The following is a biographical profile on Vivian Wilhelmina Seay (1881-1971):
- Vivian Wilhelmina Myvett was born on July 11, 1881 in Belize Town, British Honduras, to parents Francis A. Myvett and Margaret Ferrel Myvett.
- She taught at St. John’s Anglican School for about nine years and taught English for eight more years in Xcalak (a Mexican village north of Ambergis Caye).
- She married Elizah Fitzgerald Seay in April 15th, 1902 becoming Vivian W. Seay. She had no children of her own but was given the popular name of “Gaddie” for her devotion to the community.
- In March of 1920 under the auspices of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), Seay along with a group of women including Nurse Cleopatra White formed the Black Cross Nurses Association (BCN) of British Honduras to improve the healthcare conditions in the society. Nurse Seay also became the first treasurer of the female executives of the UNIA Belize Town branch.
- By July 21, 1921, the Black Cross Nurses received proper training from Government medical officer and in 1927, Seay and five other Black Cross Nurses became fully qualified as maternity nurses.
- The Black Cross Nurses work extended beyond a patient’s physical care and they soon became recognized as social welfare workers.
- Along with Nurse Seay, the Black Cross Nurses played a vital role in facilitating the establishment of training programs for nurses and midwives in Belize, developing healthcare programs, and in documenting the living conditions among resident in Belize City for the West Indian Royal Commission Report of 1938-39.
- In 1933, Nurse Seay was the first woman to be appointed a member of the Belize Town Board under the late Mr. George Mapp.
- In August 1, 1934 Nurse Seay and the Black Cross Nurses led a parade to mark the Centennial Anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery.
- In February of 1935 she led two meetings and argued that women’s voting age in a proposed partially-elected legislature be 21 years (equal to men’s), but did not contest income and property qualification.
- In 1935, she was awarded the title of Member of the British Empire.
- Nurse Seay became Inspector of Midwives in the country in 1941 and in 1948 she became the first woman to be appointed Justice of the Peace in British Honduras.
- In 1951, she co-founded the National Party and was later involved in the National Independence Party (NIP).
- In 1952, she also co-founded the British Honduras Federation of Women which established a low-cost daycare for working mothers in 1958. Nurse Seay also participated in other initiatives such as the Loyal and Patriotic Order of the Baymen and the ‘Save Our Country’ movement.
- Nurse Vivian Seay passed away on July 10, 1971.
Images courtesy: Belize Archives and Records Service and the National Heritage Library
How to cite: ISCR/NICH. “Vivian Wilhelmina Seay (1881-1971).” Belize’s Heroes, Patriots & Benefactors Exhibit. Retrieved from: [Insert BHA Website URL]
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