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Phillips-Gay, Jane

Phillips-Gay, Jane

November 2, 1913
February 21, 1994

Jane Phillips-Gay, Order of Roraima (OR), was one of the first African-Guyanese women to enter the British Guiana legislature. Phillips-Gay was also a trade unionist and an ordained Baptist minister. She attended Georgetown's St. Ambrose Primary, Brickdam Roman Catholic, Christ Church Anglican, and the Collegiate School from 1918 to 1930. She married Ivan Gay on December 30, 1942.

Phillips-Gay became involved in trade union activities in the 1940s and was closely associated with Dr. Joseph Prayag Lachmansingh, a champion of sugar workers in their struggles against colonial planters and officials. In 1946 the Guiana Industrial Workers Union (GIWU) was formed, and two years later, in 1948, Phillips-Gay became the assistant general secretary. She was actively involved in the strike of 1948, now commemorated as Enmore Martyrs' Day for the sugar workers who were killed for their protest actions. One year later, in 1949, she rose to the rank of secretary of the union. Trade union activism enabled her to become popular among sugar workers and proved valuable to her career as a politician.

Phillips-Gay was a member of the first women's political organization in British Guiana, the Women's Political and Economic Organization (WPEO), formed in 1946. The organization was active in the struggle for equal opportunities for women and for their employment. As a member of the People's Progressive Party (PPP), formed in 1947 by Forbes Burnham and Dr. Cheddi B. Jagan, she contested the colony's 1953 general elections. Although along with two other women, Jessica Burnham and Janet Jagan, Phillips-Gay was successful in her electoral bid, the PPP did not appoint any of the women to ministerial positions. By the time of the general elections in 1957, the PPP had split, and Phillips-Gay, as a member of what became known as the People's National Congress (PNC), founded by Burnham, unsuccessfully contested the East Demerara electoral seat. On October 5, 1957, Phillips-Gay became a founding member of the Women's Auxiliary of the PNC. In both the 1961 and 1964 general elections, she was an unsuccessful candidate for the legislature.

In addition to her involvement with the struggles of sugar workers and women, Phillips-Gay was also concerned with the conditions of children and worked on behalf of the unemployed and the underpaid. In her capacity as chairperson of the Women's Auxiliary, her contributions to public service included organizing social and cultural events for inmates of the Palms, a government-run home for aged and indigent persons. She was awarded the national honor, Order of Roraima.

See also People's National Congress; Politics: Women and Politics in Latin America and the Caribbean


Chase, Ashton. A History of Trade Unionism in Guyana, 19001961. Georgetown, Guyana: New Guyana Company, 1966.

George, Keith George. "Jane Phillips-Gay, Activist." In The African-Guyanese Achievement 1: 18. 155th Anniversary of African Slave Emancipation. Georgetown, Guyana: Free Press, 1993.

"Outstanding African Guyanese, Jane Phillips-Gay, OR." In Emancipation: The African-Guyanese Magazine 1, no. 18 (20002001).

Who Is Who in British Guiana, 19451948. Georgetown, British Guiana: Daily Chronicle, 1948.

Woolford, Hazel M. "Women in Guyanese Politics, 18121964." In Themes in African-Guyanese History, edited by Winston F. McGowan, James G. Rose, and David A. Granger. Georgetown, Guyana: Free Press, 1998.

barbara p. josiah (2005)

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