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Honouring 100 influential Bermudian women

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An honour roll of 100 influential Bermudian women was celebrated at yesterday's proclamation of the 100th International Women's Day.l Useful web link: www.internationalwomensday.com.

Many of the nominees joined the more than 200 people who packed the Bermuda National Gallery for the ceremony.

Their names, put forward by the public and selected by the Bermuda Women's Council, will be on display at the Bermuda National Library for the rest of this month.

Premier Paula Cox and Community Development Minister Glenn Blakeney launched the International Women's Day proclamation, with Ms Cox also announcing Bermuda will soon ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women to Bermuda (CEDAW).

Guest speaker Roberta Clarke, regional director of the new United Nations Women's Caribbean Office, congratulated the Island, calling Bermuda “the only place in the Caribbean region that has had more than one female head”.

Themed “Strong Women Create Strong Communities”, International Women's Day launches a series of events celebrating women through the rest of March.

Honourees also included groups like the women's softball team the Big Blue Machine, and the original Bermuda Women's Suffrage Society.

Unable to attend was Senior Master Sergeant Wanda Joell of the US Air Force, the first black woman to work aboard the US presidential aircraft, Air Force One.

“It's exciting, a great honour to make the list. I'm just sad I couldn't make it there in person,” said Sgt Joell, speaking from her new home in Lawrenceville, Georgia.

Born in Bermuda to the Reverend and Mrs Darius Joell of Devonshire, Sgt Joell left the Island at the age of six.

She joined the Air Force in 1982 at age 18, taking on special assignments at Andrews Air Force Base in 1986 including the vice-presidential craft Airforce Two and began serving as deputy flight attendant on Air Force One from 1992. She retired from the Air Force in December.

Looking back, Sgt Joell said: “They were all memorable trips for different reasons. I've been around the world a couple of times, and been honoured to serve under the last four Presidents, and five First Ladies. I've flown with a lot of US and foreign dignitaries as well. I remember coming into Bermuda with President Bush Senior for his summit on the Island (in 1990).”

Sgt Joell also served as superintendent of First Lady Operations. At Andrews Base she was responsible for the safety and comfort of the President, First Lady and statesmen from other countries.

She was represented yesterday by aunts Estlyn Harvey, Eleanor Isaac and Idell Virgil.

Bermuda Police Chief Inspector Ni-imah Williams said: “At 34 I'm one of the younger people here, and I was quite shocked to get the phone call that I'd been nominated for this, but I'm very honoured to be here among so many trailblazing ladies that I've looked up to over the years.”

She said a traditionally male-dominated service had come a long way since she joined as a cadet at age 17 “and those changes had the support of both men and women.”

For her line of work, she said: “My advice to women is, don't try to fit in by being men. Be a woman, and bring these qualities to the table. Every bit of diversity, be it personal or national or cultural, it all helps.”

Kathy Bromby had nominated Bermuda women's suffragette leader Gladys Morrell her grandmother.

She said: “Gladys Morrell was a very outspoken woman. She fought not only for women's right to vote, but took on a lot of social issues in Bermuda as well.

“And I nominated Dorothy Cann, who was one of the very first black women involved in dentistry in Bermuda. I knew her from my dentist, Dr Clarence Terceira, who helped me track her down.”

Mrs Cann, who turns 90 this November, said she had started work as a dental assistant when she was 18.

“After my daughter was old enough, I went to work with Dr Terceira. I started with him and I finished with him. They were all very nice to me in those days; everyone was.”

She said her nomination came as a total surprise.

“I was shocked when they invited me here today. I had been told earlier on to keep today open, but I'd thought I was being taken out somewhere.”

For details on this month's events, contact the Bermuda Women's Council or the Women's Resource Centre.

Making an impact: Some of the 100 women who were yesterday honoured for being amongst the most influential in Bermuda.
Giving praise: Premier Paula Cox reads the International Women's Day Proclamation as Minister of Youth, Families, Sports and Community Development, Glenn Blakeney looks on in the Bermuda National Gallery yesterday.

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Published March 09, 2011 at 8:00 am (Updated March 09, 2011 at 8:38 am)

Honouring 100 influential Bermudian women

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