Ever since the second half of the 1970s, when two women, Albena Lake-Hodge (Teacher Albena) and Idalia Gumbs, controlled the political directorate in Anguilla by occupying two of the three ministerial positions, that situation has never been repeated. In 1984, Teacher Albena defeated the Father of the Nation, James Ronald Webster, in The Valley South constituency, and he was never able to win a seat thereafter. That was also the last time a woman sat in the House of Assembly as an elected representative of the people. Sadly, Teacher Albena passed in 1985, and Idalia (whose tenure in the Legislature ended in 1980) passed in 2000. With their passing, Anguilla had lost two political stalwarts.
Encouraged by the outstanding performance and record of Teacher Albena and Idalia, four women contested the 1989 general election. They were Ophelia Richardson, Orealia Kelly, Lolita Davis-Ifill and Omah Richardson. None succeeded. The fact that four highly-educated and wellrespected women were all defeated gave credence to the long-held perception that Anguillian society saw political leadership as being reserved for men. It was partly for that reason, and partly because of the degree to which female candidates were dragged through the mud in 1989, that there was not a single female candidate in the 1994 general election.
In 1999… [and] every election thereafter, WOMEN contested seats…[THEY] were no longer prepared to take a backseat in politics.
In 1999, after a 10-year break, Anguilla’s women returned to the political platform with Barbara Webster contesting the Island Harbour seat and Blondell Rodgiers The Valley South seat. Neither was successful. Nonetheless, in every general election thereafter (beginning in 2000), female candidates contested for seats—an indication that Anguilla’s women were no longer prepared to take a backseat in politics.
Actually, by that time, they were not taking a backseat in Anguillian society in general. They were outperforming Anguillian men academically and professionally and dominating the job market filling many top positions in the private and public sectors. It was against that backdrop of women occupying the top echelons of Anguillian society that we saw a renewed and heightened interest of women in politics. In the 2000 general election, there were four of them, all highly qualified academically: Barbara Webster, Margaret Augustus, Joyce Kentish and Rhona Richardson. Many people felt that our women were poised to dismantle the male-dominated political kingdom. But that was not to be. All of them were defeated at the polls. Apparently, Anguillian society was still not ready for them.
That was also the case in 2005, when Barbara Webster, Anne Edwards and Rhona Richardson were unsuccessful, and in 2010, when Palmavon Webster and Cora Richardson-Hodge did not win.
Now, in 2015, four dynamic female candidates—three lawyers, Palmavon Webster, Cora Richardson-Hodge and Kristy Richardson- Harrigan, and one senior retired public servant, Evalie Bradley—are in the race. Public opinion is strong that some of them will win. If so, the winner(s) will break a 31-year absence of women from the Anguilla Legislature/House of Assembly.
It will be a welcome breath of fresh air if some female candidates win in 2015. They are educated and dedicated, committed and focused, and have the wherewithal to create a gentler and kinder Anguilla.