Janet Jagan

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Janet Jagan
OE
Janet Jagan.png
6th President of Guyana
In office
19 December 1997 – 11 August 1999
Prime Minister Sam Hinds
Bharrat Jagdeo
Preceded by Sam Hinds
Succeeded by Bharrat Jagdeo
Prime Minister of Guyana
In office
6 March 1997 – 19 December 1997
President Sam Hinds
Preceded by Sam Hinds
Succeeded by Sam Hinds
First Lady of Guyana
In office
9 October 1992 – 6 March 1997
President Cheddi Jagan
Preceded by Joyce Hoyte
Succeeded by Yvonne Hinds
Personal details
Born Janet Rosenberg
(1920-10-20)20 October 1920
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died 28 March 2009(2009-03-28) (aged 88)
Belem, Brazil
Nationality American (until 1947)
Guyanese (after 1947)
Political party People's Progressive Party
Spouse(s) Cheddi Jagan (1943-1997, his death)
Alma mater Northwestern University
Religion None[1][2]

Janet Rosenberg Jagan (October 20, 1920 – March 28, 2009)[3][4][5] was an American-born socialist politician who was the first woman President of Guyana from December 19, 1997, to August 11, 1999. She previously served as the first woman Prime Minister of Guyana from March 17, 1997, to December 19, 1997. Through a long politically active life she made a momentuous contribution in the shaping of Guyana's politics. This was all the more remarkable as she was a white woman championing a non-white liberation in a society grounded on the notion of white supremacy. She was awarded Guyana's highest national award, the Order of Excellence in 1993 and UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Gold Medal for Women's Rights in 1998 (International Who's Who of Women).[6]

Early years and marriage[edit]

She was born as Janet Rosenberg to middle-class Jewish parents in Chicago, Illinois. Janet’s maternal grandparents, Adolph and Rosa Kronberg (née Appelbaum), were Jewish immigrants. Adolph immigrated to Chicago from Romania and Rosa came from Hungary.[7] In December 1942, aged 22, while working as a student nurse at Cook County Hospital, she met Cheddi Jagan, an Indo-Guyanese dentistry student at Northwestern University.[8] They married on August 5, 1943, and she moved with him to Guyana in December 1943.

In Guyana[edit]

In Guyana, she took part in labor activism along with her husband and joined the British Guianese Labor Union. She also worked in her husband's dental clinic as a nurse for 10 years. In 1946, she founded the Women's Political and Economic Organization and co-founded the Political Affairs Committee.[3]

Political career[edit]

Janet Jagan unsuccessfully ran for a seat from Central Georgetown in the 1947 general election.[3] On January 1, 1950,[9] she and her husband were co-founders of the left-wing People's Progressive Party (PPP);[3][8][9] Janet served as the PPP's General Secretary from 1950 to 1970.[3][8] Also in 1950, Jagan was elected to the Georgetown City Council.[3] She was subsequently elected to the House of Assembly in the April 1953 election,[3][10] winning a seat from Essequibo constituency.[3] She was one of three women to win seats in that election;[3][10] following the election, she was chosen as Deputy Speaker of the Legislature.[3]

The PPP, a Marxist-Leninist party, opposed British colonial rule of Guyana. After its electoral victory in April 1953, the PPP briefly formed the government, but the British government had the PPP government removed later in the year due to concerns about the Jagans' alleged Communist sympathies. Cheddi and Janet were jailed for five months; they were subsequently kept under house arrest for two years.[8] In 1957, she was re-elected to the House of Assembly from Essequibo constituency and became Minister of Labour, Health and Housing. She later succeeded Claude Christian as Minister of Home Affairs upon Christian's death in 1963, but resigned from the Cabinet in 1964. As a member of the Elections Commission for the opposition in 1967, she expressed concern about the possibility of vote rigging. She was also the editor of the PPP newspaper Mirror from 1973 to 1997.[3]

Jagan was elected to Parliament in 1973 and was re-elected in 1980, 1985, and 1992, eventually becoming the longest-serving member of Parliament (46 years). Cheddi Jagan was elected as President of Guyana in 1992, and Janet Jagan became First Lady. She represented Guyana at the United Nations for three months in 1993, temporarily replacing Rudy Insanally when the latter was President of the United Nations General Assembly.[3]

After Cheddi Jagan's death, Janet Jagan was sworn in as Prime Minister as well as First Vice President on March 17, 1997.[3][11] Jagan was the presidential candidate of the PPP in the December 1997 election. The PPP won the election, making Jagan the first female President of Guyana, as well as the country's first Jewish and first U.S.-born leader. She was also the third woman elected in her own right as chief executive of a country in the Western Hemisphere, after Eugenia Charles of Dominica and Violeta Chamorro of Nicaragua.[12]

Health, resignation and death[edit]

