Janet Rosenberg Jagan, Socialist Politician, Died at 88

Dead, Janet Rosenberg Jagan on March 28, 2009 at the age of 88, she was an American-born socialist politician who was the first woman President of Guyana from December 19, 1997, to August 11, 1999.

Born as Janet Rosenberg on October 20, 1920 to middle-class Jewish parents on the south side of Chicago, Illinois on October 20, 1920.

Her maternal grandparents, Adolph and Rosa Kronberg (née Appelbaum), were Jewish immigrants.

Adolph immigrated to Chicago from Romania and Rosa came from Hungary.

On January 1, 1950, she and her husband were co-founders of the left-wing People’s Progressive Party (PPP); Janet served as the PPP’s General Secretary from 1950 to 1970.

Also in 1950, Jagan was elected to the Georgetown City Council.

She was subsequently elected to the House of Assembly in the April 1953 election, winning a seat from Essequibo constituency.

The PPP, a Marxist–Leninist party, opposed British colonial rule of Guyana.

After its electoral victory in April 1953, the PPP briefly formed the government, but the British government had the PPP government removed later in the year due to concerns about the Jagans’ alleged Communist sympathies.

Cheddi and Janet were jailed for five months; they were subsequently kept under house arrest for two years.

In 1957, she was re-elected to the House of Assembly from Essequibo constituency and became Minister of Labour, Health and Housing.

She later succeeded Claude Christian as Minister of Home Affairs upon Christian’s death in 1963, but resigned from the Cabinet in 1964.

The situation got so bad in the early 1960s that the Jagans decided to send their daughter, Nadira, to live abroad for a time, while they remained committed to their work. Janet became the minister of home affairs in 1963, but she gave up the post in protest a year later.

In 1966, Guyana achieved independence from Great Britain, but in the following years, there were concerns about the fairness of elections held in the country.

Jagan served on an election committee in 1967 and complained about the possible rigging of elections. Around the same time, Jagan became an official citizen of Guyana.

She had lost her U.S. citizenship in the 1940s due to her Marxist beliefs. As a member of the Elections Commission for the opposition in 1967, she expressed concern about the possibility of vote rigging.

She was also the editor of the PPP newspaper Mirror from 1973 to 1997.

After her husband’s death in March 1997, Janet Jagan became the country’s first female prime minister and first vice president. She also became the PPP’s candidate for the elections, which were held in December 1997.

After winning the election, Jagan became the first female president of Guyana.

That same year, she won the Gandhi Gold Medal for Peace, Democracy and Women’s Rights from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Jagan wrote several children’s books in her later years, including Dog Who Loved Flowers (2000), Alligator Ferry Service and Other Stories from Guyana (2001) and Lure of the Mermaid and Other Children?? Stories (2002).