Struggle of our Black Bermudian Nurses

  There is a vast story behind the struggle of some of the first Black nurses in Bermuda.  We highlight this story in our Nurses exhibit at the Bermudian Heritage Museum and invite you to come and learn all about it. It is recorded that no hospital existed here in Bermuda other than Military facilities and the Asylum (now know as the Wellness Centre) until the Cottage Hospital opened its doors in Happy Valley Road in Pembroke on 1st. March 1894. The Hospital was enlarged several times and it had its financial challenges. This service lasted until 1920 when King Edward V11 memorial Hospital opened its doors. Once this took place it left many poor and sick people in the underlying neighbourhoods without ready medical services available to them. Dr. A. G. Pentreath a Doctor of Divinity was disturbed by this and felt something should be done about it. It was he who got the Friendly Societies involved in establishing a Nurses Association and building the Cottage hospital. Here nurses could be trained and go into the homes of the sick and give the much needed attention. Bermuda had qualified nurses as early as 1855 and they were in the struggle for equality to practice their trade in their own country.  Some 20th century nurses who applied their trade were: Eliza Jane Lusher and Catherine Watson. Nurse Watson became the first Bermudian Nurse to work at the Bermuda Asylum   which changed it’s name to St. Brendan’s and is now known as the Wellness Institute.  The first permanent appointed Matron of the Nursing Home was Laurette I Williams R.N. the daughter of Solomon J. Smith.  It was not easy as our nurses obtained qualifications in their fields and were still refused a job at the hospital. Yet they continued to fight on .  For centuries the greater portion of nursing in the Island was carried on by black nurses, including the breast-feeding of other women’s children  Q ( Mind the Onion Seed ) Nellie Musson. Many Black nurses followed in the foot steps of their grandparents it was a noble profession .  The nursing profession wasn’t the only area where our people were denied . Learn of the difficulty the first black pharmacist Dr. Olivia Tucker had in trying to apply her trade here in Bermuda. It was so bad she spent most of her life overseas working and receiving honours in several other countries but was never acknowledged in her own homeland. The Bermudian Heritage Museums aim is to research and bring to you our history no matter how painful. It is important that we learn of the struggle that got us to this point so we can move on. These were our heroes who endured much for us . The least we can do is learn of them and hold their banners high.

 

Historical Facts

First Election contested by a party

The  first time a political party put up a a slate of candidates in a Bermuda election was in 1963, when the new Progressive Labour Party-Bemuda’s first polical party- put up nine candidates, six won seats, prompting the formatioin of the United Bermuda Party the following year.

The 1968 election was the first election contested entirely along party lines.

THE FIRST WOMEN MP’s

Women were finally granted the right to vote in 1944.  The first women MP’s were Hilda Aitken and Edna Watson, who were elected in 1948.

MOST VOTES

A few landowners had up to 36 votes each under the old property vote system.

After decades of being effectively denied the vote by restrictive propety franchise, black Bermudians’ efforts to win basic democratic rights began to show fruit as three remarkable me appeared on the political scene.

Dr. E. F Gordon, W. L. Tucker and Dr. Roosevelt Brown led the fight for Universal Adult Suffrage.

The Bermudian Heritage Museum

Our History, Our Heritage
Just a stones throw away from the beautiful Somer’s Gardens stands a majestic building overlooking the serene blue waters of historic St. Georges.

It’s the Bermudian Heritage Museum. As you step in to view our museum, our knowledgeable guides welcome you with a smile and warm hello. When you leave our museum, you will leave knowing you have “opened a door to the past and welcomed our heritage’ into your heart.