On July 1, 1999, after Jagan returned from the European-Latin American summit in Rio de Janeiro, she was admitted to St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital in the capital, Georgetown, due to chest pains and exhaustion. She was treated for a heart condition and released from the hospital on July 3.[13] Later in the month, she underwent tests regarding her heart condition at the Akron City Hospital in Akron, Ohio; she was discharged on July 23.[14] Returning to Guyana, she received heart medication and was told that bypass surgery was not necessary.[15]

Jagan announced on August 8, 1999, that she was resigning as President because her health meant that she was no longer capable of "vigorous, strong leadership"; she said that Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo would be her successor.[16] Jagdeo was sworn in as President on August 11.[17]

Despite her resignation, Jagan remained active in the PPP. At the PPP's 29th Congress, Jagan had received the second highest number of votes (671) in the election to the party's Central Committee,[18][19] held on August 2, 2008.[18] She was then elected to the PPP Executive Committee,[19][20] in addition to being elected as editor of the PPP paper Thunder, on August 12, 2008.[20]

Jagan later left Guyana for Maracaibo, Venezuela for treatment. She later went to Belem, Brazil for additional treatment. Janet Jagan died on March 28, 2009, at Belem, Brazil. Her body was cremated on March 31, 2009 in Brazil.

Writings[edit]

Janet Jagan was long involved with the literary and cultural life of Guyana. She published early poems by Martin Carter in Thunder (which she edited) and supported the publication of early Carter collections such as The Hill of Fire Glows Red. She strongly believed that Guyanese children needed books which reflected their own realities. In 1993 Peepal Tree Press published her When Grandpa Cheddi was a Boy and Other Stories, followed by Patricia, the Baby Manatee (1995), Anastasia the Ant-Eater (1997) and The Dog Who Loved Flowers.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ " She was respectfully called "bhowji" (elder brother's wife) by PPP supporters. Janet remained an atheist and did not convert to Hinduism. "I am an activist. People either hate me to infinity or love me to death", she once told an interviewer." John Cherian, 'Guiding light' (Jagan's obituary), Frontline (India), Volume 26, Issue 08, April 11–24, 2009 (accessed 7 April 2009).
  2. ^ John Fernandes (1953). "British Guiana Controversy". Catholic Herald Archive. She is a confirmed atheist, but the good God may still. I hope, he merciful to her. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Profile of Janet Jagan, jagan.org.
  4. ^ "US-born ex-Guyanese president dies at 88". Associated Press. March 28, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2009. 
  5. ^ Nelson, Valerie J. (March 29, 2009). "Janet Jagan dies at 88; Chicago nursing student became the first woman president of Guyana". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 29, 2009. 
  6. ^ Hinds, David "Janet Jagan and the Politics of Ethnicity in Guyana" in Cynthia Barrow-Giles.ed. Women in Caribbean Politics Kingston, Miami: Ian Randle, 2011 ISBN 978-976-637-083-1; Skard, Torild "Janet Jagan" in Women of power - half a century of female presidents and prime ministers worldwide, Bristol: Policy Press, 2014 ISBN 978-1-44731-578-0
  7. ^ "The Jewish Roots of Former President of Guyana Janet Rosenberg Jagan". Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  8. ^ a b c d Larry Rohter, "A Guyana Favorite: U.S.-Born Grandmother", The New York Times, December 14, 1997.
  9. ^ a b History of the PPP, PPP website.
  10. ^ a b "The General Election of 1953", www.Guyana.org.
  11. ^ "Janet Jagan Sworn In", The Washington Post, March 18, 1997, page A14.
  12. ^ Skard (2014)
  13. ^ "Guyanese president discharged from hospital", Associated Press (nl.newsbank.com), July 4, 1999.
  14. ^ "Guyana's president leaves U.S. hospital", Associated Press (nl.newsbank.com), July 24, 1999.
  15. ^ "Guyana Leader Fit After Akron Care", The Plain Dealer (nl.newsbank.com), August 3, 1999.
  16. ^ "Guyanese president resigns for health reasons", Associated Press (nl.newsbank.com), August 9, 1999.
  17. ^ "Guyana's new president urges racial tolerance", Associated Press (nl.newsbank.com), August 12, 1999.
  18. ^ a b Press release on Central Committee election, August 3, 2008.
  19. ^ a b "Donald Ramotar re-elected General Secretary of PPP", Guyana Times, August 13, 2008.
  20. ^ a b "PPP GENERAL SECRETARY, EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ELECTED", PPP press statement, August 12, 2008.
  21. ^ International Who's Who of Women

Further reading[edit]

  • Hinds, David "Janet Jagan and the Politics of Ethnicity in Guyana" in Cynthia Barrow-Giles.ed. Women in Caribbean Politics, Kingston, Miami: Ian Randle, 2011, ISBN 978-976-637-083-1, pp. 195-208
  • Skard, Torild "Janet Jagan" in Women of Power - half a century of female presidents and prime ministers Worldwide, Bristol: Policy Press, 2014,ISBN 978-1-44731-578-0

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Sam Hinds
Prime Minister of Guyana
1997
Succeeded by
Sam Hinds
President of Guyana
1997–1999
Succeeded by
Bharrat Jagdeo