Post-Colonial Moment: The Iron Lady takes her last bow.

Dame Mary Eugenia Charles, the first woman prime minister of the Caribbean, died today aged 86 after complication from a broken hip. She was best known as the "Iron Lady of the Caribbean." She is even more well known for her support of the US-led Greneda invasion in the 1980s.

Charles' career in politics started as an advocate for press freedom, when the Dominica Labour Party attempted to limit dissent with a sedition act in 1968. In 1970, she was appointed to the legislature and in 1975, to the house of assembly, where she became the leader of the opposition. She co-founded the Dominica Freedom Party which helped Dominica win independence from Great Britain in 1978. Charles became prime minister in 1979.

Unlike her socialist contemporaries such as Norman Manley and Cheddi Jagan, Charles took hardline conservative postions on many economic and social reform. Other issues that were important to her were anti-corruption measures and individual freedom. However, her support of the Greneda invasion pit her against many leaders in Latin America, including Fidel Castro.

She resigned when her party lost elections in 1995. She also served as foreign minister of Dominica from 1980 to 1990. She was created a dame in 1992.

Despite the many coup attempts and disagreement over foreign policy, Charles will be best remembered as a strict constitutionalist and savvy lawyer. She also became a spokeswoman for the Caribbean banana industry, defending the preferential access of former European colonies to Europe's markets.


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