Here is a list of Outstanding and Incredible Caribbean Women who have dedicated most of their lives to improve the quality of life for all of the Caribbean and their communities around the world.
The Honorable MARIA M. CABRET
The Honorable Maria M. Cabret was the first of three children born to Miguel Angel Cabret and Epifania C. Cabret in the town of Frederiksted, St. Croix. She attended St. Patrick’s Elementary School and graduated from St. Joseph’s High School in 1967. Judge Cabret then attended Marymount Manhattan College in New York, New York where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1971. Following her graduation, Judge Cabret taught Social Studies and English-As-A-Second-Language from 1971 to 1975 at the Claude O. Markoe Elementary School in Frederiksted. In the 1974-75 school year, she was named “Teacher of the Year” by her colleagues, the highest honor awarded to outstanding educators in the public school system.
In 1975, Judge Cabret enrolled in Howard University School of Law where she earned a Juris Doctor degree in May 1978. As a result of her hard work and commitment to her legal studies, she graduated in the upper ten percent of her class, and was also the recipient of the American Jurisprudence Award for excellent achievement in the study of Constitutional Law.
Upon obtaining her Juris Doctor degree, Judge Cabret returned to St. Croix and began her legal career as a law clerk for the Honorable Raymond L. Finch, at what was then the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands. As a young attorney, she first worked for Legal Services of the Virgin Islands, and then with the Office of the Territorial Public Defender, before moving on to private practice. As a private practitioner, she first worked in the field of insurance defense litigation and later concentrated in personal injury and commercial litigation
In 1987, she was nominated to serve as Judge of the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands by the Honorable Alexander A. Farrelly, Governor of the United States Virgin Islands. With the unanimous consent of the Seventeenth Legislature, Judge Cabret on July 7, 1987, became the second woman, and first person of Puerto Rican descent to serve on the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands. She was nominated to a second term by Governor Farrelly in 1993 and unanimously confirmed by the Twentieth Legislature.
In 1994, Judge Cabret was designated Administrative Judge of the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix Division. On October 29, 1999, the Honorable Charles W. Turnbull, Governor of the United States Virgin Islands designated Judge Cabret as the Presiding Judge of the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands and nominated her to a third term. The Twenty-Third Legislature unanimously confirmed her nomination on March 1, 2000. Once again, Judge Cabret made history by becoming the first woman, the first Crucian, and the first woman of Puerto Rican descent to be elevated to the position of Presiding Judge of the Territorial Court of the Virgin Islands. A staunch advocate of judicial automation, Judge Cabret ensured that, under her leadership, the Superior Court was computerized and a variety of technology projects initiated, resulting in a more efficient court system.
On June 30, 2006, Judge Cabret retired and immediately assumed senior status on July 1, 2006, continuing to work on an almost daily basis to improve the administration of justice in the Territory.
The Honorable Charles W. Turnbull on July 19, 2006, nominated Judge Cabret to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands. She was unanimously confirmed along with the other nominees, the Honorable Rhys S. Hodge and the Honorable Ive Arlington Swan, by the Twenty-Sixth Legislature on October 27, 2006.
Judge Cabret is a graduate of the American Academy of Judicial Education and the National Judicial College. She is a member of the Bar of the Virgin Islands and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. She is also a member of the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the American Judges Association, the American Judicature Society, and the National Association of Women Judges. Until her recent retirement, Judge Cabret was a member of the Conference of Chief Justices, the American Law Institute, the National Association of Court Managers, the Virgin Islands Judicial Council and the Law Revision Commission
CECILE R. de’JONGH
CECILE R. de JONGH is First Lady of the Virgin Islands, wife to Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr., the territory’s 7th elected Governor. Cecile promotes several initiatives in support of Virgin Islands children and families in education, literacy, and healthy living. She established two local chapters of Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and is also a member of the CHADD National Board and is certified as a Parent-to-Parent Teacher.
As a passionate advocate, Cecile serves as the spokesperson for the Territory’s Big Read initiative and is a founding member and honorary board member of Habitat for Humanity International of the Virgin Islands. Cecile is also Chairperson of the Children and Families Council, an inter-agency initiative that seeks to ensure children’s school readiness regarding health, education, and safety.
Cecile also founded the Tennis in the Parks and Schools and the Healthy VI initiatives to engage youth in tennis play, and to discuss the need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
In 2007, she was honored as the Rotary Person of the Year, and launched Camp Shriver in both St. Thomas and St. Croix, a recreational camp for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
As a founding member of the Rwanda Project USVI, Cecile is connecting VI teenagers with the country of Rwanda, introducing them to a way of life in a country that has been devastated by genocide and disease.
