A former member of Parliament, trade unionist and teacher has died.
Yvonne Francis-Gibson, nee Harry, died at her home at Fountain on July 7, at the age of 88 years.
Francis-Gibson was elected parliamentary representative for West St George in 1989 on a New Democratic Party (NDP) ticket and served as a member of the James Mitchell-led administration until 1998. During this period, Francis-Gibson served as Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Youth & Women’s Affairs with responsibility for non-formal Education; Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Officer; and finally as Minister of Health & The Environment.
Her stint in politics was simply the icing on a long life of public service which began at the age of 13 years when she entered the teaching profession. Interestingly, it was while she was a young primary school teacher that she attended the Girls’ High School in a part-time capacity, so that she could work towards her secondary school leaving certificates.
Francis-Gibson will go down in history as an extremely vocal champion and activist against the social and political challenges that faced Vincentians, regardless of their political, religious or social status.
She had particular interest in women’s rights and fought strenuously against the abuse of children. Her only biological child is Leroy Ellsworth Harry, but she fostered many others.
In 1975, she was a central figure in the ‘Remember November’ teachers’ strike and was tear-gassed and jailed for it by the then St Vincent Labour Party Government.
In 1981, as President of the Teachers’ Union, she was one of the leaders of the march against the ‘Dread Bills’ under the rallying cry “Kill the Bills”.
After her retirement from the teaching service in 1987, she continued her social activism and entered politics at the parliamentary level. After being elected Member of Parliament for the constituency of West St George in 1989, she worked to change laws that discriminated against women in our society. Because of her efforts, female teachers in SVG now have the right to maternity leave, and married women may now file income tax returns separate from their husbands as persons in their own right, among other benefits.
“Yvonne Francis Gibson served Vincentians well – as a mother, trade unionist and feminist, activist, parliamentarian, Minister of Education, Minister of Health and as President of the Women’s Arm of the New Democratic Party. She has ‘fought the good fight’. She has paid her dues,” a release from the NDP said.
The Party also expressed condolences to her son, relatives and other friends, “all of whom may be consoled in knowing, with confidence, that “It is well with her soul,” the release said.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines Teachers Union also paid tribute to Francis-Gibson and expressed condolences to her relatives on their Facebook page.
Funeral arrangements for Francis-Gibson have not yet been finalized.