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MPs hold minute silence in memory of Barbara Ball

MPs held a minute's silence in memory of Barbara Ball in the House of Assembly this morning.

Speaker Stanley Lowe asked members to bow their heads to remember the former MP after several paid tribute to her commitment to workers' rights.

Premier Paula Cox described Dr Ball as someone who "tilted at windmills consistently throughout her life".

Ms Cox said the Bermuda Industrial Union activist, who died last night, was a fervent activist for women's rights and labour rights.

Her dedication to the union, she added, challenged and changed people's views on how white people could interact in Bermudian society.

The Premier revealed that when she was a child, Dr Ball was her family's doctor.

"She was kind, she was gentle, she was soft spoken. This was even when she was being torn in so many places by acting as a doctor and a fighter."

Ms Cox added: "I believe today that Bermuda should collectively cry for her. She has done more for this country than many have done and she hasn't done it by raping and pillaging."

Opposition leader Kim Swan said the BIU had lost a strong member and someone who contributed a great deal.

He said she was a white lady who stepped outside her comfort zone to represent workers.

"It's very ironic that in the modern day Bermuda does not have one woman that looks and represents Dr Ball's ethnic persuasion in this House of Assembly. She stood for courage and she represented labour well."

Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess, a former BIU president, informed the House of Dr Ball's death at the start of today's parliamentary session.

He said she didn't have any family that he was aware of and sent his condolences to the BIU family.

"She was meticulous in all she done," he said. "It had to be right."

He suggested she had a "difficult" social life because of her BIU involvement. "Some would say she turned her back on Front Street. Dr Ball saw that need for her involvement with the workers' organisation and she joined it."

He praised her for her unconditional support for the union and the Progressive Labour Party and the fact that she never criticised either publicly.

Government backbencher Dale Butler said Dr Ball was "a legend, a kindhearted person, a champion for labour".

He said she was "a giant who should be a national hero and the Government should declare it so".

Dr Ball died at the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility in St. George's.

Her death comes just six months after PLP stalwart and former Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) boss Ottiwell Simmons wrote a book chronicling her life called 'Our Lady of Labour'.

Mr Simmons described Dr Ball as “one of the most outstanding women Bermuda has ever known” for sacrificing her life to the labour movement.

Mr Simmons and Dr Ball worked closely together for more than 30 years, beginning in the late 1950s. Dr Ball and others then faced criminal prosecution in the BELCO strike of 1965.

Mr Simmons said: “I will always remember her agressiveness to bring about human rights for all people. She played a major role in influencing much of the legislation in Bermuda today.

“She dedicated so much time and effort to her cause. She was a stalwart if ever I knew a stalwart.”

This afternoon the PLP issued a statement which said: “Bermuda has lost a monumental figure with the passing of Dr Barbara Ball. Born in 1924, Dr Ball spent her lifetime as a champion of workers' rights in Bermuda. In 1954, Dr Ball, a white Bermudian, returned from medical training overseas and began to practice. In those times, there was little to no integration, however, Dr Ball opened her practice to all.

“The former Bermuda High School student qualified as a medical practitioner and was positioned to climb the ladder of economic success and social prominence. She was, however, alienated by certain sectors of society because of her willingness to associate with and work with black people and the Bermuda Industrial Union.

“She joined the Bermuda Industrial Union and was in the vanguard of those who were determined to improve the lot of ordinary Bermudians.

“Dr Ball was a member of the infamous “Class of 1968', when she was elected to the House of Assembly as a Progressive Labour Party candidate in the first general election held under Universal Adult Suffrage. She was a Member of Parliament for two successive terms, 1968 and 1972, representing Pembroke East Central.

“Dr Ball was the first female doctor to practice in Bermuda, the first white person to hold a position within the Bermuda Industrial Union, and the first female to represent Bermuda's workers at the United Nations, when she called for an independent Bermuda. These are but a few of Dr. Ball's numerous achievements and contributions.

“In recognition of Dr Ball's contributions to our country, the Progressive Labour Party government established the Dr Barbara Ball Public Health Scholarship.

“We recognise and appreciate the considerable sacrifice and skills of this valiant woman of the people. Dr Ball spent 44 years of her life fighting for the rights of the working class people of Bermuda, and the Progressive Labour Party thanks Dr Ball.

“We mourn our loss and thank God that her life was shared with us.”

Barbara Ball emerging from negotiation meetings with union members during the 1981 general strike.

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Published March 14, 2011 at 11:00 am (Updated March 14, 2011 at 11:38 am)

MPs hold minute silence in memory of Barbara Ball

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