CAMILLE ROBINSON-REGIS is the quintessential Afro-Caribbean woman. She is an Attorney-at-Law who has played an active role in the political landscape of Trinidad & Tobago since 1992 at which time she was the youngest Senator to be appointed to the Parliament of Trinidad & Tobago. During her tenure in active politics she served as the member of parliament for the constituency of Arouca South and she held several ministerial posts, including the Minister of Legal Affairs and the Minister of Planning and Development. Her contribution to the latter Ministry garnered amongst other achievements, the operationalization of the then Government’s vision to make Trinidad and Tobago a developed country by 2020 and the introduction of electronic birth certificates for the citizenry of Trinidad and Tobago. Most recently, she held the position of the High Commissioner of Trinidad and Tobago to Canada and whilst serving in Canada she was selected to be the patron of the Toronto based organization, Women Against Violence Against Women. She has since returned to her native Trinidad and Tobago and continues to work with the opposition party, the People’s National Movement in the capacity of Vice Chairman.
Camille is interested in ensuring that the acceptance of mediocrity and diminishing civility and courtesies are recognised and eradicated in a society which once prided itself in social graces from the humble street vendor to the esteemed legislator. She is one of six children, three boys and three girls with Vincentian lineage and she is the mother of three beautiful daughters (two of whom are a four year-old twin who are 25 years younger than their eldest sister, who is also a budding Attorney-at-Law). Camille has been described as a compassionate person who usually has more ambition for other people than they do for themselves. It is this aspiration that allows her to form lasting and meaningful connections with women from all walks of life whom she has met throughout her travels.
HER EXCELLENCY MENISSA RAMBALLY
There is a new face leading Saint Lucia`s diplomatic mission in New York. Saint Lucia`s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Her Excellency Miss Menissa Rambally officially presented her credentials to UN Secretary General His Excellency Ban Ki Moon on Wednesday June 6th , 2012. The presentation of credentials which formalizes her appointment, was held at the UN Headquarters in New York.
At only age thirty six Her Excellency Ambassador Menissa Rambally is Saint Lucia`s first female Permanent Representative to the United Nations – joining a list of twenty five women. She replaced former Ambassador Keith St Aimee.
Her Excellency Menissa Rambally now holds the important task of exploring new frontiers of opportunity for Saint Lucia`s development..
In presenting her credentials in New York on Wednesday afternoon the humble Ambassador Rambally reaffirmed Saint Lucia`s commitment to the United Nations.
The UN Representative welcomed and commended her addition to the ranks of female Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, where she joins a list of twenty five women.
Ambassador Rambally rewrote the pages of Caribbean history when she was elected to the Saint Lucia Parliament on May 23rd 1997 at age 21.
Three years later at the turn of the century, she became the youngest person in contemporary Caribbean politics to hold full ministerial office, first presiding over the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation – and later the Ministry of Social Transformation. She is of Indian, African and European ancestry. She is a graduate of the Leon Hess Comprehensive School and a Business Graduate of Caribbean Union College, an affiliate of Andrews University, Michigan.
SENATOR, PENNELOPE BECKLES-ROBINSON
Ms. Pennelope Beckles-Robinson serves as the leader of the Opposition Bench in the Senate in the 10th Parliament of Trinidad & Tobago..
Ms. Beckles first entered Parliament in 1995 as an Opposition Senator. She then served as the representative for the constituency of Arima between 2000 and 2010. Ms. Beckles held various portfolios, having been Minister of Social Development, Minister of Culture and Tourism, as well as Minister of Public Utilities and the Environment.
Ms. Beckles was elected Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives on December 17, 2007 at the Ceremonial Opening of the 1st Session of the 9th Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. An attorney-at-law by profession, Ms. Beckles is the first woman to have ever been elected Deputy Speaker in the history of the Parliament of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
A past student of St. Raphael’s Grade School and a graduate of St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, Ms. Beckles pursued her tertiary level education at the University of the West Indies, attending both the St. Augustine and Cave Hill campuses where she graduated with honours. She then moved on to the Hugh Wooding Law School where she obtained her L.E.C, Ms. Beckles is attached to the Chambers of Theodore R Guerra, S.C. & Associates.
Not only is Ms. Beckles a resident of Arima, but her deep involvement in two of the area’s community organizations, namely the Arima Foundation for the Advancement of Women and Children and the Santa Rosa Heights Community Group, exemplify her commitment to the future of her community.
Outside of her Parliamentary and Ministerial portfolios, Ms. Beckles’ political experience includes Vice Chairmanship of the Arima Constituency Group, Membership of the PNM’s General Council, and serving as Public Relations Officer of the National Women’s League.
