Women acquired the right to vote and to become members of parliament since universal suffrage was attained for Saint Lucia 1951. The low visibility of women continues to be characteristic of Saint Lucian political life. Whereas women are always at the forefront vocally supporting their parties, and in one case leading their party into an election, the parliamentary representation remains minimal.
Mrs Heraldine Rock was the pioneer for women entering politics in Saint Lucia. Rock became St Lucia’s first female Member of Parliament when she won the election for the Castries South East constituency in 1974. She who was also the first woman to serve as a Minister of Government.
In 1997, four women contested the general election with two candidates for the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP), one for the United Workers’ Party (UWP), and one independent. Both of the SLP candidates - Sarah Flood-Beaubrun and Menissa Rambally – were successful in the election, with Flood-Beaubrun unseating Dr. Vaughan Lewis, political leader of the UWP in Castries South. Winning the Castries South East seat at age 21, Rambally had the distinction of being the youngest elected Member of Parliament. Both Flood- Beaubrun and Rambally were re-elected in the 2001 election.
The lone UWP woman candidate in the 1997 race was 26-year old Leonne Theodore, a para-legal worker in a Castries law firm and a part-time law student at the University of the West Indies. Despite her youth Theodore was a veteran UWP activist, having served for years in its youth arm. Independent candidate Lydia Harraksingh had expected to be the UWP candidate to replace John Compton in Micoud-South, but after a contentious selection process, the party favoured educator Arsene James. Refusing to bow to the Party’s ruling, Harraksingh registered as an independent candidate.
In October 2000, Dr. Morella Joseph became the first woman to lead a political party after being elected leader of the United Workers Party following the unexpected resignation of Dr. Vaughan Lewis. In the 2001 election she unsuccessfully contested the Babonneau seat.
In 2001, nine women were nominated for the elections, the largest number ever, beating the four who contested in 1997. The UWP fielded four women, the National Alliance three and the ruling SLP two. In that election, 21-year-old Esther Lee was nominated by the National Alliance for the Castries Central seat. Her mother, Jacintha Annius-Lee, was nominated by the National Alliance for the Castries North seat which is adjacent to Castries Central. They became the first ever mother and daughter to contest an election in the country.
More recently, Mrs. Jeannine Compton-Antoine was the lone female in the Ninth Parliament, being elected in the 2007 by-election for Micoud North after her father, Sir John Compton, had passed away one year after winning the 2006 general election.
In 2011, for the first time, three women were elected to the Tenth Parliament - Emma Hippolyte, Alvina Reynolds, and Dr. Gale TC Rigobert.
In addition to elected MPs, a number of women have entered the Saint Lucian Parliament through the Senate, with a few becoming members of the Cabinet. These include Lorraine Williams who served as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs from 1992 to 1997; and Tessa Mangal who was Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Consumer Affairs from 2008 to 2011.