FAMOUS & OUTSTANDING CARIBBEAN WOMEN – 4/2014

MICHELE HENDERSON-DELSOL

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michele_creole-1When rhythm, melody and prose unite, there’s magic.  A song can soothe the angry heart, bring joy to the saddest of souls and inspire a generation to succeed.  The magicians who create these phenomena, are to be celebrated and loved. Singer, Songwriter and Performer extraordinaire, Michele Henderson has enjoyed a successful career as an artiste for over 20 years. Born in Grand Bay, Commonwealth of Dominica, Michele has thrilled audiences with her live performances in and outside the Region, with major performances at the World Creole Music Festival, Dominica; Grenada Spice Jazz Festival; St. Lucia Jazz Festival; Roskilde Festival in Denmark; Jazz Artists on the Green in Trinidad and Tobago; among several other performances in the USA, Europe, Martinique and Guadeloupe.   From the tender age of two she was already honing her craft, singing at church, where her father played the guitar.  Michele grew up in a musical family and was nurtured in the art of singing and song writing by her parents Marguerite-rose and Lambert Henderson.  She was enrolled at the Kairi School of music where she learned to play recorder and flute while landing leading roles in the school’s choir productions on account of her strong voice and remarkable stage presence.   Her music teacher, Ms Pearle Christian, described her as “a sprite of a girl” who at age nine showed signs of great promise.

Michele continued on to join the jazz band “impact!” at age 15 where she served as lead singer and flutist.  The band enjoyed a brief stint at the top of the local music scene, releasing one album before breaking up in 1997. During that time, Michele also became involved with the calypso scene, arranging and recording background vocals on several albums for local calypsonians.  She was also featured on an album of one of Dominica’s most famous bands, the WCK.  She went on to play a pivotal role in the release of three albums commemorating the annual World Creole Music Festival held in Dominica during its independence season.

Michele-Henderson (5  Michele rose to prominence as a singer songwriter in those years and began to seek new challenges.  Roland Delsol Jr, former bass player of “impact!” whom Michele later married, took on the task of producing her first solo album self titled, Michele Henderson.  The album received glowing reviews and earned Michele her first international live performances.  She was featured at the Grenada Spice Jazz Festival alongside Nestor Torres and Third World and the St. Lucia Jazz Festival.  From then on, the calls came in from around the region and Europe for Michele to perform live at various festivals.  She continued to record albums and make videos which gained her popularity in the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique and had a number one hit on the Zouk charts in France.  She has shared the billing with international stars like Green Day and The Foo Fighters at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark, headlined the Jazz Artists on the Green and Jazz on the Hill festivals in Trinidad and Virgin Gorda respectively and contributed to charity worldwide by performing at fund raising events in London, New York and Hollywood.  Michele has recorded 6 albums and one DVD to date with the latest project, “Home”, being published by extended release.  She has shared the stage with a wide range of artists the likes of Taylor  Dayne, Chick Corea and Doug E. Fresh.

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With so much international experience under her belt, she has become a seasoned artist whose live performances leave audiences astounded at her level of talent and prowess.  Michele also writes successfully for other artists some of whom have participated in and won local talent competitions.

michele henderson  e  bio1In all of this, Michele has found time to have a family and engage in local activities on her island.  She is the mother of two, director of two local businesses, board member of Crime stoppers Dominica, spokesperson for the Home at Heart Foundation and an officially appointed Goodwill Ambassador to Dominica.  She continues to record and perform getting better with time.  Michele is of the opinion that “the best is yet to come” in her career.  For her, there is still more magic to be made!!!

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CYNTHIA A. “Mother” PRATT

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Hon. Cynthia A. “Mother” Pratt (born 1945) is the former Deputy Prime Minister of the Bahamas. She attained the office when the Progressive Liberal Party came to power in the national elections of 2002.

Appointed Acting Prime Minister when the incumbent suffered a minor stroke and stepped aside from his duties, but she has acted on a number of occasions before, when he was abroad. She is also known as “Mother” Pratt. As Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Security 2002-07 she was  in charge of the Defense Force and Police. She was Opposition Whip Circa 1992-2000 and from circa 2000 Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Leader of the Progressive Liberal Democratic Part. A former nurse, she is mother of 6 children.

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In April 2011 Cynthia ‘Mother’ Pratt, was honored  in North Carolina when she was inducted into the Sister Delany Honor Society by St Augustine’s College in Raleigh.

The award is given by the University to salute the excellence of alumnae who have made significant contributions to the College and within their local communities. Each inductee was awarded the Delany cup and saucer.

