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 co-founding 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 10 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 organizations that gave vital 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 in1905. Crawford graduated as a registered nurse in 1911 and Scott in 1912.
Racial barriers in place, first at the Cottage Hospital, then King Edward VII Memorial Hospitalwhich was Bermuda’s main hospital from 1920restricted 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 sports 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 Berkeley Institute, which was then the only high school for blacks.
In 1927, the dreams of Scott and co-founders 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 co-founders were Dr. Eustace Cann and George (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 (BWSS), 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 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 recognized in 1954 when she received the British Empire Medal.
At a special assembly held at Sandys Secondary School following 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.