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HISTORY OF BPWA BERMUDA
The Business & Professional Women’s Association of Bermuda came into being in the year 1975. Although the idea of forming such an organization was spawn about a year earlier. The germinative seed was planted in the mind of our founder, Dr. Marjorie Bean when she was on the first stage of a round-the-world tour. Aboard the S.S. Oronsay Ship in August 1974, she met an Australian lady who was a member of the Sydney, New South Wales BPW club. Their headquarters was in London, England. This Federation was comprised of a network of other affiliates in over 70 countries around the worked, which joined the unified endeavour to improve the status and development of women and achieve equality for women in social, civic and economic spheres.
Accordingly, IFBPW Headquarters in London, England was contacted, and on May 1st, 1975, a representative of their membership committee, Mrs. Velma Jardine of Trinidad visited Bermuda. She met with a group of women at the English Speaking Union, to acquaint them with the aims and objectives of the International organization and the details of affiliation. A committee was formed at that meeting to determine the feasibility of forming at that meeting to determine the feasibility of forming a Bermuda affiliate; later that committee reported that there was sufficient interest. Thus at a special meeting held at Astwood Hall, Church Street on July 29, 1975, attended by approximately 40 women, Bermuda affiliate club of IFBPW was formed.
The first officers were:
President - Audrey Benevides-DeSilva
1stVP - Ann Cartwright-DeCouto
2nd VP - Eloise Furbert
Recording Sec - Audrey Brackstone
Corresponding Sec Yvonne Joseph
Treasurer - Marguerite Simmons
BPWA of Bermuda was presented with its Charter of Affiliation by IFBPW on July 1, 1976 and a charter night party is held each year to celebrate this event.
Thirteen presidents have followed Audrey Benevides-DeSilva, namely, Eloise Furbert, Audrey Brackston, Dr. Yvette Swan, Nan Skinner, Dolores Darrell, Bennie Hall, Marguerite Pounds, Valerie Robinson-James, Dolores Darrell, Dr. Susan Smith, Cynthia Thomas, Barbara Mills-Lewis and current president Patty-Ann Flood.
Since then BPWA Bermuda has experienced many achievements in keeping with the aims and objectives as set out in its Constitution.
The Association was responsible for bringing to the attention of the Government Minister the inadequacy of the Race Relations Act which is now rescinded and replaced by the Human Rights Act 1981. This action spearheaded the drafting of the Human Rights Bill. BPWA members, Dr. Marjorie Bean and Dr. Yvette Swan were two of the members of the first Human Rights Commission set up to administer the Human Rights Act.
Recommendations to Government by the Association that a ‘Women’s Bureau’, or ‘Commission on Women’s Affairs’ be established to investigate the inequities suffered by women and draft measures that would ameliorate these inequities led to the formation of the Women’s Advisory Council; one of our members, Dr. Yvette Swan, was then asked to serve as a member of the Council.
BPWA Bermuda organized and held a public seminar on rape which stimulated the formation of the RAPE crises group under the auspices of the Department of Community Affairs.
Other seminars on Woman and Our Laws, and Immigration and Bermuda Law, held by BPWA opened the way to the amendment of the Immigration Act so that non-Bermudian spouses of both women and men were given equal treatment under the law.
In the political arena, during each of the last four contested elections, we sponsored a woman candidate for membership in the Corporation of Hamilton. We are very pleased that in June, 1993 we were successful in assisting Mrs. Sonia Grant to become the first women Common Councilor of the Corporation.
BPWA’s booth display on Drug Abuse at the Woman ’82 Fair held in the Bermudiana Hotel was the first woman’s Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) awareness project on Bermuda’s threatening drug problem. As such it was precursor to the N.A.D.A. (Government) and P.R.I.D.E. (non-Government) programmes that exist to wage war against the scourge.
The results acquired from a survey carried out to determine the number of women on Government Boards. Representatives from BPWA lobbied for more women to be appointed to these Boards, thereby assisting in the revision of the application form for persons wishing to serve. Since which, many women have been appointed to Government Boards in Bermuda. We also note that in 1981 Dr. Bean, a member of BPWA was the first woman in Bermudian History to become a legislator in the Senate, which was then known as the Upper House of Parliament.
There are several events which BPWA of Bermuda sponsors including a heritage recital which is held each year in May. The proceeds from the recital go towards our scholarship fund. Annual scholarship awards have been granted since 1981 to females pursuing higher education, including the Dr. Iris Marsh award.
BPWA of Bermuda has paid tribute to secretaries who had made significant contributions to their employer on Secretary’s Day since 1981, and also presents a Woman of the Year award. Past recipients of this award include Mrs. Jeanne J. Atherden, Margaret Carter and Fern Wade.
In 1994, BPWA was involved in celebrations to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the granting of Suffrage to Bermuda women, and we also hung a portrait of Mrs. Hilda Aitken in the foyer of the House of Parliament.
In Vancouver the year 1995 the IFBPW decided to brand our organizaton BPW International. The organization world-wide would use the BPW and location as their logo and then we became BPW Bermuda.
Internationally, BPW Bermuda has gained high repute through the attendance and participation of members at BPW International Board Meetings, Congress and appointments to international committees. The greater honour, however, was bestowed upon the BPW Bermuda in October, 1989, when our fellow member Dr. Yvette Swan was elected as President at the International Congress held in Nairobi, Kenya in November 1991 and served until 1993.
The BPW Internaitonal is a network for business and professional women and currently has in excess of 250,000 members in over 106 countries. In February or March of each year, we pay tribute to our affiliate clubs and individual associates by having a candlelighting ceremony, during which we light a candle for each country. In turn, our affiliates light a candle for Bermuda.
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