JAM | Mar 8, 2023

10 outstanding Jamaican women

Vanassa McKenzie

Vanassa McKenzie / Our Today

Reading Time: 7 minutes
Athletics – Diamond League – Zurich – Letzigrund Stadium, Zurich, Switzerland – September 8, 2022, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce celebrates with the trophy after winning the women’s 100m final REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

As the world commemorates International Women’s Day, it is only fitting that we highlight some of our very own Jamaican women who have made indelible contributions to Jamaica’s history.

Whether it is through sports, healthcare, education, or politics, Jamaican women have long shattered the glass ceiling to achieve several leadership roles in society while making a mark on each person that they meet.

Our Jamaican women are creative, resilient, and loving beings who display these qualities both locally and internationally.

Tessanne Chin

Jamaican singer, Tessane Chin (Instagram Photo: thebestess).

The Jamaican songbird Tessane Chin has made a name for herself both locally and internationally. Tessane displayed the Jamaican culture and her cultural roots to the entire world when she won NBC’s reality TV singing competition, the Voice in 2013.

Entering the Voice gave Tessane her big break to the international scene and she did not leave her cultural roots behind during the journey. During the competition, Tessane performed popular Jamaican hits such as Many Rivers to Cross by Jimmy Cliff and Redemption Song by Bob Marley.

Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce

Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce, Jamaican track and field sprinter (Instagram Photo: @realshellyannfp).

Jamaican track and field sprinter, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce has been referred to as one of the greatest female athletes of all time.

Fraser Pryce has created a name for herself internationally as a two-time Olympic goal medallist and five-time world champion.

The Pocket Rocket is a two-time Olympic gold medallist in the 100m and a five-time World champion. Fraser Pryce has secured the Olympic silver medal in the 200m and World Championship gold.

To say that Fraser Pryce has contributed to Jamaica’s sporting industry is an understatement, she has contributed to Jamaica being recognised across the world as a birthplace of legends.

In 2008, Fraser-Pryce was conferred into the Order of Distinction for her achievements in athletics. She was also honoured with a statute at the National Stadium in Kingston for her contribution to Jamaican athletics.

Veronica Campbell-Brown

Veronica Campbell Brown, Jamaican track and field sprinter (Photo: Facebook @VCBofficial)

Jamaican track and field sprinter Veronica Campbell Brown had an illustrious track and field career that spanned more than two decades.

Campbell Brown started her athletics journey as a teenager when she won her first Olympic medal at the age of 18. She competed in the 2000 Summer Olympics in the 4X100, a team which comprised track and field legend Merelene Ottey, Tanya Lawrence, Beverly McDonald and Merelene who finished second in the finals.

She boasts a personal best of 10.76 seconds in the 100m which ranks her top fifteen in the world and 21.74 seconds in the 200 m which also ranks her top fifteen in the world.

The now-retired sprinter holds 27 gold medals, sixteen silver medals and 3 bronze.

Alia Atkinson

Alia Atkinson, Jamaican swimmer.

Alia Atkinson is a Jamaican swimmer with almost two decades of experience in competitive swimming.

Atkinson placed Jamaican on the world map of swimming when she made her Olympic debut at the age of 15 years old at Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece in 2004.

She has led an illustrious career up to her retirement in 2021. Atkinson has won a total of 124 medals with 74 being gold medals.

Rita Marley

Rita Marley, Cuban-Jamaican reggae singer, songwriter and entrepreneur.

Alfarita Constantia Marley otherwise known as Rita Marley has made an indelible contribution to reggae music. Rita was a member of the reggae vocal group, I Threes, where she along with Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt served as a backup vocalist for Bob Marley.

Rita is also the widow of reggae legend Bob Marley.

She has been dubbed the Queen of Reggae and made a name for herself in a male-dominated industry. Rita formed the Soulettes during the early 60s which included Rita Marley, her cousin Constantine Walker and Marlene Gifford.

The Soulettes released recordings including such as Time for Everything and Turn Turn Turn.

