Gladys Morrell table bought by Bermuda Historical Society
The Gladys Morrell table, a key symbol in the fight to get the vote for women in Bermuda, will go on public display tomorrow (Monday) after the Bermuda Historical Society successfully bid for the item at the Bermuda National Trust Auction on Saturday.
The table fetched $6,000 after Mrs Morrell’s family chose the annual Auction as the venue for its sale, along with other items which had belonged to the civil rights icon.
As an act of defiance against being denied their voting rights, the Bermuda Suffragettes refused to pay Parish Taxes which resulted in the seizure and subsequent auctioning of furniture belonging to the group. Remaining steadfast to their cause and refusing to back down, a band of suffragettes and their supporters attended these annual auctions where they bid on, won and returned seized items to their owners. In Gladys Morrell’s case, it was the same table every year until property owning women were granted the right to vote in 1944. That vote was a vital stage in the march to universal adult suffrage which was achieved 19 years later.
On Saturday at the Botanical Gardens, the Bermuda Historical Society was successful in bidding for the table and Society President Andrew Bermingham said it will go on display at the Society’s museum in Par-la-Ville Park on Queen Street tomorrow (Monday).
Mr Bermingham said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been able to acquire this item and I would like to thank the Bermuda National Museum for deferring this is to us as they were also interested in purchasing it.
He added: “This iconic piece will remain on public view for posterity as a reminder of the role Gladys Morrell plated in ensuring the right of women to vote. She is one of Bermuda’s national heroes and we hope people will come and see this this piece of more modern history. The table was very old and valuable in its own right but it also has huge historic value.
“Having served on the Bermuda Police in the mid-1960s, I did know Sgt George Down who was one of the Somerset policeman who would have been at the auctions in the 1930s. So for me personally it is a tremendous asset of the museum and we are delighted to have it for posterity.”
The family and the National Trust had specified that the table could only be sold to a local buyer so that it would not leave the Island.
Said Trust Executive Director Bill Zuill: “We are very pleased that our friends at the Bermuda Historical Society were successful in bidding for the table, and for a tea set that belonged to Mrs Morrell and are thrilled that the table will now be used in telling story of women’s suffrage in Bermuda.
“The 30-year struggle to get the vote for women was an important stage on Bermuda’s march to universal adult suffrage and civil rights for all, regardless of race or gender and we hope that this will illuminate this vital part of our history and the continued efforts to ensure all people enjoy human rights.”
In addition, an 18th Century cedar chest which had been in Mrs Morrell’s family for generations – along with the table – was sold for $6,500 to a descendant of the Gilbert family, for whom it was originally made.
Some 300 items were auctioned at the BNT sale along with thousands of other goods at the Trust’s annual jumble sale held on Thursday and Friday.
“The Trust is very fortunate to have a dedicated team of more than 50 volunteers who come together every year to make this event an extraordinary success, which not only raises money for the Trust but brings people together from all walks of life,” Mr Zuill said. “We want to thank everyone who volunteered, donated and bought items at the event, which we call Bermuda’s biggest recycling event!”