Miss Agatha Barbara was born at Zabbar on 11th March, 1923. She
studied at the
. Miss Barbara started her career as a school teacher. In 1946 she began
to take an active part in politics and was the first woman to be elected
to the House of Representatives, having contested for the first time the
General Elections in 1947 in the interest of the Malta Labour Party. She
was also the only woman candidated to have contested successfully every
election held since.
Miss Barbara represented the Labour Party in several
international meetings and conferences and led official Government
delegations to various countries.
During the Labour Administration of 1955 - 58 and 1971 - 74 she
served as minister of Education. Between 1974 - 81 she had the portfolio
of Labour, Culture and Welfare. She was appointed Acting Prime Minister on
several occasions. Miss Agatha Barbara was elected President of the
on Tuesday 16th February, 1982 during the Second Sitting of the First
Session of the Fifth Legislature of the House of Representatives.
's third President having succeeded Sir Anthony Mamo and Dr. Anton
OFFICES HELD AND OTHER APPOINTMENTS
Chairperson, Executive Committee of the Woman's Movement of
the Labour Party; Honorary President, St Michael Band Club, Zabbar,
Her hobbies were philately and classical and modern music.
Miss Barbara died on February 4, 2002.
Agatha Barbara was born in Zabbar on 11th March, 1923, the eldest
daughter and the second of the nine children of Joseph and Antonia. She
studied at the State Primary and Grammar Schools. Miss Barbara started her
career as a school teacher, during the Second World War and in 1946
started to take an active interest in politics and joined the Malta Labour
Miss Barbara contested the first general elections held on the
granting of the new Constitution in 1947, and became the first woman ever
to be elected to the Maltese Parliament. She contested all subsequent
parliamentary elections and held seat in the House of Representatives till
the day she was elected President of the Republic in 1982.
In the Second Labour Government of 1955, Miss Barbara was
appointed Minister of Education and Culture thus becoming the first
Maltese woman to hold a ministerial portfolio.
Immediately after taking office as Minister of Education, Miss
Barbara embarked on the vast project of introducing compulsory and
full-time education up to the age of 14 years. In order to implement this
major decision, Miss Barbara ordered and supervised the construction
and/or major expansion of no less than 44 schools all over the
. This project also involved the recruitment and training of hundreds of
new teachers. A new Teacher's
for men was built, becoming later, co-educational used by both males and
females student teachers. Compulsory and free education for all, from 5 -
14 years became effective in September 1955, only five months after Miss
Barbara took office as Minister of Education in 1955.
The importance of this educational reform lies in the fact that
through compulsory and free full-time education, learning was brought down
for the first time to the masses, who until hardly had the facilities and
the means to educate their children. As part of the whole reform,
text-books and copy books were also given free of charge to pupils and
students who also received free medical attention and free transport to
and from school. College fees paid by student teachers were abolished and
to ease the financial burden of parents, students received an annual grant
as pocket money.
The first special schools, for the blind, the deaf and the
mentally disturbed were opened in 1956. Up to 1955 handicapped persons
were kept hidden at home never venturing outside. Therefore a census of
handicapped persons was held, and centres for these people opened, so that
today handicapped persons live an independent life, well integrated into
An integral part of the educational reforms introduced by Miss
Barbara regarded the schools curricula. Until then, certain subjects
including the sciences, were not taught to girls who attended grammar
schools. Miss Barbara having herself suffered from this discrimination
remedied immediately by introducing in girls' schools all the subjects
taught in schools for boys.
From the very beginning of her political career in 1946, Miss
Barbara was very active both in Party affairs as well as a representative
of the people in Parliament.
Between 1958 and 1964, Miss Barbara was amongst the foremost in
the fight for the Independence of Malta. She travelled widely in Europe
and elsewhere including a spell at the United Nations in
, lobbying for
. She was sentenced to prison by the British-influenced Courts of Law,
following the April 28, 1958 protests against British occupation, in which
Miss Barbara took a leading a very active part.
Between 1958 and 1971, Miss Barbara was responsible for the
day-to-day management of the Party publications and the Freedom Press, the
Party printing House. From the very beginning of her political career she
was a member of the Labour Party Executive Committee, and founded the
Women's Political Movement in
. For most of her 35-year Parliamentary career, she was the only woman in
a Parliament traditionally the preserve of men.
