Born in a rural area of the Belize District to Sidney Smith and Guadalupe Smith nee Baeza, Gwen Liz, carried her life throughout the years playing a pivotal role in the progress and development of Belize particularly in the education and social service sectors. Her young girl years saw her attend Mr. Datsun Primary School, St. Mary’s Primary School and St. Catherine’s Academy. Having grown up, she went on and married a police photographer, Victor Manuel Lizarraga at the age of 25 and later became the mother of five children.
Madam Liz achieved many milestones in her life as well as that of Belizean women including the victorious fight for women to acquire house and lots that would have then made them eligible to vote in the 1950s (prior to Adult Suffrage). In the following decade (1960s) she entered the political arena and became the representative for the Pickstock residents for three consecutive terms. Her first election had her going up against four opponents but she came out on top with 69% of the votes going in her favour with a milestone being achieved as this was the first year that a woman vied in the national elections in Belize. Her first term records show her as becoming the Minister of Education, Housing and Social Services in 1961.
Her second term came in 1965 when she again served as the Minister of Education, Housing and Social Services. One of her key goals was to get people to acquire housing lots. The year 1969, saw the beginning of her third term where she again took on the role as the Minister of Education and Housing at which point she began pushing for the construction of low cost homes in King’s Park, Lake Independence and Queen Square areas of Belize City.
Aside from housing, Gwen Liz worked tirelessly in the education sector and through those efforts, the first Junior Secondary School was founded in 1968 which later became Gwen Lizarraga High School. Another major education accomplishment was her endorsing of the bill for the introduction into Belize, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).
After having a full life of achievements, struggles and a legacy to leave behind, Madam Liz, as she was called, passed away on June 9, 1975 at the age of 73 years. At her funeral, there were two prominent Belizeans who served as her pallbearers, namely, the Right Honorable George Cadle Price, who was Belize’s Premier at the time of her death as well as Carl Lindbergh Rogers, who was serving as the Deputy Premier for Belize. Gwendolyn Margaret (Margurite) Lizarraga was laid to rest at the Lord Ridge Cemetery.