Mrs Pratt received her Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in health and education with a minor in sociology from St Augustine’s in 1983. In February, 1995, she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the University.

cynthia pratt. 1Mrs. Pratt is a Protestant minister.

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DEBORAH ANDOLLO

debora 3 Deborah Andollo (born in Havana in 1967) is a Cuban free-diving athlete who held several world records in different disciplines. Her nicknames “Neptune’s Girlfriend”, “Queen of the Caribbean” or “Mermaid of the Deep” associate her with the sea and her passion for the environment, as well as a sustainable relationship between man and nature

She is more mermaid than woman: in addition to her handsome figure and charming face, she has award-winning diving abilities and talent. At 45, Andollo is one of the most distinguished athletes on the island, despite the fact that she has devoted a large part of her career to a discipline that is not part of the Olympic Games and that is not very well known internationally: apnea diving, or breath hold diving.

She holds 16 world records in four different divisions of apnea diving; she also won the 1996 Marine Oscar and was voted World’s Best Diver in 1997.

This modest blonde woman began swimming at the age of 4. When she was 11, she got started in synchronized swimming, which she practiced for more than a decade.

A year after captaining the national synchronized swim team that won a bronze medal in the 1991 Pan-American Games in Havana, Andollo decided to leave that discipline and became an underwater photography model. However, the woman also known as the “Mermaid of the Deep” was not satisfied; she began diving deeper, and eventually reached the heights of fame.

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She threw herself completely into deep diving, a very risky activity that only a few hundred very select people in the world are capable of practicing successfully.

Andollo, who is also known as “Neptune’s Bride,” says she feels a very close connection to the ocean — it seduces her.

“I was born to live with the ocean and its deepest secrets. I’m Cuban, and like any good Cuban, I have spent the best moments of my life in the ocean. The fact that I’m from Havana brings me even closer. From a very young age, I was immensely attracted to that world fully of mystery and goodness.”

In a little over a decade, she became the woman who could dive into the depths using with nothing but a deep breath; her exceptional lung capacity of six liters (!) allowed her to hold her breath for more than four minutes at a time, and she set an absolute record (for women and men). In addition, she practiced yoga, which gave her the mental endurance needed for remaining calm at the bottom of the ocean.

Andollo, who was born in the Cuban capital on May 9, 1967, says that practicing deep diving/apnea was the only way to be in the ocean every day, learning about the different species that inhabit it and the wonderful phenomena that characterize it.

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“My first immersions had a big impact on me. I was fascinated by so many fish, so much silence, tranquility and majesty. The perfection of the ocean makes us feel small and vulnerable,” she explains.

In May 1992, she began the long road down to the depths, diving 50 meters in the modality of free diving, in which the descent and ascent is carried out purely with the apnea diver’s muscular strength and a strong dose of courage.

“Apnea is an activity that cannot be accompanied by fear. I’m not afraid of sharks; I respect them. They are adorable animals, very important for the ecosystem and marine biodiversity, although it is very wise to respect them. But there are tons of dangers in the ocean besides sharks; for example, there are the currents, the depths, darkness, loneliness.”

In 2001, Deborah decided to enter the world of scuba diving, and she did so spectacularly: she dove deeper than anybody ever had without a mask or fins: 74 meters, in the modality known as free diving. Not even the most famous male divers had reached that depth.

Andollo, who is also nicknamed “Queen of the Caribbean,” is president of the Cuban Federation of Subaquatic Activities (FCAS), and she passionately defends the environment and the sustainable coexistence of human beings and nature.

“For me, commitment to the ocean is important. I am always fighting to protect it and to raise awareness about protecting it from human voracity. In that sense, I think that there is still a lot to be done in Cuba regarding marine parks and protected areas, even though there is a great deal of political will.”

Andollo has two children — a 13-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl — and says she has always pursued happiness without limits. “Cuba is my land and my sea.”

Proudly, she says that her oldest child, Ernesto, has become a wonderful apnea diver, and can now dive 13 meters deep.

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Currently, Andollo lives in Isla Cozumel, Mexico, but that does not stop her from feeling very passionately about the island where she was born and achieved her great triumphs.

“Cuba is where my parents and my best, true friends live, and where the ocean is more tranquil than anyplace else. It is a meeting point for the most intense encounters of affection. It’s where I was born and where my children were born, so, it will always be where we are from. Thank you, Cuba!”

In Mexico, she is making one of her dearest dreams come true: the Academia Blue Yemayá, an academy that teaches free diving. Andollo and her husband, Eric Testi of France, are its co-presidents and administrators.

“We work in the diving area of the marine park on the island of Cozumel, which has the second largest coral reef in the world.”

Deborah is a modest, unassuming woman who is familiar with the positive and negative aspects of fame.

