Mabel Cordelia Holloway Walker was a capable and dynamic advocate for change in The Bahamas. The fact that she was an American, born in Greenville, South Carolina on May 2, 1902, in no way diminished her passion for education and gender equality in The Bahamas. She studied at Howard University in Washington, DC where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree and met her Bahamian husband, Claudius Roland Walker, who was then studying for the Bachelor of Science degree.
Mrs. Walker relocated to The Bahamas with her husband after he completed his medical studies at Meharry College in Nashville, Tennessee. She became involved in education by opening a pre-school and assisting her husband with adult education classes at the Bahamas Technical Institute which he had organized. Later, Mrs. Walker became a teacher with the Board of Education at Southern Preparatory School, then Western Senior and Junior Schools. She was promoted to headmistress of Woodcock Primary School, a post she held until her retirement in 1962.
Mrs. Walker was founding president of the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) in 1947, the first woman to head a trade union in The Bahamas. She worked hard for the recognition of the Union and was adamant that teachers be recognized, trained and paid as professionals. The Mabel Walker Primary School and the administrative building of the BUT, Walker Hall, are named in honor of her contribution to education.
Mabel Walker was also the catalyst of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. She brought together strong-willed and intelligent women of diverse social and political background when she suggested to Georgiana K. Symonette, later chairman of the Women’s Branch of the PLP, that they seek the assistance of Mary Ingraham, wife of a former UBP- leaning member of the House of Assembly. Mrs. Walker labored in the Suffrage Movement from 1950 until 1962 when Bahamian women of 21 years or older were given the right to vote. It is a testimony to her character that she fought for a cause from which she would derive no direct benefit as she was an American. She knew that the cause was just and that the fight was for her children.
Mrs. Walker lived by principles. She believed in the dignity of work. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” was her guide. She always believed in the potential of people, and encouraged people to achieve their goals. She would say “nothing is impossible,” and “there is nothing called ‘I can’t’.” Even in her later life, she was always encouraging and helping people.
Mrs. Walker died on July 8, 1987.