If she wins, Hillary Clinton won’t be the first female American to become President of a country. Janet Rosenberg beat her by a generation—and against much tougher odds.
Like Clinton, Rosenberg was born in Chicago—on the South Side, where Michelle Obama was raised, where Barack Obama first got into community organizing, where the Obama girls were born, and where the Obama Presidential Library will be built. Rosenberg came from a middle-class Jewish family. She grew into a handsome young woman, with high cheekbones set in a long, elegant face. She was outspoken, for the nineteen-forties. She also rode horses and learned to shoot. “Nothing much frightens me,” she once explained.
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. Their parents didn’t approve of their multiracial, interfaith relationship. (He was Hindu.) Nevertheless, in 1943 they married and moved to British Guiana, then still a colony nestled next to Venezuela, on South America’s Caribbean coast.
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 the forties, Janet helped to organize domestic workers and to establish the Women’s Political and Economic Organization. Read more at The New Yorker.