St. John Tradewinds News

Lucinda Millin: Educator and First Female Senator

Recently-elected Senator at Large Carmen Wesselhoft and newly-appointed St. John Administrator Leona Smith are not the first Love City women to hold positions of power in government, the island tradition dates back to the 1950s to the very first woman who enjoyed a seat in the V.I. Senate.

St. Johnian Lucinda Millin was the first female ever elected to the V.I. Legislature in 1954, the same year the territory adopted a unicameral body instead of two separate municipal councils — one for St. Thomas/St. John and one for St. Croix.
Before steering into public service, the pioneering politician started her professional career in education.

Professional Training
Millin, the daughter of Phillip and Alberta Knevel Sewer, was born on St. John on August 26, 1892.

After attending school locally, Millin received her teacher training at Spring Garden Training School in Antigua, according to Millin’s funeral booklet, which has been preserved through the University of the Virgin Islands’ “Digitization for Access and Preservation,” program.

The young teacher began her career with the Moravian school in 1910 and continued with the Naval Academy and the V.I. government until 1923 when she established her own private school.

Also during this time Millin married Allan Alexander Millin and the couple eventually had three children, who all became prominent citizens as well.

Millin went on to run her private school — which included kindergarten through sixth grades —  for 35 years.

“Strict Disciplinarian”
“She is remembered as a teacher who was a ‘warm person — though a strict disciplinarian,’ who ‘never dropped a student from school because his parents couldn’t pay his tuition,’ and whose students ‘could read, write — and spell,’ when they came out,” according to Millin’s funeral booklet.

After being an educator for almost 40 years and running her own school for the majority of the time, Millin turned her attention to politics in the mid-1950s.

The first woman to be elected senator, Millin would serve five consecutive terms before retiring in 1964.

“During her tenure as a legislator, she served on the Health and Welfare Committee and fought vigorously for improved living conditions for the elderly,” according to the former senator’s funeral booklet.

“Respected and Admired”
Millin gained an enormous amount of respect during her time in the V.I. Senate, which a former colleague, Earle Ottley, described in his book “Trials and Triumphs.”

“Sen. Millin was a shy, patient, compassionate woman, who was often torn between her urge to support some of our programs and her duty to her colleagues to oppose us,” according to Ottley’s book. “Respected and admired by both sides, she was often successful in cooling tempers and calming the turbulent waters in Senate and committee-of-the-whole encounters. She had a quiet, almost impish humor that was usually displayed at the closing night banquet after the sine die adjournment of the Legislature where praise, pleasantries and post mortems were in order, and Senator Millin blushingly received the accolades of her male counterparts.”

Millin was also active on the national political scene, serving as “Democratic National Committeewoman,” from 1958 through 1964, according to the former senator’s funeral booklet.

Dedicated to Elder Care
In addition to her passion for education Millin was dedicated to providing care for the elderly.

“Her aim was the establishment of a home for the aged where those whose relatives had no time to care for them could be comfortably housed,” according to Millin’s funeral booklet.

Although not during her tenure, Millin’s long-desired goal of creating a home for the elderly finally came true.

"One year after retirement, two of Millin’s former colleagues, Ronald de Lugo and Bertha Boschulte, sponsored Bill 2436, which in recognition of the outstanding contributions of Mrs. Millin, designated the home for elderly persons to be constructed on St. Thomas as the ‘Lucinda Millin Home,’” according to Ruth Moolenaar’s third of edition of “Profiles of Outstanding Virgin Islanders.”

“The bill was approved on March 10, 1965, and the institution serves as a memorial to her name,” Mooenaar wrote.
Among Millin’s many legacies are the three children she and her husband raised, who all went on to achieve great things in the Virgin Islands.

Children Continue Legacy
“Henry, a businessman by training, was executive director of the V.I. Housing Authority and was elected lieutenant governor in 1978,” according to “Profiles of Outstanding Virgin Islanders.” “Dorothy Millin Penn was deputy commissioner for the Department of Health. Agnes, retired, was a teacher of general science at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School.”

After leading a long and illustrious life, Millin died on January 26, 1981, at the age of 89. Her services were held at the Nisky Moravian Church in St. Thomas.

The former senator’s funeral booklet can be viewed on the Web site http://webpac.uvi.edu/ imls/fb_baa/M/Millin_Lucinda_A/index.shtml.

While Wesselhoft and Smith are not the first of their gender in politics, they carry on a long tradition of politically powerful Love City women.