When the Malta Labour Party won the majority of the popular vote
and seats in the 1971 General Elections, Miss Barbara was again appointed
Minister of Education and Culture. Once again she embarked on a further
reform in the educational system, the most important being the debate and
approval by Parliament of a new progressive Education Act, increasing the
school-leaving age to 16. Apart of this reform she introduced in
a new type of technical education at trade level, and thus many trade
schools, where various skills and crafts were taught, were set up in
and Gozo, for boys and girls. The Schools of Music and Drama, and the
Felinberg Institute of Electronic Technology was set up in 1973. Many
cases came into effect at the University including the abolishing of fees,
and of Religion as a compulsory entry qualifying subject. Streamlining of
the administration and of the facilities.
As Chancellor of the
, ex officio, President Barbara's interest in the education of the masses
and in the propagation ;of scientific and technological education has
continued unabated. In 1974, Minister Barbara was given a new portfolio
that of Labour, Social Services, and Culture.
Miss Barbara embarked upon her new tasks with the same vigour and
energy as during her tenure of office as Minister of Education,
introducing equal pay for women as their male counterparts on similar
duties, pregnancy leave with pay, forty-hour five-day week, unemployment
benefit, a yearly bonus, children's allowances, 2/3 retirement pension and
other social legislation which improved in a determined manner the social
life of the Maltese people.
This was a very important reform which was ably planned so as to
assist the private sector, at a time when
's Industrial potential was being developed.
Between 1974 and 1981, Miss Barbara worked hard and succeeded in
establishing in Maltese harmonious relationships between employers and
workers, while at the same time continuing with the improvement of workers
pay and conditions of work. An industrial tribunal was set up and
industrial relations were so good that industrial peace reign supreme and
industrial actions were practically non-existent. Unemployment went down
to the lowest possible level at 2 % of the labour force. On several
occasions she addressed the International Labour Organisation Conference
, on matters appertaining to Labour and Employment in
Miss Barbara's dedication to her duties in this field did not
impede her from reforming the cultural aspects of the Maltese society.
During the time Miss Barbara was responsible for Culture, the following
National Museums were set up:
Political History in
Archaeology an Gozo.
She embarked on a new policy for the diffusion of culture amongst
the people by taking out of
- the Traditional venue for cultural events - to the town and villages of
, where the people could participate actively in newly dressed forms of
The democratisation of culture has brought about a true and
effective revolution in life of the Maltese people. It is now flourishing
through the many cultural organisation that have since cropped up in the
towns and village of the Republic.
Between 1971 and 1981, Miss Barbara was on various brief
occasions, appointed Acting Prime Minister.
After the elections in 1981, and on the opening of Parliament on
the 16th February, 1982, Miss Barbara had played a very active and
important role as Head of State, to bring about National Utility. On the
international scene, Miss Barbara had pursued her life-long policy of
international friendship, visiting many countries, thus further
's stand as a non-aligned and Neutral state.
Also since her election to the Office as President of the
Republic, Miss Barbara had been very active on the National and
International levels in the field of charity. She was the Chairperson of
the Maltese National Committee to collect funds for charity "The
Community Chest Fund", through which Children's Homes, needy families
and the handicapped have received in the past three years, thousands of
pounds worth of assistance.
A committee was also set up under her Chairmanship to assist the
famine victims of
. Tons of medicines and medical supplies, as well as much needed tents for
shelter, have already been sent to both countries.
Throughout her political career Miss Barbara has gained the
admiration of friends and the respect of her political opponents. Her vast
experience in many sectors of public life had made Miss Barbara a
Statesman of stature highly respected in many countries. Her endeavours in
the field of international friendship had won her the highest awards given
by the People's Republic of
- the Stara Planina 1st Class with Ribbon; the Order of the National Flag,
1st Class, by the Democratic People's
, as well as the Hishan-E-Pakistan, by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Miss Barbara was also awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy in Pedagogy,
Honoris Causa by the Universtiy of Beijing, China, besides the many
honours bestowed on her by foreign and public, cultural, scientific and
Miss Barbara died on February 4, 2002.