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Women’s Suffrage Movement Symposium

Mary Darling
Nassau, BAHAMAS – Fifty years ago, a series of strategic and compelling events culminated in one of the most significant achievements in Bahamian history. 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in The Bahamas and in commemoration of this significant milestone The College of The Bahamas and the Bureau of Women’s Affairs are collaborating to host the Women’s Suffrage Movement Symposium, March 6th – 9th at The College’s Performing Arts Centre.
The symposium’s theme is “Commemorating the Past, Reflecting on the Present, Envisioning the Future: 1962 and Beyond”. It will provide the platform for informed discussion, debate and analysis of the events that gave birth to the empowerment and enfranchisement of Bahamian women.
Chair of the Symposium Planning Committee and Head of the History, Religion and Philosophy Department at The College of The Bahamas Assistant Professor Dr. Christopher Curry said these kinds of anniversaries provide an opportunity to reflect on the struggles and triumphs of the nation building process in The Bahamas.
“The Suffrage Movement, though an integral part of the Quiet Revolution, has often been overlooked or overshadowed by other events such as Black Tuesday, The General Strike or Majority Rule. This symposium will raise the awareness of the significance of the movement, while also critically engaging some of its shortcomings,” he said. “As the symposium has three foci – the past, present and future – we intend to provide a broad analysis of the struggle for equal rights and full citizenship for women in The Bahamas. This is not about one event, but a long process that is still being fought today. Thus, the symposium will serve to raise awareness of the past struggles even as it engages critical issues that remain unresolved in The Bahamas today.”
On February 23rd, 1961, the Bill to enable women to have and exercise rights of registration as voters and of voting similar to those accorded to men under the provisions of the General Assembly Elections Act 1959 was passed. It came into effect on June 30th, 1962. The following month, on July 12th, Ruby Ann Cooper was the first woman to register to vote and on November 26th, 1962, women 21 years and over voted for the first time in The Bahamas.
Half a century ago, women like Mary Ingraham, Mabel Walker, Georgiana Symonette, Eugenia Lockhart, Althea Mortimer, Albertha M. Isaacs, Doris Johnson, Grace Wilson, Mildred Moxey, Ethel Kemp, Gladys Bailey and Madge Brown defied social convention. They became trailblazers who challenged inequalities and helped to advance the status of women in The Bahamas.
Christine Campbell, First Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Women’s Affairs said the persistence of the suffragettes and other advocates provide an important national lesson.
“It is so important because so many Bahamians don’t know our history and don’t understand the significance of what happened. I think it is wonderful that COB is in partnership with the Bureau on this,” she said. “I would like persons to talk about what those ladies did to give them their just due. My personal view is that they have exhibited what we want to see in our students and other persons that when you believe in a cause and one on a national level that is going to advance your country and your people you do not give up.”
During the symposium, attendees including junior and senior high school students will have the opportunity to gain special insight into this period of history as expressed by some of the children and siblings of the suffragettes: Juliette Barnwell, Andrew Maynard, Alice Musgrove-Rolle, Wallice Carey and Shirley Cooper. Nationally recognised writers and researchers as well as international scholars will also present varied perspectives. 
“The more we expose our young people, the better they will be and they will be able to build on it. They are the tradition bearers and long after we are gone they will be able to tell their children about aspects of our history,” Ms. Campbell added.
The opening ceremony of the symposium will be held on Tuesday evening at 6:30p.m. and will be immediately followed by a panel discussion. The first session, specially structured for students, is scheduled for Tuesday, beginning at 10a.m. in The College’s Performing Arts Centre.

Source: College of the Bahamas

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