The Life & Times of Dame Mary Eugenia Charles

By: Gabriel J. Christian

SKU: 978-1-4507-0973-6
ISBN: 978-1-4507-0973-6
Subject: Biographies

Dame Mary Eugenia Charles was the first female head of government in the history of the Americas when she became Prime Minister of Dominica on July 21, 1980.  She was also the first female leader of African descent to lead a Government in the modern era. Eugenia Charles was a no nonsense administrator of conservative stripe who stood alongside US President Ronald Reagan in support of the Grenada invasion of October 1983. Her defeat of the 1981 attempted coup by local disaffected soldiers (unwittingly in league with the Ku Klux Klan) gained her respect at home and abroad. In the early parts of the work we learn of  Charles’ tough mother who ran a grocery store and bakery, and her father the enterprising and visionary John Baptiste “JB” Charles. JB,  a tough-talking banker corresponded with Booker T. Washington and Dr. George Washington Carver – sending both his sons to Tuskegee University in the early 20th century. Eugenia Charles adopted the stoicism of her father who was early Pan Africanist and legislator who promoted self government and the federation of the British West Indian colonies. Gabriel Christian’s “Mamo!” is a riveting biography of the “Iron Lady of the Caribbean” which allows us insight into someone who credibly met the challenges common to developing countries and left office with her integrity intact. 

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Title information

MAMO! Is the riveting biography of Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, Prime Minister of Dominica. Mamo, was the popular nickname given Charles by islanders who she led with stern resolve for fifteen years. The work provides insight into the life of one of the leading figures in Caribbean history and one of the most notable females to ever to lead any country in recent times. The product of a 1996 interview and notes from thirteen years of interaction with Dominican born attorney and community leader Gabriel Christian, the book begins with splendid introduction with Justice Irving Andre (PhD) Canadian jurist and legal scholar who has become the preeminent biographer of Dominica s leaders of the modern era. The work spotlights Dame Charles early life in Dominica; her father s involvement in the local legislator and the politics of Caribbean nationalism. We witness her encounter with racism, and resistance to segregation laws, while travelling through the southern United States of the Jim Crow era while on her way to law school at the University of Toronto; her days at law school under famed Canadian legal scholar Bora Laskin is detailed. Upon her return to Dominica, Eugenia Charles becomes the first Dominican female lawyer. In this work we read of her founding the Dominica Freedom Party and how she was later catapulted into power by a land slide electoral victory in July 1980, after the ravages of civil strife and the devastation of Hurricane David in 1979 had sent Dominica reeling. Born in 1919 to a striving middle class family, Miss Charles tells of her father, John Baptiste JB Charles, an equally amazing figure who travelled the world in the early 1900s and agitated for political representation for Dominicans and British West Indian Federation. A closet follower of Marcus Garvey s UNIA, Miss Charles father grew wealthy by virtue of hard work, thrift and industry; he exported limes and lime oil and becoming the first black man to open a bank on the island of Dominica. He also corresponded with Booker T. Washington and famed African American scientist Dr. George Washington Carver; sent his first son at age 12 to study under Carver at Tuskegee Institute and Morehouse College; both his sons Rennie and Lawrence - later becoming physicians after graduating from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Miss Charles relates that her only sister, Jane, became a nun, after rejecting her father s efforts to have her enter the field of science. Inspired by a strong willed mother, Josephine, and a visionary father, Miss Charles became the first female head of government in the America s - and the first black female Prime Minister of the modern era. In her usual blunt, yet charmingly colorful style, we learn of her role in the US invasion of Grenada on October 25, 1983 when allied with US President Ronald Reagan. She describes how, through tough decisions and shrewd tactics, she defeated two attempts to topple her regime by her own Defence Force and Ku Klux Klan mercenaries. Of conservative hue, Eugenia Charles ruled Dominica from 1980 to 1995 with a degree of tough pragmatism, from the political center. In the waning days of the Cold War she sought alliances with which to advance programs of equal access to education, health care and assistance to farmers. For her sterling leadership to the cause of the British Commonwealth, Eugenia Charles was knighted a Dame Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth, II in 1991. Though dead since 2005, her heroic image as The Iron Lady still looms large in the popular memory. In this book, the Grand Dame of Caribbean politics reveals her life in stark detail for the first time; and she emerges as a symbol of integrity in office for those who value governance in the public interest.

Pages: 248
Publisher: Pont Casse Press
Edition: 2nd
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Gabriel J. Christian

Gabriel J. Christian attended the Dominica Grammar School and Sixth Form College. He taught History at the Dominica Grammar School before attending the University of the District of Columbia College of Business and Public Management in Washington, D.C. where he graduated with a BBA in Procurement and Public Contracting. Mr. Christian studied law at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. graduating with the degree of Juris Doctor in 1991. Mr. Christian was admitted to the Bar in 1991 and now practices law in Maryland. In 2007, Maryland Governor Martin O Malley appointed Mr. Christian to the position of Judicial Commissioner, Maryland Court of Appeals. André & Christian co-authored In Search of Eden: Dominica,The Travails of a Caribbean Mini-State (1992) and In Search of Eden: Essays on Dominican History (2002). Mr. Christian also authored Rain on a Tin Roof in 1999, and six other books on Caribbean and military history.  In 2012, Christian was appointed to the Maryland Governor’s Commission on Caribbean Affairs– the first of its kind in the state’s history – by then Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. He is married to Joan Robinson-Christian and has two children, Samora and Makonnen.

Mamo! Review

Dear Gabriel,
Having now finished reading this book, I thought that I would email you to let you have my comments.  
In short I was very impressed with the book and the open and frank account that the late PM gave on many issues - personal, political, social, educational, etc...   The question and answer style of the publication does work, although in places I had to re-read passages twice to ensure that the question asked had actually been answered.  At certain points throughout the publication I noticed that just like a good Counsel examining a witness in chief, you would bring the late PM back to the relevant topic to ensure the theme that you wanted to follow was achieved.  For me, this makes the work totally authentic.  
The topics covered are well treated.  I was particularly interested in the late PM's law school and law practice days.  I can also relate to her sentiments of lawyers in Dominica currently. The book's insight into the modus operandi behind the 1983 Grenada Invasion was also enlightening and informative.  Overall, the publication was very well footnoted.  Even though the information for this book started with an interview with the late PM on 5th October 1996 there are many salient features that are still relevant to many today.  In particular on page 209 the late PM responds to the question of Americanization of Dominican culture by cable television:
"We need more creative and relevant TV.  The poor choices on TV, I think that helps... it helps to prevent people needing to think properly about what is right and what is wrong. But apart from that, people would just think that whatever you can get, get it.  It doesn't matter how you get it; and, that's bad, you know.  I worry about it very much". 
On the same page, the late PM again comments: 
".....You know, people are not reading enough at home either you know, and I wonder if ... we don't require more pointed articles for people to read and appreciate and understand.  As a people we need to read more and write more, not just go on radio and talk foolishness.  That's a bad habit now." 
Finally, it is hard to disagree with the tribute on the Grenada Revolution Online, which stated that the late PM was "outspoken, critical, blunt, sharp-tongued, firm, decisive, honorable, formidable, principled, pragmatic, no-nonsense, reform-minded, anti-corruption, tough liner, steely determination, strong willed, quick on the retort, forthright, not devious; a head mistress and an auntie."  It of course follows that her approach to life and her modus vivendi was an example to many. 
You have successfully demonstrated with evidence each and all of the about traits related to the late PM in this extremely good and very timely publication, for which you should be commended. 
With kind regards  

Darren J. Sylvester

LL.B. (Hons), of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, Barrister