Replacing the queen — Barbados’s first president, Sandra Mason
Dame Sandra Mason was the first woman admitted to the bar in Barbados — and her place in the nation’s history was cemented when she was elected as the country’s first president.
Her rise to become head of state of the Caribbean island, replacing Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, will be confirmed at her inauguration at midnight on Monday when Barbados becomes a republic.
Mason’s career began as a teacher, clerk and then a lawyer, before a string of legal and official roles led to her becoming governor-general — the queen’s representative — in 2018.
As president, Mason will hold the highest office in the country and her powers will no longer be vested in the monarch. But her duties will be largely ceremonial, in most cases requiring the co-signature of the prime minister.
Born in the working class district of St. Philip, Mason, now 72, credits Barbados’s public education system for her stellar achievements.
“Education in Barbados is free,” she said. “You can achieve anything you want, and because of that, I felt it incumbent upon me… to give something back.”
She completed a law degree at the University of the West Indies (UWI), the country’s lone public university, in 1973, and was called to the bar in 1975 as a practicing attorney-at-law.
Mason worked at Barclays Bank as a lawyer before becoming a magistrate and family law tutor. In 1997, she became the Registrar of the Supreme Court.
– ‘A Barbadian head of state’ –
As governor-general, Mason delivered the annual “throne speech” — which is written by the prime minister.
The 2020 speech declared the time had come to “fully leave our colonial past behind.”
“Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state… This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving,” said the text by Prime Minister Mia Mottley.
On October 21, 2021, Mason was chosen to be the first president of Barbados almost unanimously at a special sitting of the lower and upper houses of parliament.
“Our president-elect who will be sworn in on Monday night, who was born in the parish of St Philip, is the person who will bring immense pride to every Barbadian boy and girl,” Mottley declared ahead of the inauguration.
Among Mason’s political passions is her dream of a Caribbean version of the European Union.
“I am a zealot when it comes to Caribbean-ness. I believe in regional integration, I believe that it is something that has to come to fruition,” she said.
“I believe it might not come in true form when I am yet alive, but I will go to my grave hoping that this will happen someday.”
She shares the Barbadian national obsession with cricket, loves to play scrabble and says her greatest achievement is as mother to her son Matthew, also a trained lawyer.