Self-made Trinidadian entrepreneur, Mrs. Helen Bhagwansingh began her career selling construction material to an impoverished community in Trinidad. Today, her business is a multifaceted corporation including Bhagwansingh’s Hardware and Steel Industries Limited, Dansteel Hardware and Centrin Steel Limited. Mrs. Bhagwansingh is also a significant shareholder in Cantres, an aluminium extrusion manufacturer and Rainbow Construction, a company that builds middle and low income houses. She is well known for her philanthropic and charitable donations including generous support of Habitat for Humanity, the Bridge of Hope Children’s Services and Education, Research and Prevention of Diabetes Mellitus.
Mrs. Bhagwansingh, chairman and CEO of the Bhagwansingh Group of Companies, broke the proverbial glass ceiling when she became the first woman to be inducted into the T&T’s Chamber of Industry and Commerce’s Business Hall of Fame in December of 2010. It was Bhagwansingh’s planning, ability to develop strategies, as well as set goals and make sound financial decisions, that made the group into the formidable enterprise it is today.
In 2011 Mrs. Bhagwansingh received an honorary Doctorate from the University of The West Indies, she also received the Order of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago for distinguish and outstanding community service.
Eulalie Spence (June 11, 1894 – March 7, 1981) was an African American female writer, teacher, actress and playwright from the British West Indies island of Nevis. She was an influential member of the Harlem Renaissance.
W. E. B. Du Bois, founder and editor of The Crisis, the monthly journal of the N.A.A.C.P., surmised that Black Drama must be built from scratch, by Blacks for a Black theatre. Through The Crisis, he founded Krigwa (Crisis Guild of Writers and Artists), originally Crigwa. Krigwa sponsored a yearly literary contest which included a playwrighting competition and fostered a theatre company, the Krigwa Players which rehearsed and performed at the 135th St. branch of the New York Public Library. Frequent contest winners in the drama area included Eulalie Spence… In 1927, Fool’s Errand competed in the Fifth Annual International Little Theatre Tournament, a first for Blacks since the finalists competed in a Broadway theatre… The Krigwa Players won one of four $200.00 prizes and the play was published by Samuel French.
However, Spence and Du Bois didn’t see eye to eye, artistically or politically. Du Bois took the $200.00 prize money and used it to reimburse production expenses and paid neither the actors nor Spence. The Krigwa Players disbanded as a result. Politically, Du Bois felt that theatre should be used as a vehicle for propaganda to advance the cause of the American Negro. Spence, on the other hand, always very aware of the fact that she was not African American but rather from the West Indies, had a different outlook regarding theatre. Spence felt that theatre was a place for people to be entertained and not antagonized by the problems of society.
“The white man is cold and unresponsive to this subject and the Negro, himself, is hurt and humiliated by it. We go to the theatre for entertainment, not to have old fires and hates rekindled.”
The plays of Eulalie Spence helped to make a name for the Krigwa Players amongst both Black and white critics. Eulalie’s Her opened Krigwa Player’s second season. Eulalie’s sister, Olga Spence was an actress with the Krigwa Players.
Critic William E. Clarke wrote in the New York Age, “Her…was by far the best of the bill. It was a ghost story and was written with such skill that it rose to the heights of a three-act tragedy that might have been written by a Eugene”
Although Eulalie Spence’s work has been overshadowed by the male counterparts of her day such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Richard Wright, in recent years scholars have been resurrecting Spence’s work along with other lesser known African American female writers. Other African American female playwrights whose works are being rediscovered are May Miller and Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins.
No images of Ms. Spence could be found. Eulalie Spence died in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on March 7, 1981.
PROFESSOR RUTH BEHAR
RUTH BEHAR was born in Havana, Cuba, her mother Rebeca and father Alberto were also born in Cuba, but Russian and Turkey ancestry respectively. Just before she turned 5 years old she came to live in New York with her family in 1962. She received her B.A. in Letters (1977) from Wesleyan University, and her M.A. (1980) and Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology (1983) from Princeton University.
She resides in Ann Arbor and is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. She is also affiliated with University of Michigan programs in Women’s Studies, Latina/Latino Studies, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
Since her youth, Ruth Behar has had a strong attachment to the Spanish-speaking world. During the past twenty years she has traveled numerous times to Spain, Mexico, and Cuba. She has written about her experience of crossing cultural borders as a poet, essayist, fiction writer, editor, and ethnographer. She is now turning to documentary filmmaking to seek yet another expression of her unique vision of the meaning of home in an age of travel and homesickness.
In 1988, at the start of her career as an anthropologist, Ruth Behar was awarded a MacArthur Foundation “genius” award. She has since been the recipient of many prestigious fellowships for her scholarly and artistic work. These include a John Simon Guggenheim award in 1995 and a Creative Artist Grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs in 1998.
