Caribbean Women – Making History

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By Suzzanne Cousins


Caribbean women

CNW- For 2022, International Women’s Day highlights the need to break biases associated with gender inequality with the hope of forging women’s equality in the workplace, at home, and in the community.

Over the past year, several Caribbean women have broken such biases to make history as either the first woman, black woman, or woman of Caribbean descent to achieve an incredible feat. Here are a few of the wonderful women we want to highlight:

Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss-Gorman 

Here’s to a woman who makes you stand at attention. Though small in stature Rear Admiral Antonette Wemyss-Gorman made big news this year when she assumed the role of Jamaica’s first female Chief of Defence Staff. This appointment is the first time in the island’s history that a woman heads the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).

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She was also the first female officer to serve at sea, which led to her becoming the first female appointed to a frontline combat role in the Caribbean. Wemyss-Gorman is also the first female officer of the Jamaica Defence Force to attain the rank of Rear Admiral, a first for the English-speaking Caribbean and the Commonwealth. This role makes her a senior naval flag officer, equivalent to a major general and air vice-marshal.

The world’s first army boss served 15 years aboard Jamaica Coast Guard ships and as Operations Officer and Officer Commanding Shore Base, Second in Command of the JDF Airwing, and Commanding Officer of the JDF Coast Guard. She was responsible for the founding of the Caribbean Military Maritime Training Centre. She is an alumna of the US Naval War College and received a master’s in National Security and Strategic Studies from the University of the West Indies (UWI).

We salute Antonette for her devotion to national security and repeatedly making history.

Dr. Terri-Karelle Reid 

Dubbed ‘Your Jamaican Girl,’ Dr. Terri-Karelle Reid certainly has become Jamaica’s and the region’s number one ‘hostess with the mostess.’ The veterinary-scientist-turned professional emcee, speaker, human ethernet, and entrepreneur made history last year when she became the first Jamaican woman to speak at TEDxAstonUniversity under the theme UNTAPPED.

Focusing on her parenting skills and relationship with her daughter Naima-Kourtnae, Reid wowed the crowd with her speech “The untapped potential of raising children holistically.” After posting her presentation on its official TEDx Talks YouTube channel, more than 42,000 people flocked to get a taste of what Reid had to share. Fans were beyond proud and excited for her and showered her with praises.

We honor Terri-Karelle for being a stalwart mother, businesswoman, and motivator for other women who break biases and bet on themselves.

Elaine Thompson Herah

With a track record of track records, Jamaican sprinter Elaine Thompson Herah created history at the Tokyo Olympics last year by retaining her 200m title in 21.53 seconds. This time follows her historic 100 meters win of 10.61 seconds on July 31. She broke Florence Griffith-Joyner’s Olympic Record of 10.62 set at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Last year Thompson Herah became the first woman to retain the sprint double at the Olympic games. In the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Thompson Herah won the 100m gold medal with 10.71s. She won her second gold in the 200 m final, clocking 21.78s.

Elaine Thompson-Herah, of Jamaica, reacts after winning the women’s 100 meters during the Meeting de Paris Diamond League athletics meet at Stade Charlety in Paris, Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

Thompson Herah is the fastest woman alive and the second-fastest woman in history. With her 200m Olympic win, she also ranks as the second-fastest woman in the 200 meters. She also shattered Jamaica’s 200m national record of 21.64secs set by Merlene Ottey in 1991.

She now holds four of the top 10 times ever run in the 100m and is the only woman to run four legal times under 10.70 seconds in history.

We continue to be on our marks and set to watch Elaine go as she creates more history for herself and the Jamaican athletics community.

Mia Motley and Sandra Mason

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley made history along with President Sandra Mason to become the first women to lead Barbados as an independent republic.

The Right Honorable Mia Motley, the island’s first female prime minister, also made history calling the country’s first election as a republic. Her party won 100% of the seats for the second time in a row. The Barbadian politician and attorney is also the first woman to lead the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), which she has led since 2008.

rihanna barbados
Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley, left, and President of Barbados, Dame Sandra Mason, right, honor Rihanna as a National Hero, during the Presidential Inauguration Ceremony, at Heroes Square, in Bridgetown, Barbados, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. Barbados has stopped pledging allegiance to Queen Elizabeth II as it shed another vestige of its colonial past and became a republic for the first time in history. Several leaders, dignitaries, and artists, including Prince Charles, attended a ceremony that began late Monday and stretched into Tuesday in a popular square where the statue of a well-known British lord was removed last year amid a worldwide push to erase symbols of oppression. (Jeff J Mitchell PA via AP)

Dame Sandra Mason, formerly the island’s governor-general since 2018, was named president of the nation following a vote in parliament late last year. She now replaces the Queen as the head of state.

Motley also declared Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty as the nation’s newest and youngest female National Hero.

We raise our glasses to Mia and Sandra for their drive and desire to break biases and to do so unapologetically.

Leondra Kruger

The year started on a high for Supreme Court Justice and Deputy assistant U.S. attorney general Leondra Kruger when U.S. President Joe Biden announced her as a nominee to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court following the retirement of Justice Stephen Breyer.

Born to Jamaican parents, Kruger made history as the first black woman nominated for that office. The 45-year-old is a native of California, but her mother immigrated to the United States from Jamaica, and her late father was an American Jew.

