THE NEWS WAS GREETED with glee and with gratitude. It was announced on June 08, 2019:
“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Second has been graciously pleased to approve this Award in Her Birthday Honours List 2019 for Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire (DBE)
HER EXCELLENCY AMBASSADOR CONSTANCE MITCHAM
For her contribution to National Development and the Law”
The news was greeted with glee for the nation was happy …recognizing that no one was more deserving of this honour (the female equivalent of a knighthood) than H.E. Ambassador ‘Consie”, the first woman to win a parliamentary seat in the St. Kitts and Nevis National Assembly. Her entry into Parliament bespoke of her courage to enter this hitherto all-male world but her entry would also have far reaching effects on every female in the country and every child born out of wedlock.
For the first time women’s views were respected at the decision-making levels of government. The first Ministry of Women’s Affairs was established.
“The draconian rule, which required single women to be dismissed from the civil service, when they became pregnant, was abolished, so that their jobs were now secured for them to return to work. The Status of Children’s Act was passed, removing the word “bastard” from our child maintenance laws, and making all children equal for inheritance from their fathers without a will. The nurses’ long working shift of 12 hours was reduced to 8 hours, so that there were now 3 shifts at the hospitals in stead of 2. The Severance Payment Fund was established to compensate the laid-off workers, mainly women on the industrial site. The new constitution of 1983, for the very first time, included a provision that there must be no discrimination on grounds of sex. There was no such protection in the 1967 Constitution.” Speech 2005
The lives of women in St. Kitts and Nevis have never been the same again. This was also a major contribution to stabilizing family life when it is considered that nearly half of nation’s households was headed by single mothers. Removing the stigma of ‘bastardy’ from children was welcomed for they were no less equal than their peers who had been born ‘in wedlock’.
Dame Consie clearly brought about change in the lives of many.
The nation was therefore grateful that she had begun to get her flowers when she was alive; that she was able to appreciate their gratitude for what she had done, Now, she could also rightfully take her place regionally among other great Dames of the region like Dame Nita Barrow of Barbados and Dame Eugenia Charles of Dominica.
Though her contribution was obvious to all, when the Government changed, the Douglas administration still saw fit to withhold her pension for some 8 years.
Dr. Irvine Sweeney reported in the Democrat in 2005:
“Ms Constance Mitcham, our Country’s first elected female Parliamentarian, had been unlawfully deprived of her Pension and Gratuity for many years by the present Labour Government. These were Pension and Gratuity to which she had contributed over her many years of service to this Country. She had to take legal action to seek redress, and in February, 2004, Justice Don Mitchell, Q.C. found that she was entitled to Pension and Gratuity along with interest and her Legal Costs which could have been avoided if she had simply been paid when she had left office. All of these monies came out of the public purse.
After the Judge’s finding, the Attorney General immediately said that he would appeal against the judgment and he stated, IN PUBLIC, that it was HIS DECISION to do so – with no apparent thought as to the fact that it was not HIS MONEY that he was going to use to fight Ms. Mitcham.
The Court of Appeal gave Ms. Mitcham a Valentine’s Gift on 14th February 2005 by upholding the decision of Justice Mitchell and awarding Ms. Mitcham her Legal Costs of the Appeal. This is in addition to the Costs awarded at the earlier Trial.”
Eventually, when the history of this nation is told, it will be revealed that Dame Consie Mitcham’s influence and actions were even more far reaching than presently known.
Working behind the scenes, with no ‘chest-thumping’ she acted many times to keep her Party together – not only by generously giving her legal expertise but also working to keep the Party united and strong, always sensitive to the struggles individuals were facing
She also played a major role in the creation of Team Unity. She has acted as the bridge of Unity within the Party but has also reached out to form a bridge between what used to be opposing Parties.
For her passion, compassion, generosity, actions to uplift the nation and equalize the status of its citizens especially but not only at the gender level, and above all for always putting COUNTRY ABOVE SELF, we salute Dame Constance Mitcham and say THANK YOU for your great contribution to our young nation. We are better because of you!