She received the Distinguished Alumna Award in Recognition of Outstanding Achievement and Service from Wesleyan University in 1997. Latina Magazine, in 1999, named her one of the 50 Latinas who made history in the twentieth century.
Ruth Behar’s first book was The Presence of the Past in a Spanish Village: Santa María del Monte (Princeton, 1986; expanded paperback edition, 1991), the story of how a small village negotiated its relation to the past in the wake of social transformations that removed people from the land during the late Franco years.
Her second book, Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story (Beacon Press, 1993), an account of her friendship with a Mexican street peddler, gained her national prominence. Translated Woman was named a Notable Book of the Year for 1993 by the New York Times. The book was adapted for the stage by PREGONES Theater, a Latino company based in New York, which has taken the production to university campuses as well as to The Painted Bride Theater in Philadelphia and to their own theater in the Bronx.
Ruth Behar’s most recent book, The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart (Beacon Press, 1996), is a controversial and widely discussed collection of six personal essays that places the emotions of loss, mourning, and the search for home at the center of anthropology and all acts of witnessing.
As a Cuban woman of the diaspora, Ruth Behar is committed to seeking reconciliation and a common culture and memory with Cubans on the island. In that spirit, she edited Bridges to Cuba/Puentes a Cuba(University of Michigan Press, 1995). The anthology paved the way for more interchanges and became a highly praised forum for the voices and visions of Cubans on the island and in the diaspora. She recently wrote the Foreword to the anthology Cubana: Contemporary Fiction by Cuban Women (Beacon Press, 1998).
While working to expand dialogue among Cubans, Ruth Behar also sought to bring scholarly attention to the creative writings of American women anthropologists. With feminist scholar Deborah Gordon, she co-editedWomen Writing Culture (University of California Press, 1995), an anthology of creative and critical writings that has become a required book in discussions of the history of anthropology.
A respected, visible, and provocative scholar, Ruth Behar has also gained recognition for her literary essays, poetry, fiction, and new work as an emerging filmmaker. She is often invited both to lecture and to perform at universities, bookstores, and cultural institutions. Recent invitations have come from the Getty Center, the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, Harvard University, Tulane University, and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
- The Presence of the Past in a Spanish Village: Santa María del Monte (1986)
- Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story (1993; second edition, Beacon Press, 2003 ISBN 978-0-8070-4647-0)
- Bridges to Cuba / Puentes a Cuba, editor, University of Michigan Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0-472-06611-7
- Women Writing Culture Editors Ruth Behar, Deborah A. Gordon, University of California Press, 1995, ISBN 978-0-520-20208-5
- The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart, Beacon Press, 1996, ISBN 978-0-8070-4631-9
- An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba, Rutgers University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0-8135-4189-1
- The Portable Island: Cubans at Home in the World, Editors Ruth Behar, Lucía M. Suárez, Macmillan, 2008, ISBN 978-0-230-60477
- FILM – 3Adio Kerida (Goodbye Dear Love): A Cuban-American Woman’s Search for Sephardic Memories (2002)
The HONORABLE DEPUTY GOVERNOR,
SARITA FRANCIS, OBE
Mrs. Sarita Francis made history on 15 October 2009 when she was appointed as Montserrat’s first Deputy Governor.
The Deputy Governor will automatically assume the position of Acting Governor whenever the Governor is absent from the territory or otherwise unable to perform the functions.
The Governor, Mr Peter Waterworth, has sought instructions from the Secretary of State to issue a standing designation for Mrs Francis to assume the position of Acting Governor when necessary, in accordance with section 2 of the Constitution of Montserrat.
Mrs Francis joined the Public Service in 1972 when she was appointed as a teacher. She taught Geography and Social Studies and became Senior Teacher/ Vice Principal of the Montserrat Secondary School, Salem Campus, in 1992.
In 1993, Mrs Francis took up a one year appointment with UNDP to develop a Comprehensive Environmental Education Strategy for Montserrat and in 1994 she was appointed Environmental Educator with the Montserrat National Trust.
In 1997 Mrs Francis was reassigned to the Ministry of Agriculture and two years later was selected as the first Director of Housing. In 2001 she was promoted to the position of Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Chief Minister, a position she held until her transfer to the position of Permanent Secretary, Administration in 2007.
Mrs Francis was appointed Montserrat’s first Chief Establishment Officer (CEO) / Head of Service in October 2007.
Mrs Francis is the 1st Vice President of the Montserrat National Trust and has been a Member of the Executive Committee of the Montserrat National Trust for the past 20 years. She is a founding Member of the Board of the Montserrat Cultural Centre and has served as a Board Member of both the Bank of Montserrat and the St Patrick’s Credit Union.
In May 2012, the Deputy Governor was awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her public service to the Government and people of Montserrat.