16 Jamaican Women Who Created History

(L-R) Carole Crawford, DCP Jevene Bent, The Hon Portia Simpson Miller and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce
(L-R) Carole Crawford, DCP Jevene Bent, The Hon Portia Simpson Miller and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Jamaican women have recorded a number of great accomplishments over the years, oftentimes creating history on the global stage. Today, in honour of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we celebrate the achievements of 16 trailblazing ladies:

  1. Alia Atkinson – On December 6, 2014, she won gold in the 100m breaststroke at the FINA World Short Course Championships in Doha, Qatar, making her the first black woman and first Jamaican to win a swimming world title. To make her accomplishment that more impressive and historic, Atkinson equalled the world record of 1:2.36.
  2. DCP Jevene Bent – She joined the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in 1976, and rose through the ranks to become Jamaica’s and the region’s first female Deputy Commissioner of Police in 2003. During her time in the JCF, Bent was twice called on to act in the capacity of Police Commissioner – 2004 and 2007.
  3. Veronica Campbell-Brown – One of the most successful sprinters in history, she has been a force since her high school days. She is the only Caribbean woman to win world titles at the youth, junior and senior level of an athletic event – one of only nine athletes in the world. With the exception of the Commonwealth Games, she has won multiple gold medals at all other international competitions.
  4. Tessanne Chin – She became the first non-American to win the Emmy-winning US talent show The Voice, claiming the crown in the fifth season. Chin was also the first ‘Voice’ contestant to hit #1 on the iTunes singles chart not once but twice, and three of her covers – Bridge Over Troubled Water, I Have Nothing and Let It Be, hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart. She has since reached #4 on the Billboard Heatseekers album charts with her debut Republic Records LP, Count On My Love.
  5. Dr Una Clarke – Elected in 1991, she was the first Caribbean-born woman elected to the New York City legislature. She was born in St Elizabeth and migrated to the States as a foreign student in 1958.
  6. Iris Collins – She was the first woman elected Member of Parliament in Jamaica, winning the St James North Western seat in 1944.
  7. Carole Crawford – The then 20-year-old, five-foot three-inch beauty, took home the coveted Miss World crown for Jamaica in 1963, just months after the island became an independent nation. The first Jamaican woman to be crowned Miss World, she was the first woman of colour to win the title.
  8. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – She became the first Caribbean woman to win the 100 metre title, at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. She created more history at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow, Russia, winning the 100m, 200m and 4x100m events, becoming the first woman to complete the triple in a single World Championships. Fraser-Pryce was also appointed the first national Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF Jamaica on February 22, 2010.
  9. Deon Hemmings – She is the first Jamaican woman to win an individual Olympic title, copping gold in the 400m hurdles at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
  10. Zaila McCalla – She is the island’s first female Chief Justice, appointed in 2007. She succeeded Justice Lensley Wolfe.
  11. Jody-Anne Maxwell – She was the first Jamaican and only non-American (excluding US-ruled Puerto Rico) to win Scripps National Spelling Bee in 1998.
  12. Madame Rose Leon – She was the first Jamaican woman to become a government minister, and the only Jamaican to have served in both a JLP and PNP Cabinet. She was also elected Chairman of the JLP in 1948, becoming the first female chairman of a political party in the Caribbean.
  13. Paula Llewellyn – She is the first woman to be appointed Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), appointed in 2008. Prior to this, she became the first woman to act in the position of Director in 1999, and in 2003, she became the first woman to be appointed in the position of Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions.
  14. Dr Blossom O’Meally-Nelson – She has the distinction of being the first female Postmaster General of Jamaica, appointed in 2000. Her six-year stint in this position resulted in the establishment of the Postal Corporation of Jamaica for the commercialisation and modernisation of the post.
  15. Portia Simpson Miller – She rose from humble beginnings to create history as Jamaica’s first female Prime Minister in 2007. She was again elected PM at the 2011 national polls.
  16. Molly Rhone – She is the first and only Jamaican female to head an international sporting body, the Interna-tional Federation of Netball Associations (IFNA). She was selected to head IFNA at its 2003 congress held in Jamaica.