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Twice included on the list of the country’s top 10 athletes (1996 and 1997) and chosen as one of the 100 Best Cuban Athletes of the 20th Century, Andollo received the Platinum Pro5000 Diver Award in November 2011, a prize that is granted to outstanding divers who have completed more than 5,000 dives.

Deborah, fascinated by the ocean and gifted with supernatural talents, says there are many things she would still like to do, and that free diving is a fascinating activity, a passion that she enjoys sharing with others.

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SIMONE OVIDE DUVALIER

Dr. and Mrs. Francois Duvalier WaitingSimone Duvalier (c. 1913 – 1997) was the wife of Haitian dictator François “Papa Doc” Duvalier (1907–1971).

She was born Simone Ovide in about 1913 near the Haitian town of Léogâne, the daughter of a mulatto merchant and writer, Jules Faine, and Célie Ovide, one of the maids in his household. At an early age her mother gave her up, and she spent much of her childhood in an orphanage in Pétionville, an exclusive suburb in the hills above Port-au-Prince. The orphans were encouraged to acquire vocational skills and Simone Ovide was trained as a nurse’s aide. While working as a nurse she met a young doctor named François Duvalier. The couple was married on December 27, 1939, and had four children: Marie Denise, Nicole, Simone, and Jean-Claude, their only son.

After their marriage, François Duvalier became minister of public health and labor in 1949 and won election to the presidency in 1957. Throughout his 14 years in office, his wife guarded access to her husband and developed and promoted her own palace favorites.

Because of her acquired status and her imperious bearing, Haitians referred to her as “Mama Doc”. She was, like her husband, reported to be a Vodou expert. She cultivated the image of a benefactor; dispensing charity to inhabitants of “Cite Simone”, a planned settlement named for her that is known today as Cité Soleil, one of the most miserable slums in Latin America.

Jean-Claude Duvalier with His Mother

Madame Duvalier’s influence reached its peak after the death of her husband in 1971, when her nineteen-year-old son Jean-Claude Duvalier succeeded his father as Haiti’s “president for life”. She relished the title of first lady and the power it conferred, and was said by associates to deeply resent having to relinquish that role after Jean-Claude Duvalier married in 1980 and she was demoted to “Guardian of the Duvalierist Revolution”.

When her son was ousted from power in February 1986, Simone Duvalier joined him and his wife, Michèle Bennett, in exile in France. She was rarely seen in public. After her son’s bitter divorce from his wife, Madame Duvalier lived with her son in relative poverty in the suburbs of Paris.   She died in 1997.

INFLUENTIAL CARIBBEAN WOMEN PT. 8

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The Hon. SARAH WESCOT – WILLIAMS,

Prime Minister Saint Maarten, D.W.I.

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The Prime Minister of St. Maarten, the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams is a native Saint Martiner who has made a name for herself in the politics of this two-nation island. In a political career spanning more than 35 years she has served as member of the Executive Council of the island territory of Sint Maarten, was a Member of Parliament for the Netherlands Antilles, has served as member of the Island Legislative and has chaired the Permanent Commission for Constitutional Affairs of the Legislature.

She is the first female on St. Maarten to head a major political party, leading the Democratic Party of Sint Maarten since 1994.

The realization by the Government of the Dutch Kingdom that a status change for the island of St. Maarten is inevitable and is credited to her unrelenting drive for recognition of the Constitutional referendum on St. Maarten which was held on the 23rd of June, 2000.
Prior to assuming political office she headed the island’s Financial Department and was Deputy Island Secretary from 1985 until 1991 when she was appointed member of the Executive Council.
She complements her experience in Public Service with an Honor’s Associate Degree in Business and Finance, a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration, and a Master’s in Public Administration (suma cum laude) from La Salle University, USA.
On October 10, 2010, she was appointed as the first Prime Minister of St. Maarten, and is responsible for the portfolio of General Affairs.
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DAME JENNIFER MERDITH-SMITH

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Dame Jennifer Meredith Smith earned her place in Bermuda’s history as the first Progressive Labor Party [PLP] Premier, the first female Senator and the first female Deputy Speaker.

In addition, in 1972, Dame Jennifer became the youngest woman to run in a general election [1972] and in 1980, she became the youngest member of the Senate. She led the PLP to two general election victories on November 9, 1998 and July 24, 2003.

She was born in 1947 in Bermuda, and raised as a member of the African Methodist Episcopal church. She attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, and earned an Associate’s degree in 1970. Upon returning to Bermuda, she began work as a political reporter and editor for the Bermuda Recorder newspaper.

