Mary Ingraham

Mary Ingraham was a strong-willed and intelligent woman. These were the very attributes that enabled her to complete the work destiny had assigned to her in the Women’s Suffrage Movement. “May”, as she was affectionately called, was born on July 30, 1901 in New Providence. A housewife, she became actively involved in politics in the late 1940s when her husband, Rufus, was a Member of the House of Assembly for the Crooked Island and Acklins Districts. In the 1949 General Election, her husband lost his seat; and he attributed his loss to the fact that women were not allowed to vote.  He felt that most of the males who were eligible to
vote did so only in exchange for materialistic things such as alcohol or cash, which his opponents were able to supply. The experience of her husband impressed upon Mary the need for women to be able to vote. She had been agitating the powers-that-be for some time to give women equal voting rights with men, but she had been unsuccessful, until she joined forces with some other strong-willed and intelligent women.

In 1950 Mrs. Mabel Walker, wife of PLP Parliamentarian C. R. Walker and a long time close friend of the family, approached Mrs. Ingraham on behalf of a young women’s group wanting to know how to go about getting the vote for women. Mary was willing to work with them to bring about this change. The women formed a committee, the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Mary already had some experience in the fight and was made chairman; Georgiana K. Symonette, later chairman of the Women’s Branch of the PLP, was made vice chairman; Eugenia Lockhart was its secretary; and Althea Mortimer, Mabel C. Walker, and Muriel Eneas were members.  Most of these women held influential positions in various female organizations of that period: Mabel Walker had established the Teachers Union and was working to get recognition for it; and Mrs. Ingraham was a Past Daughter Ruler of the Elks of the World and Past Matron of the Order of Eastern Stars.

The committee evolved in structure, size, and effectiveness between 1950 and 1962. In 1958 Doris Johnson joined the Movement as spokesperson and mobilized the movement into a fighting force. Following two Petitions, an executive meeting with Lennox Boyd, an epochal speech by Doris Johnson on the moral imperative of universal adult suffrage to members of Parliament, and a visit to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London, Mr. Stafford Sands tabled a Bill “to enable women to have and exercise rights of registration as voters and of voting similar to those accorded to men….’ The Bill passed Parliament in February 23, 1961. It came into effect on June 30, 1962; and women 21 years or older voted for the first time on November 26, 1962.