Teacher, suffragette, politician and author, Dame Dr. Doris Johnson has been described as a woman of a high level of intelligence and ambition, committed to achieving her goals against the odds. Born Doris Sands in 1921, she had long been a social and political fighter for the rights of women. When she returned to The Bahamas in 1958 from studying abroad, the Women’s Suffrage Movement embraced her passion and oratorical skills. She was able to mobilize the movement into a fighting force (while coordinating the founding of the National Council of Women).
In 1959 Dr. Johnson led a demonstration to Parliament and gave a pivotal speech, in the Magistrate’s Court, to members of the House of Assembly on the moral right of women to vote. This event was a turning point in the road to achieving suffrage. In November 1960, Dr. Doris Johnson and Eugenia Lockhart accompanied Henry M. Taylor, Chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), to London to present a Petition for universal adult suffrage to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The following year, a Select Committee of the Bahamas Parliament presented a report which proposed to yield to women the right to vote in 1963. The PLP and Independents opposed the deferral of the right, and an appeal was made to London again. In February 23, 1961 the House of Assembly, perhaps pressured by London, enacted the law to give women the right to vote and sit in the legislature with effect from June 30, 1962.
When the 1962 General Election was held, Dr. Johnson became the first woman ever to contest a seat; she ran for the Eleuthera District. She did not win; but she had run the first leg of a race that would be completed by Mrs. Janet Bostwick twenty years later. In 1967 the PLP became the government of The Bahamas, and Dr. Johnson became the first woman appointed to the Senate; the first woman leader of government business in the Senate; the first woman Minister of Government (1968-1973 Ministry of Transport); and, the first woman President of the Senate (1973-1979) at age 52.
Doris Johnson held a Bachelor of Arts in English and Education cum laude, a Master of Education degree in Administration and Supervision, and Doctor of Education with Honours from New York University. She taught for seventeen years in the Bahamian public education system in the 1940s and 1950s before taking up the position of lecturer in social studies at Virginia Union, U.S.A. 1965-1967. Her book, The Quiet Revolution, is one of the most important accounts of the events and personalities involved in the attainment of Majority Rule and Independence in The Bahamas. She died June 21, 1983.