She was elected to the House of Assembly of Bermuda representing St Georges in 1989, and elected deputy party leader in 1994, and succeeded to the leadership two years later upon the death of L. Frederick Wade.

In 1998, when the PLP was elected she became Premier of Bermuda. This was notable on an international level, as it was one of the few instances that a female leader was succeeded by another female, as Dame Jennifer followed after Dame Pamela Gordon of the UBP.

In November 2010, Dame Jennifer Smith was sworn in at Government House, taking on the position of Minister of Education. Dame Jennifer had previously held the position of Deputy Speaker of the House, which she resigned in order to accept a Cabinet position. This is the second time she has served in this role, as Dame Jennifer was the first PLP Education Minister. This is her first Cabinet position since resigning as Premier in 2003.

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Dame Jennifer has served as a member of the Board of Trustees or been involved in many organizations including the Bermuda National Gallery, Bermuda Dance Foundation, De Boys Day Out Club, Boys and Girls Club of Bermuda, Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, Bermuda Society of Arts, Masterworks Foundation of Bermuda and the Bermuda Musical and Dramatic Society, Bermuda Heritage Association, Bermuda TB Cancer and Health Association, St. George’s Jaycees, Friends of the Bermuda College Library, Bermuda Biological Station for Research, Bermuda Business & Professional Women’s Club, Berkeley Educational Society, Masterworks Foundation, Bermuda Zoological Society; Amnesty International, Bermuda Debate Society, Keep Bermuda Beautiful and Richard Allen AME Church.

Some of the awards she has received include:

  • Made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in the June 2005 Queen’s Birthday Honors in recognition for her service to Bermuda and its people.
  • Received Honourary Degrees from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, USA (June 2003) (DHumL), Morris Brown College, Atlanta Georgia, USA (May 2000), and Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (October 2000)
  • Received the “Woman of Great Esteem” award from Q-Kingdom Ministries New York, USA (March 2001)
  • Received an award from the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Washington, D. C. USA (September 2001).

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The Hon. GIRLYN MIGUEL

The Honorable Girlyn Miguel being sworn in as the first female Deputy Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Hon. Girlyn Miguel is serving her third term as Parliamentary Representative for the Constituency of Marriaqua. She also serves as the Minister of Education.

Sister Girlyn, as she is fondly known, attended the Marriaqua Government School where she obtained the Primary School Leaving Certificate and became a member of the British Junior Red Cross Society. She’s completed training in counseling and several training in education administration and teaching.

Girlyn Miguel devoted her life to education and our kids. She’s spent her career in our schools working first as a teacher and then as a principal. She’s also started programs like First Browne, Girl Guide and Ranger Companies to help keep our kids on the right path.

As Minister of Education, Sister Girlyn has presided over an Education Revolution in this country. She oversaw the unprecedented expansion in the investment in our school facilities and in the quality of teachers. She also oversaw the explosion of scholarships in this country.

Outside of her ministerial duties, Sister Girlyn is active in the Marriaqua community. She’s involved with the Marriaqua Cooperative Credit Union, the Marriaqua United Friendly Society and the Marriaqua Education, Culture and Sports Organisation.

Girlyn Miguel and her daughters

A committed Christian, Sister Girlyn has been active in her church since she was 17. This includes service as a Lay Reader, Catechist, Eucharistic Minister of Holy Communion and she’s been involved in missionary work at Geriatric homes, prisons, hospitals and to the home-bound.

On 14 December 2010 Girlyn Miguel was appointed as the first female Deputy Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Girlyn Miguel is a widow and mother of four.

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The Hon. GLENYS HANNA-MARTIN

Glenys Hanna-Martin was born in Nassau on October 27, 1958 to the Hon. Arthur Dion Hanna and Beryl Hanna (nee Church). She is the mother of three and her interests include reading, walking, yoga and poetry.

Political Highlights: Mrs. Hanna-Martin was sworn in as Minister of Transport and Aviation on May 10, 2012.

Her current ministerial portfolio includes: Ground Transportation, Road Traffic Management, motor vehicles registration and licensing, postal services, drays and surreys, Nassau Flight Services, meteorology, relations with the Airport Authority, ship registration, maritime affairs, the Port.

Mrs. Hanna-Martin on May 2nd, 2002 was declared the winner of the Englerston Constituency in the 2002 General Elections. Subsequently she was appointed and sworn in as the Minister of Transport and Aviation. In 1998 she was elected Chairperson of the Women’s Branch of the Progressive Liberal Party. In 2008 she was elected Chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party at its National Convention. She became the first female to hold the post of Chairman of any major political party in The Bahamas.

