Comrade Sister Phyllis Coard

A Summary Tribute by Sister Jacqueline Mckenzie 

Comrade Sister Phyllis Coard. A much loved woman leader of the Grenada Revolution

My friend Phyllis Coard, former Minister of Women’s Affairs during the Grenada Revolution, 1979 – 1983, and co founder of the National Women’s Organisation of Grenada has died today at her home in Jamaica aged 76.

Phyllis was one of 17 people and the only woman, convicted of the murder of Maurice Bishop, members of the People’s Revolutionary Government and civilians on October 19 1983 culminating in the illegal invasion of Grenada ordered by US president Ronald Reagan. The trial of the 17 was characterised by errors and widely criticised by legal jurists. She was sentenced to death but was released from prison on compassionate grounds in 2000.

As the only woman, Phyllis was singled out for particularly brutal treatment, including beatings, by the invading US forces and their Caribbean allies. I recall visiting her once when she was held in a tiny cage placed within a cell and she had been denied sanitary and other hygiene products.

Phyllis’ book, Unchained: A Caribbean Woman’s Journey Through Invasion, Incarceration and Liberation tells the story of what happened to her when, after four years of relentless destabilisation, the US invaded Grenada.

Phyllis was married to Bernard Coard who served as Grenada’s deputy prime minister and minister of finance during the Grenada Revolution. He was convicted alongside Phyllis and released from prison in September 2009 after serving 26 years. He was at Phyllis side when she died today. She also leaves two daughters, Sola and Abbie, a son Neto and grandchildren. Condolences to them all.

Her legacy will be subject to much debate but must include how she strived and succeeded in raising the standards of women in Grenada. May she rest in peace.

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