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Nurse, educator and pioneer for women

West End legend: Alice Scott was one of Bermuda’s leading citizens and most dedicated daughters

Pioneering community leader Alice Scott left an indelible mark in Sandys Parish. She was a registered nurse who founded a nursing home and a tennis club, a suffragette and one of the first women in Bermuda to run for a seat in Parliament.

She became a legend in the West End after cofounding Sandys Secondary School in 1927. She was its driving force for many years, even mortgaging her home in its early years to raise funds to keep the school open.

Born and raised in Sandys, Scott was one of ten children, six of whom survived to adulthood. Her parents, Mary and John Scott, a Dockyard worker, raised their family at their home, “Shady Rest”, on what is now West Side Road.

Scott’s father, whose parents were former slaves, was an active member of the United Order of Oddfellows lodge, one of the self-help organisations that gave crucial economic and social support to black Bermudians throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Scott was the second Bermudian — Mabel Crawford was the first — to train as a nurse at Lincoln Hospital in New York. It was a golden opportunity for the era and came about after a connection was established between Bermuda and Lincoln in 1905. Crawford graduated as a registered nurse in 1911 and Scott in 1912.

Racial barriers in place, first at the Cottage Hospital and then King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, which was Bermuda’s main hospital from 1920, restricted employment opportunities for black nurses.

Scott worked as a private duty nurse, later establishing a nursing home at the family home. She ran Shady Rest Nursing Home for 40 years until her retirement in 1966.

A sport and fitness enthusiast, Scott also had to confront racial barriers in tennis. She built tennis courts on her property and founded Shady Rest Tennis Club. She was also a founding member of Somers Isle Lawn Tennis Club and played in overseas tennis tournaments.

In the 1920s, she became “obsessed” with the idea of establishing a high school in the West End. It took some years for the school to become a reality. The cost of starting a school was a factor, but there was some opposition from those who felt that black Bermudians should devote their energies on developing the Berkeley Institute, which was then the only high school for blacks.

In 1927, the dreams of Scott and cofounders Elizabeth Swan, Annie Simmons, Frances Simmons, William Robinson and Tommy Durrant were realised when the school opened with six students in a building on Portland Square.

Scott served on the government body for many years, first as secretary and later as secretary-treasurer. The school struggled for years and changed locations several times. Through it all, Scott was one of its most committed supporters. Other key figures besides the cofounders were Eustace Cann and George Ratteray — later Sir George Ratteray.

Scott, who never married, also threw herself into the battle for women’s suffrage, led by Gladys Misick Morrell. She was one of the few black members of the Bermuda Woman Suffrage Society and served on its executive committee. It is likely that despite Bermuda’s then segregated society, she formed a kinship with Morrell, who was a tennis enthusiast and also lived in Somerset.

After women won the right to vote in 1944, the BWSS evolved into the Bermuda Women’s Civic and Political Association with the goal of getting women elected to Parliament.

Scott was one of four women who ran for Parliament in the 1948 General Election. Morrell backed her bid on nominating day. Scott was not successful, but Hilda Aitken and Edna Watson were, becoming the first two women to win a seat in Parliament.

Scott was a small woman whose size belied her apparently limitless energy. Like her father, she was a dedicated lodge member. Her contributions to the community were recognised in 1954 when she received the British Empire Medal.

At a special assembly held at Sandys Secondary School after her death, she was described as one of “Bermuda’s leading citizens and most dedicated daughters”. The school was closed for a day as a mark of respect. Her funeral was held at St James Church, Somerset, which was packed to capacity.

One of the four houses at the school, which has since been renamed Sandys Secondary Middle School, bears Scott’s name.

Courtesy of bermudabiographies.bm and Meredith Ebbin


March 30, 1887 Alice Scott is born in Sandys Parish

1912 Graduates as a registered nurse from Lincoln Hospital’s nursing school in New York

1920s Opens a nursing home at her residence, “Shady Rest”

1927 Sandys Secondary School opens with six students; Scott is founding secretary

1944 Women win the right to vote

1948 Stands for Parliament in Sandys Parish, but fails to win a seat

1954 Is awarded the British Empire Medal

1966 Retires as owner of Shady Rest Nursing Home

April 18, 1968 Scott dies; days later, Sandys Secondary School staff and students pay tribute at a special assembly