Education: Her education began at St. Anne’s School, Fox Hill. She later attended Queen’s College, and matriculated from Padworth College, Reading, England. She continued her studies at York University, Toronto, Canada, graduating in 1981 with a Bachelor of Arts (Specialized Honors  degree in English Literature. In 1985 she left for the University of Buckingham, England where she obtained her LL.B with top honors having been awarded the Maxwell Law Prize by the institution. She then joined the Inner Temple, London and in 1988, after having successfully completed her Council of Legal Education Course, was called to the Bar of England and Wales.

Professional/Career: She is currently the Senior Partner and Lawyer at A.D. Hanna & Co.

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DAME MARGUERITE PINDLING

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Dame Marguerite Pindling is one of  The Bahamas’ most beautiful women, one whom is admired by young ladies of The Bahamas and abroad, is a humble and pleasant lady who hails from Long Bay Cays, Andros Island. She has been very busy from the day she met and married Sir. Linden O. Pindling. Since then her life has been shared with the Bahamian nation and she is known as a humanitarian throughout The Bahamas, and as a member of a plethora of charities.

She became First Lady of our independent country in 1973.

Throughout her time as First Lady, Lady Pindling gave her determined, energetic and loyal support to her family. Besides the devotion she showed to Sir Lynden and his political career, she undertook much charitable work, cared for her children, and became a Bahamian icon. She was honoured by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2007, being named a Dame Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.

Her pride is/was to be a Bahamian. She would be likened to the African Sophia Lauren in her style and elegance and she has a natural ability to make anyone feel welcome and at home in her midst. Lady Pindling and her husband had a genuine natural gift of being open and approachable. They flowed freely.

(BIS Photo: Derek Smith)

It was so easy for our committee to determine that Dame Marguerite Pindling is one who undoubtedly, unequivocally and without question is deserving of being our Special Guest, and that for us is so meaningful. What she displays, what she recognizes, and most importantly, what she does as a humanitarian through charities such as The Red Cross, shows her compassion for helping within her country.

One cannot begin to pen the memoirs of our First Lady, Dame Marguerite Pindling without noting her desire to be the best role model; to take on such an irksome task of standing by Sir Linden Pindling in life and in death for the betterment of the Country of The Bahamas as a whole. She has brought many to our Bahamas, from the Queen in London, Prime Ministers and Presidents all around the world, never forgetting where it mattered most; and she found her greatest reception and adoration amongst the common man, the citizens of The Bahamas.

Lady Margaret Pindling is a brown skin complexion beautiful to looked upon Bahamian female from Long Bay Cays, Andros Island, who married a man Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling who was shorter in statute than she was. She became first Lady of an independent country in 1973 and unaware became the envy of many who did not see she was there as a protege of Bahamian Royalty. Dancing with Prince Phillip Of Great Britain seem fairytale and moving amongst aristocrats surely had its share of haters. Both she and her husband had the strong command of speech and with such intellectual skills which would have advanced the African race only to have those who were covetous of their appearance, performance blemish their character to a point of such destruction anyone who never had a chance to see elegance and royalty in the African- western flair would discover there were a few who recall the pride it was to be a Bahamian. She would be likened to the African Sophia Lauren in style and excellence. The ability to make anyone feel welcome and at home in their midst Lady Pindling and her husband had a genuine natural gift of being open and approachable where so many are fighting to fit in, they flowed freely. Dethroning Lady Pindling became a specious ploy and history will surely show that a Lady is always A LADY.

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Lady Ingrid Darling Dame Marguerite Pindling

Dame Marguerite Pindling was born to Reuben and Viola McKenzie in the settlement of Long Bay Cays, South Andros, on 26 June 1932; she often describes herself as ‘just a barefoot girl from Andros’.

Moving to Nassau in 1946, she lived with her sister Louise and attended the Western Senior School. After leaving school, her first job was with noted photographer Stanley Toogood. Later she worked for Colyn Rees and soon met Lynden Pindling, a London-trained lawyer. Following a courtship of a little over a year, they married on 5 May 1956. Shortly after the wedding Lynden Pindling was elected to the House of Assembly and would serve until 1997, when he retired after being elected nine consecutive times. In 1967 he became Premier and later Prime Minister, a post he held until 1992.

IMG_0120Dame Marguerite Pindling and Mrs. Bahamas 2010, Keldra Pinder.

Throughout his term in office, Lady Pindling gave her husband her determined, energetic and loyal support. Besides the devotion she showed to Sir Lynden and his political career, she undertook much charitable work, cared for her children and became a Bahamian icon. She was honoured by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 2007, being named a Dame Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.

The Pindlings had four children – Obi, Leslie, Michelle and Monique – and Dame Marguerite is now a proud grandmother of six.

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