Leondra Kruger
FILE – In this Dec. 22, 2014 file photo Leondra Kruger addresses the Commission of Judicial Appointments during her confirmation hearing to the California Supreme Court in San Francisco. The California Supreme Court has sided with employers in a fight over the right of workers to sue over treatment of injuries that occur on the job. The court ruled unanimously on Thursday that workers receiving medical care through their employers’ workers’ compensation insurance generally cannot sue a doctor who decides whether treatment is needed. (AP Photo/S. Todd Rogers, Pool, File)

Famous for her life of firsts, Kruger graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University, where she earned her law degree from Yale Law School and served as Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law Journal. She was the first Black woman elected to the position. Furthermore, from 2007 to 2013, Kruger was an assistant to the United States Solicitor General and the acting principal deputy solicitor general. She was the first Black woman to hold that role also.

Moreover, in 2014, she assumed her role as Associate Justice to the California Supreme Court. She became the court’s second African-American woman justice, following Janice Rogers Brown, but at 38, was the youngest appointee to the court in recent years and the third youngest appointee ever.

Kruger and her attorney husband, Brian Hauck, have two young children. She was the first member of the California Supreme Court to give birth while serving on the bench.

We hail Leondra for her commitment to the US legal system and her life of history-making firsts.

Shericka Jackson

Olympian Shericka Jackson raced her way to a new milestone this year when she became Scotiabank Jamaica’s first brand ambassador. Yes, that means she became an ambassador before any Jamaican male athlete.

Her endorsement with Scotia comes months ahead of the 2022 World Athletics Championships scheduled for July 15-24 in the United States and will see the Bank supporting the athlete’s career for the next three years.

Shericka Jackson
Audrey Tugwell Henry, Audrey Tugwell Henry, President, and CEO, Scotia Group Jamaica, symbolically passes the baton to the Bank’s first brand ambassador, athlete, Shericka Jackson.
Photo credit: Contributed

Jackson is an all-around Jamaican sprinter who has accumulated several medals in the 400 meters, 4x400m relay, and most recently, 100, 200, and 4x100m events. Last year’s season won a bronze medal in the 100 meters at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics while forming part of the Jamaican sprint queen trio, which dominated the track. She also won gold for Jamaica at the Tokyo Olympics, running the anchor leg on the Jamaican 4x100m relay team.

We continue to watch Shericka blaze a trail for herself and other upcoming female athletes determined to break biases.

Dr. Susan Collins

In July, Jamaican-American Economist Dr. Susan Collins will become the first black woman to lead a Federal Reserve Bank in the United States when she assumes the position of President and CEO of The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. She will oversee the Boston Fed’s monetary policy and economic research, its operational role in the US financial payments system, bank supervision, and community development in her new capacity.

The 63-year-old grew up in New York with her parents – a social anthropologist father who worked at the United Nations and a university librarian mother who had migrated from Kingston.

Susan Collins
Jamaican-American Economist Dr. Susan Collins.
Photo credit:

Collins says she came to economics out of curiosity after observing the poverty in Jamaica where she frequently visited with her parents to see relatives. So, with her interest piqued and with support from her parents, she pursued her career in economics.

She graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University in 1980 and earned her Ph.D. in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1984. She has held various teaching positions at Harvard, Georgetown University, and the University of Michigan and served on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 1989 to 1990.

Until her appointment takes effect on July 1, Collins will continue to serve as provost and executive vice-president for academic affairs at the University of Michigan, where she has been since 2020.

Kudos to Susan for making money moves and history in the US economy.

Winsome Sears

Jamaican-born Winsome Sears assumed office on January 15, 2022, to become Virginia’s first woman lieutenant governor. Sears, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran born in Kingston, Jamaica, is the first woman of color to be elected to statewide office in Virginia.

The 57-year-old emigrated from Jamaica and grew up in the Bronx, New York.

She majored in English and minored in economics at Old Dominion University and holds a master’s from Regent University. She then served as an electrician in the United States Marines. Sears, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2004, previously served on the Virginia Board of Education. She was also appointed to the U.S. Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee by former U.S. President George W Bush. Before running for office, she served as a Marine pilot.

winsome sears virginia
Lt. Gov. Gov.-elect Winsome Sears arrives to speak before Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin at an election night party in Chantilly, Va., early Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, after he defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Sears said she was honored and humbled to be sworn in as the first woman to this high office and promised that during her tenure, she would partner with the Embassy of Jamaica to look at how they could collaborate in improving trade, education, and tourism and twinning with several towns.

Cheers to Winsome for her determination, breaking biases and barriers for women across the country.

Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix

Barbados-born jurist, Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix, is New York City’s new Corporation Counsel, following a historic 51-0 vote by the New York City Council. This appointment makes her the first-ever Caribbean-born woman to serve in that capacity.

As Corporation Counsel, Hinds-Radix will lead the City’s Law Department, primarily responsible for providing legal representation to the City, the Mayor, other elected officials, and City agencies in all affirmative and defensive civil litigation. Her last position was an associate justice of the New York State Appellate Division, Second Department, where she served as an associate justice since 2021.

Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix
Justice Sylvia O. Hinds-Radix

Before her appointment to the Appellate Division, Justice Hinds-Radix served as Administrative Judge for Civil Matters in the Second Judicial District for three and a half years.

Hinds-Radix, the first and current president of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean American Lawyers Association (CALA), was elected to the Supreme Court, Kings County (Brooklyn) in November 2004. She served as a New York City Civil Court Judge from 2002 through 2004, spending her first year in the Criminal Court of Kings County.

We stand with the Bajan community in being proud of Sylvia and her achievements as she keeps breaking barriers and biases.

Of course, we could go on to mention so many other Caribbean women who made history in the past year, but we want to know from you. Who else broke biases and made history, in your opinion?


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