Who is Sandra Mason? Barbados' First President as Island Ends British Rule

Barbados will end British rule and become a republic this week, and the nation has elected Dame Sandra Mason to become the island's first-ever president.

After securing the necessary two-thirds majority vote in Barbados' two houses of Parliament, Mason was elected as head of state to replace Queen Elizabeth. She is set to be sworn in on Tuesday, the 55th anniversary of the country's independence from Britain.

Mason is the current governor-general of Barbados, a position she was appointed to in 2017 and has served for almost three years.

"The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian head of state," she said in a September 2020 speech, according to Reuters. "This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving."

Mason was born in St. Phillip, Barbados on January 17, 1949.

She received a Bachelor of Laws from the University of the West Indies before becoming the first woman from Barbados to graduate from Trinidad and Tobago's Hugh Wooding Law School.

She went on to become a jurist in both Saint Lucia and Barbados, and the first woman to serve as a judge on the Court of Appeals in the latter. The Court of Appeals is one of the two chambers of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Barbados.

When she was appointed as the eighth governor-general, Mason was also awarded the Dame Grand Cross.

Sandra Mason Queen Elizabeth Barbados Republic
Current Governor-General of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason is set to become the island's first president on Tuesday. Queen Elizabeth II receives Mason during a private audience at Buckingham Palace on March 28, 2018 in London. Getty

When Mason takes her place as Barbados' next head of state, she will join Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley in becoming one of two Black women to hold positions in the highest office in the country.

In a speech following the parliamentary vote confirming Mason's election, Mottley said "We look forward, therefore, to December 1, 2021. But we do so confident that we have just elected from among us a woman who is uniquely and passionately Barbadian."

Barbados will be the fourth former British colony in the Caribbean to become a republic, following in the footsteps of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Dominica.

The Queen remains the head of state in eight other Caribbean islands: Jamaica, the Bahamas, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, Grenada, Belize, St. Vincent and the Grenadines as well as St. Kitts and Nevis.

Barbados is one of the more populous islands, with a population of roughly 285,000.

The country was known to be heavily dependent on its sugar exports, which also resulted in the enslavement of more than 380,000 Barbadians who worked on the island's plantations. Those slaves gained full emancipation in 1838.