‘They fought for change’

It is most important to relay history so it can be of benefit to future generations. Rev. Rufus Stovell, Miss Adele Tucker, Ms. Edith Crawford and Matilda Crawford in 1919 stood in contemplation in the St. John’s Church grave yard after the burial of Ms. Rosa Butterfield. She was forty-three years of age, a headmistress who had succumbed to a terminal illness on January 21st. 1919. She was the third teacher in close succession to have suffered an untimely death.

Ms. Butterfield taught at the St. Alban’s Hall on St. John’s Road. She had 100 pupils in two rooms and was assisted by two monitors’ student teachers that had completed their seventh standard. This was typical during the 19th. and 20th. century. There was no requirement for teachers certification. This tragedy brought to the minds of these teachers standing at the gravesite and other teachers present as they pondered the death of a teacher but understood the real impact of Ms. Rosa’s Butterfield’s death to the Black Community.

Ms. Crawford had 400 students at her school on Till’s Hill and only three teachers. They were very aware that Black Education, during those times, was built on the backs of the benevolence and sacrifice of a few individuals. They were aware that they, like their deceased colleague were all victims of a systemic neglect for the educational needs of the Black population. The teachers in attendance resolved at the grave -site to remedy the situation. As a result of that commitment, the Bermuda Union of Teachers(B.U.T. ) was born, February 1st 1919 it was the official beginning. A meeting took place at the Leopard’s club, where Ms. Adele Tucker stated it was agreed to form four committees and assign each one to a district to explain the Union’s functions. The meeting was held on Saturday February 1st. a few weeks after the death of Ms. Butterfield. Founded by Ms. Matilda Crawford, Rev. Rufus Stovell, Ms. Edith Crawford and Ms. Adele Tucker the first elected officers were: Rev. Richard Tobitt -President, Rev. Rufus Stovell Vice-President, Ms. Edith Crawford Secretary, and Ms. Adele Tucker Treasurer. Rev. Tobitt’s position was short lived and he became an honourary member before leaving the Island a few years later. The B.U.T quickly gained support from about a third of the Islands black teachers. The Union firmly believed it was a young persons right to an education.

MS.EDITH CRAWFORD

In 1923 the B.U.T brought teachers from America to conduct training courses for Bermuda’s teachers. Their work did not go un-noticed as in 1931 Government began to provide funds to send potential black Bermudian Teachers to Teachers’ Training in Jamaica, Through pressure on Government by the B.U.T that scholarship facility was expended toward others whose choices were to study in England and Canada. The Board of Education also offered courses locally by Dr. D.J. Williams, Dame Marjorie Bean and Dr. Kenneth Robinson.

MS. ADELE TUCKER

By 1937 the B.U.T had 42 members and at that time many of them had become certified teachers. As steadfast as they were little had changed for the teachers who were at times waiting for months to receive their meager wage. These obvious obstacles would soon change with the influx of a new wave of teachers which emerged with persons such as Mr. Walter Robinson, Mr. Arnold Francis, Dr. Kenneth Robinson, Mr. Neville Tatem, Mr. Alma Hunt, and Mr. Earle Haughton. Dr. Kenneth Robinson, as President lead the effort in the early mid-forties. In 1947 the Bermuda Union of Teachers became the first registered Trade Union in Bermuda’s History.

MS.MATILDA CRAWFORD

In 1948 the Teachers Association of Bermuda (T.A.B) also became a Registered Trade Union indicative of the segregated social landscape as the T.A.B who refuse to join forces with the B.U.T. For two decades we saw two separate Unions kept apart by segregation. During the 1950’s the first desegregated school was introduced ‘The Bermuda Technical Institute. Later by 1964 saw the combined Unions they eventually changed the name to the Amalgamated Bermuda Union of Teachers. Dr. Eva Hodgson became the first leader of the A. U. of Teachers. In 1997 the name A.B.U.T was changed back to the original name B.U.T.

REV. RUFUS STOVELL

The Union is now the most creditable, well recognized and respected internationally. Worthy praises to the brave teachers who took the reigns and stood firm on their decision to organize so many years ago. They left a legacy that became a benefit to many generations before us and many more to come. It is a moment in history that all of Bermuda should be glad to speak about and share with pride.

First recipients of Government Teachers Training Scholarships (Jamaica) 1931 Rosalind Taylor Robinson , Almira Tucker Hunt, 1931 Helen Francis, Thelma Taylor Barnett and Rosalie Pearman Smith.

ROSALIND TAYLOR ROBINSON

cr. Mrs. Doris Corbin interview by Joy Wilson-Tucker, Research Early Education brochure, Ms. Shirley Robinson-Pearman