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Janet Rosenberg Jagan

In office
19 December 1997 – 11 August 1999
Prime Minister Sam Hinds
Bharrat Jagdeo
Preceded by Sam Hinds
Succeeded by Bharrat Jagdeo

In office
6 March 1997 – 19 December 1997
President Sam Hinds
Preceded by Sam Hinds
Succeeded by Sam Hinds

Born 20 October 1920(1920-10-20)
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Died 28 March 2009 (aged 88)
Georgetown, Guyana
Political party People's Progressive Party
Spouse(s) Cheddi Jagan
Religion Jewish Atheist

Janet Rosenberg Jagan (October 20, 1920 – March 28, 2009)[1][2][3] was an American-born socialist politician who was President of Guyana from December 19, 1997 to August 11, 1999. She previously served as Prime Minister of Guyana from March 17, 1997 to December 19, 1997.


Early years and marriage

She was born as Janet Rosenberg to middle-class Jewish parents in Chicago, Illinois. In December 1942, aged 22, while working as a student nurse at Cook County Hospital, she met Cheddi Jagan, an Indo-Guyanese dentistry student at Northwestern University.[4] They married on August 5, 1943, and she moved with him to Guyana in December 1943.

In Guyana

In Guyana, she took part in labor activism along with her husband and joined the British Guianese Labor Union. She also worked in her husband's dental clinic as a nurse for 10 years. In 1946, she founded the Women's Political and Economic Organization and co-founded the Political Affairs Committee.[1]

Political career

Janet Jagan unsuccessfully ran for a seat from Central Georgetown in the 1947 general election.[1] On January 1, 1950,[5] she and her husband were co-founders of the left-wing People's Progressive Party (PPP);[1][4][5] Janet served as the PPP's General Secretary from 1950 to 1970.[1][4] Also in 1950, Jagan was elected to the Georgetown City Council.[1] She was subsequently elected to the House of Assembly in the April 1953 election,[1][6] winning a seat from Essequibo constituency.[1] She was one of three women to win seats in that election;[1][6] following the election, she was chosen as Deputy Speaker of the Legislature.[1]

The PPP, a socialist 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, and Cheddi and Janet were jailed for five months; they were subsequently kept under house arrest for two years.[4] 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. 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.[1]

Jagan was elected to Parliament in 1973 and was re-elected in 1980, 1985, and 1992, eventually becoming the longest-serving member of Parliament (46 yrs.). Cheddi Jagan was elected as President of Guyana in 1992, and Janet Jagan became First Lady. She represented Guyana at the United Nations for three months in 1993, temporarily replacing Rudy Insanally when the latter was President of the United Nations General Assembly.[1]

After Cheddi Jagan's death, Janet Jagan was sworn in as Prime Minister as well as First Vice President on March 17, 1997.[1][7] Jagan was the presidential candidate of the PPP in the December 1997 election. After the PPP won the election, she became the second female President in the history of South America (after Isabel Perón of Argentina) and the first to be democratically elected. Janet Jagan not only became the first female President of Guyana, but she was also the first U.S.-born and the first Caucasian person to lead the nation.

Health, resignation and death

On July 1, 1999, after Jagan returned from the European-Latin American summit in Rio de Janeiro, she was admitted to St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital in the capital, Georgetown, due to chest pains and exhaustion. She was treated for a heart condition and released from the hospital on July 3.[8] Later in the month, she underwent tests regarding her heart condition at the Akron City Hospital in Akron, Ohio; she was discharged on July 23.[9] Returning to Guyana, she received heart medication and was told that bypass surgery was not necessary.[10]

Jagan announced on August 8, 1999 that she was resigning as President because her health meant that she was no longer capable of "vigorous, strong leadership"; she said that Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo would be her successor.[11] Jagdeo was sworn in as President on August 11.[12]

At the PPP's 29th Congress, Jagan had received the second highest number of votes (671) in the election to the party's Central Committee,[13][14] held on August 2, 2008.[13] She was then elected to the PPP Executive Committee,[14][15] in addition to being elected as editor of the PPP paper Thunder, on August 12, 2008.[15]

Janet Jagan died on March 28, 2009 at the Georgetown Public Hospital. Her body was cremated on March 31, 2009.

False allegations

Being both Marxist and Jewish, she was the subject of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in the United States; there were false reports that she was related to Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.


Janet Jagan was long involved with the literary and cultural life of Guyana. She published early poems by Martin Carter in Thunder (which she edited) and supported the publication of early Carter collections such as The Hill of Fire Glows Red. She strongly believed that Guyanese children needed books which reflected their own realities. In 1993 Peepal Tree Press published her When Grandpa Cheddi was a Boy and Other Stories, followed by Patricia, the Baby Manatee (1995), Anastasia the Ant-Eater (1997) and The Dog Who Loved Flowers.


She was also a member of the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to mobilize the highest-level women leaders globally for collective action on issues of critical importance to women and equitable development.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Profile of Janet Jagan,
  2. ^ "US-born ex-Guyanese president dies at 88". Associated Press. March 28, 2009. Retrieved March 28, 2009.  
  3. ^ Nelson, Valerie J. (March 29, 2009). "Janet Jagan dies at 88; Chicago nursing student became president of Guyana". Los Angeles Times.,0,4944019.story. Retrieved March 29, 2009.  
  4. ^ a b c d Larry Rohter, "A Guyana Favorite: U.S.-Born Grandmother", The New York Times, December 14, 1997.
  5. ^ a b History of the PPP, PPP website.
  6. ^ a b "The General Election of 1953",
  7. ^ "Janet Jagan Sworn In", The Washington Post, March 18, 1997, page A14.
  8. ^ "Guyanese president discharged from hospital", Associated Press (, July 4, 1999.
  9. ^ "Guyana's president leaves U.S. hospital", Associated Press (, July 24, 1999.
  10. ^ "Guyana Leader Fit After Akron Care", The Plain Dealer (, August 3, 1999.
  11. ^ "Guyanese president resigns for health reasons", Associated Press (, August 9, 1999.
  12. ^ "Guyana's new president urges racial tolerance", Associated Press (, August 12, 1999.
  13. ^ a b Press release on Central Committee election, August 3, 2008.
  14. ^ a b "Donald Ramotar re-elected General Secretary of PPP", Guyana Times, August 13, 2008.
  15. ^ a b "PPP GENERAL SECRETARY, EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ELECTED", PPP press statement, August 12, 2008.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Sam Hinds
President of Guyana
1997 – 1999
Succeeded by
Bharrat Jagdeo
Preceded by
Sam Hinds
Prime Minister of Guyana
Succeeded by
Sam Hinds


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