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MPs hold minute silence in memory of Dr Barbara Ball

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Tributes have flooded in for former MP Barbara Ball who sacrificed her life to improve the rights of the working class.

Politicians and union leaders have paid tribute to the woman “everyone in Bermuda should be thanking” for dedicating her life to helping others. Dr Ball, who died on Sunday night, has been described as a huge-hearted woman who worked tirelessly for the Bermuda Industrial Union and Progressive Labour Party.

Dr Ball, 86, died at the Sylvia Richardson Care Facility in St George's, where she had lived in poor health for about two years. MPs yesterday held a minute's silence in the House of Assembly and Government is already considering ways to honour her life.

Premier Paula Cox described Dr Ball as someone who “tilted at windmills consistently throughout her life”. Ms Cox said she was a fervent activist for women's rights and labour rights who challenged and changed people's views on how white people could interact in Bermudian society. Dr Ball's 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 and Dr Ball worked closely together for more than 30 years, beginning in the late 1950s and he described her as a friend, a trade unionist and a politician who would be sorely missed in Bermuda and across the world.

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

“She was one of the real, true gutsy freedom fighters for the people. In her hayday she was one of the brightest people Bermuda has ever produced. She was like a teacher as she taught so many people so many things, she really shared her brilliance.

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

Mr Simmons had visited Dr Ball just last week and had continued to “pray every night that she would get better”.

He said he was glad that he was able to present her with the very first copy of his book in September last year and even though she could not see or speak, he said she “signalled that she was appreciative”.

Dr Ball, who was born in 1924 and went to Bermuda High School, was a qualified medical practitioner and opened her practice to all at a time when there was little integration. She is largely praised with “breaking the moulds” of segregation as she entered the union movement and continued to work with black people.

She was elected to the House of Assembly as a PLP candidate and was an MP 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.

She was a Christian with a strong faith and was much-loved for her wit and humor.

Dr Ball has no surviving immediate family members as her parents and brother passed away before her. She is survived by her goddaughter Tina Evans Caines, who is the daughter of the late Dame Lois Browne Evans.

Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess, a former BIU president, yesterday offered his condolences at a press conference at the BIU building, calling Dr Ball “a very talented lady”. He recalled her being taken to Supreme Court a couple of times and also said she was “meticulous” in checking for spelling mistakes before signing any agreements.

Minister Burgess said: “This Country benefitted from Dr Ball for her sacrifice...She led from the front.

“She will be missed by us all. She will go down in my book and the BIU's book as a champion of the people.”

BIU president Chris Furbert said Dr Ball's funeral was expected to take place at St Theresa's Cathedral at 2pm on Saturday. Her body can be viewed on Friday evening and Saturday morning at the BIU.

The PLP yesterday issued a press release saying: “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.”

Deputy Speaker Wayne Perinchief described Dr Ball as “an icon for trade unionism”.

He remembered seeing her in action during the Belco riots and noted she was a black belt in judo.

“I saw a woman of strength,” he said. “She was a very strong person. She wasn't satisfied to just be a part of the movement. She was on the picket line and mixed up in the physical confrontation and everything else.”

Opposition leader Kim Swan said Dr Ball was “one of Bermuda's champions for social justice and made a tremendous contribution to a better Bermuda”.

He said: “Dr Ball used her training as a physician, to work towards healing a Country with the challenge of imbalances. Her focus was on improving Bermuda through trade unionism and helping the working class stand up against that which challenged them in Bermuda.

“Bermuda is the better because of the contributions by the late Dr Barbara Ball. She leaves to mourn a Country better because of her efforts and contributions.”

Nigel Hey, former editor of the Mid-Ocean News, fondly remembered Dr Ball as his physician more than 50 years ago.

He said: “She was a wonderful doctor, and as her later activities would show, a wonderful person in other ways as well.

“She saved my life among many others, I am sure and cared for me until the dreaded mildew spores, and the threat that I might lose my US naturalisation, drove me back to a climate less troubling to my asthma, in my adopted American home.”

We shall not forget you; Past and present presidents of Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) gather for a press conference announcing the passing of hero of the people Dr Barbara Ball. Pictured left to right Derrick Burgess, Ottiwell Simmons and Chris Furbert.
Dr Barbara Ball
Dr Barbara Ball
Dr. Barbara Ball is shown with fellow Bermuda Industrial Union members.

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Published March 15, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated March 15, 2011 at 10:16 am)

MPs hold minute silence in memory of Dr Barbara Ball

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