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We can make a difference

The Island’s churches are collaborating, calling the local community to come together in facing our challenges. Residents are invited today to the National Gathering for Prayer; a call to join in transforming Bermuda. It is worth noting that this date will mark the 50th Anniversary of a general election which was a milestone for our Island, a key step in the transformation of 20th century Bermuda.

The election of May 16, 1963, while not fully democratic, was the first opportunity for the vast majority of adults to have the right to vote. This transformational step came after decades of campaigning on the part of many ordinary residents.

Our shared history is full of examples of people taking action to transform Bermuda. Universal suffrage — the right to vote — began to emerge globally in the early 20th century. Gladys Morrell was a Bermudian involved in the UK women’s suffrage movement as a student in London, who eventually returned to the Island to start a local campaign, in the early 1920s. In the 1930s that movement sent a petition to London. The racial divide worked against progress until Dr Eustace Cann gave key support to the Bill which established the Women’s Right to Vote in 1942.

In the mid-40s the Bermuda Worker’s Association (later the BIU) was formed and led by Dr EF Gordon. While that movement was born addressing workers’ rights, it broadened its mandate. They rallied throughout the Island on voting rights, segregation, and wider issues. A highlight of this effort involved drawing on the example of the women’s movement, with a petition to London in 1946.

While that push did not bring immediate results, it laid a foundation for the 1950s when numerous groups worked quietly to foster social progress, especially universal suffrage. In June 1959, the Progressive Group explored ways of effecting transformation in the Island, especially around segregation, and the right to vote. They initiated the Theatre Boycott which inspired hundreds of residents, and was successful in peacefully removing formal segregation in Bermuda.

With that momentum, by 1960 members of the Progressive Group and others joined in a campaign coordinated by Roosevelt Brown, under the Committee for Universal Adult Suffrage. They organised a series of meetings throughout the Island on the right to vote. This successful campaign directly led to the historic election of May 1963.

We call on Island residents to draw on this history as we face today’s challenges. Let us support the call for the National Gathering for Prayer at City Hall, on the iconic date of May 16. As our shared heritage has demonstrated, when enough ordinary people join together we can transform our Island for the better.

The accompanying message is being signed by the Speaker of the House of Parliament, Randolph Horton, and a small number of local residents under the coordination of Imagine Bermuda.

Former Premiers — Dame Jennifer Smith; Dr David Saul and Dame Pam Gordon — representing the family of Dr Gordon

Peter Bromby — the grandson of Gladys Morrell — representing that family

Dr John Cann — son of Dr Eustace Cann whose vote in Parliament was key for Women’s suffrage

Clifford Maxwell — Member of the Progressive Group and the Committee for Universal Adult Suffrage (CUAS)

Victoria Williams — daughter of Mrs Roslyn Williams member of PG and CUAS

Edauord Williams — member of PG and CUAS

Eugene Woods — member of PG and CUAS

Glenn Fubler — on behalf of Imagine Bermuda

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Published May 16, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated May 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm)

We can make a difference

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