She also released solo hits such as One Draw, A Jah Jah, Harambee, So Much Things to Say and others.

Rita was conferred into the Order of Distinction 1996 by the Jamaican government for her contributions to the development of Jamaican music and culture.

Portia Simpson-Miller

Portia Simpson Miller, former prime minister of Jamaica.

Portia Lucretia Simpson Miller affectionately known as ‘Mama P’ served as the first female prime minister of Jamaica. Portia served as the prime minister from March 2006 to September 2007 and from January 2012 to March 2016.

She was also the leader of the Peoples’ National Party from 2005 to 2017. Portia was also the Leader of the Opposition from 2007 to 2012 and from 2016 to 2017.

During her years of leadership, she occupied the role served as Minister of Labour, Social Security and Sport, Minister of Tourism and Sports and Minister of Local Government.

In 2012, she was ranked by Time as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Paula Llewellyn

Paula Llewellyn, the Director of Public Prosecutions

Paula Llewellyn made history in the justice system as the first female to be appointed as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Jamaica in 2008.

After completing law school in 1984, Llewellyn was appointed Clerk of Court in the St James Residents Magistrates Court. After which she was promoted to Crown Counsil at the Office of the DPP where she was later appointed to DPP after seven years of service.

The DPP is responsible for providing Jamaicans with an independent and effective prosecution which is fair and just.

Since her appointment, Llewelyn has been involved in notable cases such as the extradition of Jamaican drug lord, Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke and the murder trial of Dancehall artist Vybz Kartel.

Llewellyn was the recipient of the Civil Service Long Service Medal for having twenty years in public service.

Carolyn Cooper

Professor Carolyn Cooper, Jamaican author and literary scholar

Professor Carolyn Cooper is a notable Jamaican author and former professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona.

She is known for her contribution to the appreciation of the Jamaican culture through her body of work that highlights the Jamaican language, reggae and dancehall.

According to a publication by the University of the West Indies Library, She has bridged multiple scholarly domains and reached the wider public with her work in cultural studies. 

Cooper also played an instrumental role in establishing the Reggae Studies Unit at UWI, Mona in 1994 and hosted conferences and public lectures which featured several dancehall artists such as Tony Rebel, Vybz Kartel and Lady Saw among others.

Elsa Leo Rhynie

Professor Elsa Leo Rhynie

Professor Elsa Leo Rhynie is the first female to be appointed deputy principal(1996-2002) and principal(2006-2007) of the University of the West Indies, Mona in 1977.

She has made an indelible mark in the education system with more than a decade of experience in higher education.

Professor Leo Rhynie has served as lecturer and senior lecturer in the School of Education Psychology at the School of Education at UWI, Mona between 1977 and 1987.

She quickly advanced to the role of Executive Director of the Institute of Management and Production between 1987 and 1992.

Throughout her career, she has shaped the lives of many young Jamaicans through her contribution to education, extensive research on gender studies and training.

Professor Leo Rhynie was awarded the national honour of Commander in the Order of Distinction in 2000 and the Order of Jamaica in 2015.

The Elsa-Leo Ryhnie Hall at the UWI, Mona campus was named in honour of Professor Leo Rhynie’s contribution to the University and Jamaica.

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole was a British Jamaican nurse and businesswoman who is known for her humanitarian service to soldiers during the Crimean War through her use of herbal remedies.

After returning from the Crimean War Mary Seacole worked with her mother who provided medical aid to the British Hospital at the Up Park Camp. She was also lauded for her medical aid during the outbreak of cholera in Panama in 1849.

It was noted that Seacole treated the first patient of cholera during her visit to Cruces to meet her brother, one of the many patients that she nursed back to good health as the disease spread through the region. It was also noted that offered her healthcare service free of cost to the poor.

For her bravery, compassion and skills, she was awarded the Order of Merit in 1991.

The Mary Seacole Hall at the UWI, Mona campus was also named in honour of Mary Seacole and her contribution to Jamaica.


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