JANET Bostwick, the first woman elected to the House of Assembly, received her appointment as Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, at an investiture at Buckingham Palace yesterday.
Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, officiated at the ceremony.
“I am both humbled and honoured to have been chosen for such a prestigious honour,” said Dame Janet after the investiture.
“I thank the Bahamian people for this award. In accepting the damehood, I was pointedly reminded of the still continuing struggle of Bahamian women to remove every vestige of inequality and discrimination from not only our nation’s national life, but from the very personal relationships of women, whether in their homes or on the job.”
Dame Janet has spent her life working to advance the rights of girls, women and the underprivileged. She pledged on Thursday to continue that work.
“The Bahamas together with the world celebrated International Women’s Day on the eighth of this month. Once again the cry for equal rights was raised. In particular, attention was drawn to the great disparity in many instances in pay to women as compared to men for work of equal value,” said Dame Janet.
“The adverse effects of domestic violence were also highlighted, as well as the underrepresentation of women in the decision-making process of national life. We must never cease to address and remedy these and other issues affecting our girls and women.
“I reiterate my commitment to continue to serve to enhance the standard and quality of life of all our people.”
Dame Janet was the second person to receive an award at the palace on a list of 64 people. The ceremony began at 11am.
“It was a true privilege to be in attendance at Buckingham Palace and witness my mother be honored with the title of Dame,” said son John Bostwick II.
“She has given her life selflessly in service to her country and the Bahamian people, second only to her God. She is truly deserving to receive this honour. And for those of us who know her, we are certain that she has much, much more to offer and the best is yet to come.”
Her daughter Lisa Bostwick-Dean said: “I have watched my mother tirelessly give of herself to the people of the Bahamas my whole life. It was a pleasure to watch her receive this award.
“We are deeply appreciative of the love and support she has received from the Bahamian people.”
Prince William and Dame Janet shared a moment of pleasant, private conversation after he bestowed the award.
Dame Janet displayed extraordinary talents even as a young woman. She was head girl at Government High School.
On graduation, Dame Janet started work as a clerk (stenographer) at the Legal Department in 1957. She became private secretary to the attorney general and an administrator in the department. She married Henry Bostwick in 1961.
Dame Janet fell in love with the law. She articled in the department to Gerald Corlett, former attorney general, and was called to the Bahamas Bar in 1971, becoming the sixth woman to achieve this.
She became politically active in 1976 as a member of the Free National Movement (FNM) and was appointed to the Senate in 1977. In 1982 she won the Yamacraw seat for her party, making her the first woman elected to the House. She would hold the seat for 20 consecutive years.
In 1992, after 25 years of Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) rule, the FNM won its first general election. Dame Janet was appointed to Cabinet.
She served in various ministerial capacities and in November 1994 she was appointed attorney general – the first woman to hold that position in the Bahamas, and the region.
She was also the first woman to act as prime minister and served as deputy to the governor general on two occasions.
She is credited with leadership in bringing about progressive change in laws relating to the administration of justice and the rights and status of women and children.
She is the mother of four – Margo, Kelley, Lisa and John – the grandmother of five and great-grandmother of one.
Dame Janet was accompanied to Buckingham Palace by her son John Bostwick II, daughter Lisa Bostwick-Dean, grandsons John Bostwick III and Victor Dean, and son-in-law Brent Dean.