Dame Eugenia Charles was Dominica’s first woman lawyer and the first woman Prime Minister in the Caribbean.
She was born on 15 May 1919 in Pointe Michel, Dominica. She went to high school in Dominica and obtained a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto in 1946, before receiving her LLM degree at LSE in 1949. She returned to Dominica to practice law.
In the late 1960s, Dame Eugenia Charles became involved in the political scene in Dominica and was elected to head the new Dominica Freedom Party (DFP), which she had founded in 1968. The DFP was established after demonstrations against the passing of the Seditious and Undesirable Publications Act, proposed by the then-ruling Dominican Labour Party, and profiled itself as a broad-based party which opposed legislation limiting freedom of the press. Charles had previously written anonymous articles, highly critical of the ruling Dominica Labour Party, for The Herald and later The Star newspapers.
In 1970, despite failing to win a seat in the general elections, Charles was appointed to the legislature. In 1975 she became leader of the opposition, which led to her appointment as Prime Minister when the Dominica Freedom Party won the 1980 elections. In 1985 and 1990 she won two additional terms as Prime Minister, before her party was defeated in 1995.