Georgiana Symonette

Georgiana Kathleen Symonette was born April 4, 1902 in Wemyss Bight, Eleuthera to Olivia McKinney and Alexander Symonette. She was educated at the government school in Wemyss Bight and later became a monitor there (assistant teacher).

Georgianna Symonette’s ambition to improve herself professionally caused her to migrate to Nassau to pursue nursing at the Bahamas General Hospital (renamed the Princess Margaret Hospital). She lived in the Eastern District where she raised her family of four children and ran a successful dry goods business. Miss Symonette had a passion for politics, the rights of women and the advancement of black people socially, economically and politically. It was this dimension of her life which has set her apart. The vehicle for that expression was the Progressive Liberal party which was founded in 1953. She became the founding chairman of the Women’s Branch of the party.

Recognizing the inequities in voting rights, Miss Symonette and three other ladies, Mrs. Mary Ingraham, Eugenia Lockhart and Mabel Walker formed the Women’s Suffrage Movement. In order to sensitize the government of the day to the desire of women to vote, Miss Symonette and the other suffragettes adopted a very aggressive action programme. They toured the entire archipelago gaining signatures for petitions; picketed the House of Assembly; addressed Parliamentarians; and, made representation to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. As a result of the persistence of the suffragettes, Parliament in 1961 passed an Act giving women the right to vote. In the 1962 General Election women voted for the first time in The Bahamas thanks to the tireless agitation of women like Georgiana Symonette.

Miss Symonette died May 14, 1965. Her political contribution has continued through two generations of her children. Her son Sir Clement Maynard was a minister of the government for 25 consecutive years and deputy prime minister of The Bahamas (1985-1992), and two of her grandchildren have served as ministers of government.

Adapted from The 100 Most Outstanding Bahamians of the 20th Century