history, a total of 46 years.
Her party remained in opposition from 1964 to 1992, and in that year, her husband was elected President of the country. She served as her country's Ambassador to the United Nations for three months in 1993.
In March 1997, after her husband's death, she was elected as the Prime Minister of Guyana. Later that same year, she was elected as the President of the country, a position she held until her retirement due to health reasons in August 1999.
Janet Jagan remained involved in her party's politics until shortly before her death on March 28, 2009. Her life and career left a lasting impact on the political landscape of Guyana, especially as a trailblazing woman in politics.
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