PM opens Suffrage Movement Exhibit
By Cleopatra Murphy
Freeport News Reporter
Women were the focus of the National Pride Day celebration yesterday where the contributions of suffragists who advocated for gender equality and the right to vote were recognized for their work during the Women's Suffrage Movement of the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
The National Women's Suffrage Exhibit was unveiled in Rawson Square honoring pioneers of the movement, namely Mary Ingraham, Dame Dr. Doris Johnson, Mable Walker, Georgiana Symonette, Eugenia Lockhart and other women that made an impact.
Prime Minister Perry Christie said the nation would forever be in debt to the women who started one of the most historically important movements in the development of democracy in The Bahamas that experienced success when women voted for the first time on November 26, 1962.
"We must therefore never forget that the Women's Suffrage Movement with its emphasis on equality and social justice for all played a major roll in the great awakening that took place in the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s.
" I have had occasion before to refer to this period as the golden age of Bahamian politics.
"Certainly it deserves to be recognized as a most defining period in the development of authentic democracy in The Bahamas and the attainment of true freedom for the masses both male and female," he said. "Mary Ingraham, Mable Walker, Georgiana Symonette, Eugenia Lockhart and most famously of all Dame Dr. Doris deserve lasting recognition as freedom fighters and national heroines of the first order."
Christie said the county should be mindful of how much it owes to the suffragists and many other women who joined with them.
"I know it is always difficult to name some and you are bound to have left out others, but it's never too late to continue to recognize those who may have been left out as we develop and grow our own appreciation of our history," he said.
Christie said for overcoming tremendous odds and delivering a great victory for women and all Bahamians, the suffragists deserve their place in history.
"In the last 50 years that have ensued since women won the right to vote, our country has seen women break through one glass ceiling after another in all areas of national life. They have served as governors general, deputy leaders of political organizations, parliamentarians, Cabinet ministers, chief justices, president of the court of appeal, secretary to the Cabinet, permanent secretaries, governor of the Central Bank and this record of leadership has been matched in virtually all areas of the private sector as well," Christie said.
He added that there are many challenges women must still overcome, namely in the private sector where women in many cases are not rewarded like their male counterparts.
"As the leader of the government I reiterate my commitment to use the instruments of the state to facilitate the full protection and empowerment of the Bahamian people regardless of gender. I invite all Bahamians to join with me in that commitment. In doing so, we will be honoring the memory and paying just tribute to the great women whose heroic accomplishments are central to this celebration here this morning," Christie said.
Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes supplied that women have made tremendous inroads in the country through their bravery and tenacity in their struggle for equality.
"What the women of the 21st Century may take for granted as a right did not come easy. Years of hard work and commitment, even insult and injury went into the actualization of these goals," he said. "In recalling this history we remember what these Bahamian national heroes faced beginning in 1948 when they first began to call for the right to vote."
Foulkes said despite their many accomplishments, the struggle for women continues.
"Bahamian women still do not have full constitutional equality. Indeed, we remain one of the few countries in the world where women cannot as a matter of right automatically pass on certain rights that men enjoy," he said.
Foulkes added that the country must work ceaselessly to combat violence of all forms against women and must not become complacent by what has been achieved.
"There are countries where women still cannot vote or are barred from a range of political offices. Today Bahamian women have that right. They exercise that right in large numbers and they may aspire to any office in the land, so on this occasion let us salute those courageous women of yesteryear and our courageous women of today who through their unselfish advocacy helped to make this day possible," he said.
© 2012 The Freeport News