Dame Eugenia Charles, DBE (May 15 1919 – September 6, 2005) was the Prime Minister of Dominica from July 21 1980 until June 14 1995. She was the first female prime minister in the Caribbean, and the first woman elected in her own right as head of government in North America. She was Dominica's first and to date only female prime minister.
Born Mary Eugenia Charles in Pointe Michel in Saint Luke parish, she studied overseas at universities in London, England, and Toronto, Canada. she began campaigning in politics during the 1960s against restrictions on press freedom. She helped to found the Dominica Freedom Party, which she served as leader from the early 1970s until 1995. She was elected to Parliament in 1970 and became Opposition Leader in 1975.
Though she and her party were frequently described as conservative, this was partially in comparison to socialist leaders in the Caribbean, as she did support some social welfare programmes. Other issues that were important to her were anti-corruption measures and individual freedom.
Eugenia Charles became Prime Minister when her party won elections shortly after Dominica gained full independence from British rule in 1979. She became more widely known to the outside world during the US invasion of Grenada in 1983, when, in her role as chairman of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), she appeared on television with Ronald Reagan to offer her support.
For her uncompromising stance on this and other issues, she became known as the "Iron Lady of the Caribbean" (after the original "Iron Lady", Margaret Thatcher). Shortly after her retirement from politics her party lost the 1995 elections. She also served as Foreign Minister of Dominica from 1980 to 1990. She was awarded a damehood in 1992.