The year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the culmination of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the Bahamas. The Movement took place against the dramatic backdrop of the Burma Road Riots of 1942, the General Strike of 1958, the Labour Movement of the 1950s, and the majority rule and civil rights movements. Bahamian women worked tirelessly along with men to resist and redress the racial discrimination and the political and economic inequities that permeated Bahamian society.
There were essentially two branches to the Suffrage Movement in the Bahamas. They cross-fertilised each other and merged at pivotal times to speak with one voice. Several of the key women belonged to both arms of the movement. Mary Ingraham was elected as President of the Suffrage Movement in 1957. Georgiana Symonette was the Vice-president and Eugenia Lockhart was the Treasurer. In 1958, Dr. Doris Johnson returned home from studying abroad and joined the Suffrage Movement.
During the years 1959 and 1960, the Movement gained considerable ground advancing petitions and demonstrating publicly for the right to vote. In November 1960, Eugenia Lockhart and Dr. Doris Johnson accompanied Henry M. Taylor, Chairman of the PLP, to London to present a Petition to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. In January 1961 a Select Committee of the House of Assembly gave a Report in favour of the right to vote for women but with effect from January 1963. The PLP and the Independents in the House of Assembly opposed the report. An appeal was made to the House of Commons in England again. On February 23, 1961 a Bill to enable women to vote was enacted with effect from June 30, 1962. Bahamian women voted for the first time on November 26, 1962.
A Chronological History of Women’s Suffrage in The Bahamas 1952 – 1962 – Kim Outten-Stubbs
Reprinted with permission from the National Archives of The Bahamas, available at the Department of Archives
A Chronology of Events Leading Up to the Enfranchisement of Women – Marion Bethel