Women at the Top

We went searching…..for the women who have led the Guild of Students (previously called the Junior Common Room and then the Guild of Undergraduates) in the seven decades of the history of the University of the West Indies. It took us a while, but we wanted to report on our findings before Women’s History Month 2019 came to a close. We were also interested in the context of an Elect Her programme that was run earlier in March by the Mary Seacole Hall at Mona, ahead of this year’s Guild elections.

We knew from the start that the first woman to lead the UWI Guild was Angela King – student activist, who completed her undergraduate degree and a Dip Ed at UWI and went on to complete a Masters degree at London University. She spent 38 years working at the United Nations, rising to Assistant Secretary-General on gender issues. She led the Guild from 1960-1961. Subsequent women elected as Guild Presidents at the Mona campus were: Gloria Lannaman (1962); Daphne Rousseau (1964-1965); Althea Glen Wright (1986-1987); Annicia Gayle (2002-2003); Stephanie Abrahams (2011-2012); Davianne Tucker (2015-2016); and Mikiela Gonzales (2016-2017). Lannaman, a journalist and playwright, saw her council dissolved by a special vote in November 1962. Women have comprised eight of the 67 UWI Mona Guild Presidents to date.

At the UWI’s St Augustine campus in Trinidad & Tobago, which began operation in 1961, there have been 51 Guild Presidents to date, just four of them women: Terri-Ann Joseph was the first in 1983-1984; Katijha Khan (2000-2001); Fallon Lutchmansingh (2005-2006); and Natasha Grimes (2007-2008). (Thanks Amilcar Sanatan for the St Augustine info).

Cave Hill had the distinction of a female President who served not one but TWO terms in office – Leslie-Ann Seon who was President in 1988-1989 and again 1989-90. She was preceded by Dorcas White (1973-1974) and Linda Rajpaul (1979-1980). Subsequently, female Presidents included Sandra Gardiner (1996-1997); Sherene Alleyne (2002-2003).  Cave Hill has had 49 Guild Presidents to date. (Thanks Sharon Alexander-Gooding, University Archivist)

We can also report that since the Open Campus got started, they have had three male and three female Presidents, according to the OC Guild Communications and Public Relations Officer Leon Dawson. The women are Ruthlyn Matthias (2012-2013); Fallan Skinner-Thomas (2014-2015); and Aneka Lee (2015-2016).

The historic photos of the first three, all from the busy 1960s, are from the historic Pelican student publication. We’ll bring you some details of the debacle surrounding the unseating of the 1962 Guild Council in a later post. If you were there, or have other Guild stories to share, please jump in!

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