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The Woman Who 'Signed' the Declaration of Independence | Time

Courtesy of the Edwards Family. Portrait by Gilbert Stuart in ; Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 inches. Library of Congress. Official White House Photo. Rosenberg was a student nurse at Cook County Hospital when she met Cheddi Jagan, a dashing Indo-Guyanese man with wavy black hair and a movie-idol smile. He was studying dentistry at Northwestern.

Remembering the Woman Who 'Signed' the Declaration of Independence

He was Hindu. The Jagans opened a dental-surgery practice in Georgetown, the capital. But politics was their first love. They were both leftists, radicals for the time. They soon joined the independence and labor movements in his home country, one of the poorest places in South America. The population was largely split between descendants of African slaves and indentured laborers from India who had worked on sugar plantations; only nine per cent were indigenous Amerindian. In , their activism against colonial rule landed them in prison for six months; after that, they were under house arrest for two years. I did a lot of reading after insisting that women, like men, should have a right to have books. In , she ran again for the legislature—and won. We did not attempt to grab power by bloodshed.

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But Janet Jagan was not universally admired. In , the British colony gained independence, as Guyana. By then, her hair had turned white, and she had cut her long locks into a functional bob. Cheddi died in , from a heart attack, despite an emergency flight to Walter Reed Hospital, in Washington, D. Janet ran to succeed him, and won—even though she was American-born, white, and Jewish, facts the opposing campaign exploited in vicious attacks.

She took office the same year that Bill Clinton began his second term in the White House. As President, she expanded her focus to include globalization and the environment. She resigned due to poor health a few months later, at the age of seventy-seven.

Her life was chronicled in a PBS documentary in The first American woman to be president of a country died in , the year Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State. If she wins, Hillary Clinton will not break new ground for women in politics globally, either. She served three times, stepping down in —the year Hillary first ran for the Senate. The United States has not excelled at putting women in national legislatures. It currently ranks ninety-sixth out of a hundred and ninety-three countries, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Less than twenty per cent of U. Rwanda, one of the poorest nations, comes in first; two-thirds of its parliament is female. Even Pakistan, despite being one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women, ranks higher—at eighty-third. If she wins, Hillary Clinton will be a throwback to a much earlier model of women in power.