It is pointless to acquire so much knowledge and experience and not share them with anyone. Otherwise, when you pass on, you go with what you learned. Jeanette Grant-Woodham was the first female president of the Senate of Jamaica who shared her knowledge with those she encountered and today she is hailed as a trailblazer. She died earlier this week.
The 82-year-old’s death was announced by her niece Shannakay Grant who spoke to The Gleaner. Grant-Woodham is celebrated as a parliamentarian and educator who was committed to women’s political empowerment.
The prime minister spoke highly of her as he extended his condolences to her family. Andrew Holness said, “Jeanette Grant-Woodham is a trailblazer. She can attach the words, ‘first woman to ever’, to many of her accomplishments in the areas of politics and education.”
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“Jeanette Grant-Woodham pushed boundaries, broke barriers, and did the seemingly impossible. May her soul rest in peace,” the prime minister added.
The current Senate President Tom Tavares-Finson lauded Grant-Woodham as “a warm individual who gave unparalleled service to the people of Jamaica”.
She was appointed the first woman president of the Senate in 1984. Grant-Woodham had already served four years as deputy senator before assuming her position as president. At a point, she served as the Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Industry.
As an educationist and a mentor, she was the first principal of Tivoli Gardens High School where she helped mold many lives in West Kingston.
Sisters Jennifer Morgan-Garwood and Veronica Sewell-Morgan were fortunate to be her mentees when they were 12 and 15 respectively after they had enrolled at a community training center.
“As a woman, I saw her move up as senator. She did very well, politically, and educationally,” said Sewell-Morgan, who is now the principal of Charles Chin Loy Early Childhood Development Centre.
“I watched her and emulated her; that is why I’m here now at this school,” the early-childhood educator for more than 40 years added.
Morgan-Garwood is now the artistic director of Tivoli Dance Troupe, which thrived under the influence of Grant-Woodham.
“She was a giver of herself, when you think of what the troupe is today, she played an integral part just like the institution itself. She was always behind those people who have the talent and the skills to teach us what to do with it,” she said.
In 2014, the Jeanette Grant-Woodham Education Foundation was launched to support needy but brilliant students in Tivoli Gardens High School and it also helps graduates to pursue tertiary education.
The sacrifices for the advancement of education in West Kingston and Jamaica by Grant-Woodham is praised by all.
The former parliamentarian served in different positions at the University of Technology, University of the West Indies, Caribbean Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, and the Council of Community Colleges over the years.
She would do anything to see everyone win, especially women. She was a Certified Political Trainer for Women after she retired from active politics and an active member of the Jamaica Women’s Political Caucus.
She was survived by a son, Omar.