The Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women

Features thousands of biographic and thematic essays on Jewish women around the world. Learn more

Janet Jagan

October 20, 1920–March 28, 2009

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Janet Jagan until we are able to commission a full entry.

Janet Jagan, first female president of Guyana. Photo courtesy of the Government Information Agency of Guyana.

As president of Guyana for two years, Janet Rosenberg Jagan was the first American-born woman to serve as president of any country. Jagan was a student at the Cook County Nursing School in Chicago when she met Cheddi Jagan, a dentistry student. In 1943 the couple married and moved to Guyana, where they opened up a dental clinic and became involved in labor activism together. In 1950 the couple helped found the People’s Progressive Party and Janet Jagan was elected to the Georgetown City Council. Three years later, Cheddi became chief minister and Janet was elected to the House of Assembly, but the British government, fearing a Marxist takeover, ousted the party, jailed the couple for five months, and kept them under house arrest for two years. Despite all this, Janet Jagan was reelected in 1957 and was made Minister of Labour, Health, and Housing, where she created health clinics and reformed labor regulations to protect workers. Cheddi Jagan was elected president of Guyana in 1992, but after his death in 1997, Janet was sworn in as prime minister and vice president. She was elected as president in her own right later that year. Although she resigned the presidency in 1999 for health reasons, she remained an active member of the People’s Progressive Party’s Executive Committee until her death. 

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Janet Jagan." (Viewed on June 3, 2023) <>.


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