Gladys Carlyon De Courcy Misick Morrell
National Hero of Bermuda
Gladys Carlyon De Courcy Misick Morrell (2
June 1888 - 6 January 1969) was a suffragette leader, vestrywoman, and founder of the Bermuda Welfare Society.
Early life and education
Morrell was descended from a long line of Bermudians with Somerset roots. She was the daughter of Terence Misick, a Member of Colonial Parliament (now MP), and his wife Thalia, who was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) to Bermudian parents.
She was educated at Bermuda High School for Girls, North London Collegiate School and London University, where she graduated with a BA honours degree in English in 1911, becoming one of the first Bermudians to obtain a university degree.
She was unable to proceed on to law school and fulfil her dream of becoming a lawyer because law schools in England did not admit women until 1919.
Her father did not feel a woman’s place was in university—even at the undergraduate level—although her mother believed otherwise.
After graduation and a trip to visit her brother John, who was working in India, she returned to England and became an organiser for the women’s suffrage movement, which was in full swing in England during her university years.
Gladys Morrell as one of the primary forces advocating for women’s voting rights in Bermuda for 30 years. Mrs Morrell demonstrated tremendous courage, perseverance and fortitude in the face of serious challenges, “mountains” of obstacles and personal risk of imprisonment. This lady of stature also “shone a spotlight on” a number of other issues in the community at that time including the very high infant mortality rate. She was a co-founder of the Bermuda Welfare Society; which established Bermuda’s district nursing system. She was also concerned about environmental issues; hence the Morrell Nature Reserve named in her honour.
Morrell married British Navy officer Lt. Commander John Morrell on 20 April 1926. Their only child, Rachel, was born in 1928.
Death and legacy
She died on 6 January 1969 at the age of 80. She was buried in the family tomb at St. James Church, Somerset, where six generations of Misicks are interred.
The suffragettes’ movement represented the first organized challenge to Bermuda’s voting system. Fifteen years after the BWSS drew up its petition, labour leader Dr. E. F. Gordon took a page out of its book with the 1946 Bermuda Workers Association petition.
Just as Bermuda’s reactionary male parliamentarians had feared, the suffragettes’ hard-fought victory would pave the way for full voting rights for all adults that would be achieved two decades later.
On November 14, 2014, Morrell was the posthumous recipient of the fifth annual Peace and Justice Award given by the Roman Catholic Church
On 14 June 2015, Morrell was recognised as a National Hero of Bermuda.