There is a saying amongst soldiers which in paraphrase describes their work as long periods of boredom interspersed with moments of excitement. Historical research can also be described in this way. A case in point is this story. One evening I was unsuccessfully searching the Bermuda National Library Digital Collection. I was looking for certain information on one of the future subjects for a new article in the Bermuda’s Brave Blue Line series, when I came across the name of a Police Constable I had not noticed before.
That article made me drop my planned research and to dig a bit deeper into this new subject. My preferred method of research on-line is to find and record each such relevant article. I was surprised that by the end of the evening that I had found over 100 references in the B.N.L. Collection related to my new subject.
My next process was to start writing the biography of the police officer and at the same time reading the saved articles and other information more carefully and most importantly verifying the data which I was using. This Constable excited a lot of public interest during their tenure and also had a significant effect on the social fabric of Bermuda.
Part of this excitement was because the Constable was a lady.
Inspector lsobella Mitchell (Lee) is rightly called the first female officer of the Bermuda Police Force and Constable Jean Delight Mattis (later Vickers) is rightly called our first home grown female member of the Bermuda Police Force. Both these officers were full time members of the Bermuda Police Force.
However some 20 years before they commenced service, in 1941, Bermuda was already two years into World War Two; some rationing was in effect, and there was a large influx of civilian and military personnel as part of the war effort. There were also social problems in Bermuda, including child neglect, and as a direct result of the number of unattached military males on the island there was prostitution and some said even child prostitution. These conditions were of concern to the authorities. They came up with, what for them, was a radical new idea. This was announced in the Royal Gazette on 4th September 1941.
The Salvation Army headquarters in Toronto have now agreed to provide from Canada one of their women social workers who it is understood will become Bermuda’s first woman constable, to work among wayward girls.
This became known yesterday when the Royal Gazette and Colonist learned that Major Alice Uden’s name had been submitted to Major T.M. Pollock of the Salvation Army headquarters in Bermuda. The latter referred the appointment to the Colonial Secretary’s office. Major Uden is said to have considerable experience in dealing with women’s problems.
It is not known when the appointee will arrive in the Colony to assume her duties, in which she will be assisted by other Salvation Army workers now located in these islands. However it is expected that she will be here in the near future.
The Legislature have already provided the necessary funds to pay the salary of this Salvationist. At the Legislative Council sittings when this subject was discussed, concern was manifested by members that the woman social worker might be subjected to embarrassment if she were not made a special constable. It was stated that she should have this protection by two members. The Colonial Secretary indicated in a reply he gave, that this point had not been overlooked.
The Salvation Army at this time had responsibility for the Probation Services in Bermuda and it also housed orphans and wayward children.
The lady mentioned in the article was Alice Elizabeth Uden who was born at Dover, Kent, England on 13th November 1892. She was the second of three daughters born to Charles Uden, a farm labourer and his wife Annie Elizabeth Shilling. Alice also had two younger brothers.
In May 1910 Charles moved his whole family to Canada. With her family, 17 year old Alice arrived in Quebec on 22nd May 1910 on board the ss Lake Manitoba. The following year the 1911 Canadian Census shows that the family was living in Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Charles was reported to be a labourer whilst Alice’s occupation is indecipherable. Their religion is given as Salvation Army.
The Royal Gazette of 30th September 1941 reported the arrival of Major Uden:
Bermuda's first woman constable Major Alice Uden arrived here yesterday aboard the Acadia.
Major Uden, who was appointed to the local post by Salvation Army headquarters in Toronto, will work among the girls in the Colony. She will have the status of a constable and will be assisted by other Salvation Army workers.
Five other Salvationists arrived with Major Uden. They have all been awaiting steamship service to the islands.
Capt. and Mrs. Herbert McCoombs are to be officers in charge of the Ridgeway Home. Lieut. Lily Cansdale will be an assistant to them.
Captains Louie Owen and Lily Burch will be in charge of the Somerset Corps.
Captain Woolcott, who has been at the Ridgeway Home, will be matron for the Warwick Home.
This article was followed on 10th October 1941 by:
Major Alice Uden of the Salvation Army, Bermuda’s first woman constable, who arrived here in the ss Acadia a fortnight, ago from Canada by way of the United States, yesterday forenoon, was sworn in at the office of Commissioner of Police J. S. McBeath at Police Headquarters, Hamilton. During her two weeks in these Islands, Major Uden has already been introduced to members of the police force at Hamilton, St. George's and Somerset.
The appointment of Major Uden to the Bermuda post was made by the Salvation Headquarters in Toronto. The Major is a native of England and was born in Dover, but has lived in Canada for thirty-one years. Her Canadian home is Brantford, Ontario, and during her stay in the Dominion she has given over twenty-five years to the service of the Salvation Army as an officer.
Her wide experience in field, emigration and social work has taken her all over Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and to use Major Uden's own words: “Meeting different people every day, people in all walks of life, and helping them to make good, is the greatest satisfaction to be found in our work."
Regarding to her future work in these Islands, Major Uden explained to The Royal Gazette & Colonist that it would be preventive as well as corrective, with special attention to activities among young girls. It has been arranged that Major Uden will not only work on the street, but will have an office at the Salvation Army Headquarters on Court Street, Hamilton, where mothers and girls can seek advice and guidance. Office hours will be from 9 to 10.30 each morning, and arrangements can be made for personal contact in the home, where possible.
Major Uden will work under the joint direction of the Commissioner of Police and the Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army, Major T.M. Pollock, who has had considerable experience in police court and prison work in his 30 years as a Salvation Army officer. He was for over three years prison chaplain in a Canadian city.
So now Bermuda has its first woman Constable. However what category of Constable was she? The Royal Gazette reported that the Legislature had approved the payment of her salary by the Bermuda Government.
Police Constable, Major Alice Elizabeth Uden is not listed in the Police section of the Blue Books. (The Government Schedule of Taxes Duties Fees and All Other Sources of Revenue) published during her tenure.
Members of the Legislative Council had advocated that Major Uden be made a Special Constable and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, this is what I believe occurred. It would appear that Major Uden, who was in her late 40s, was to be a full time uniformed Salvation Army officer with the powers of a ‘Special Constable’. My understanding is that Special Constables are sworn Constables but only have police powers in certain areas which are specified in their warrant.
A rather blurred picture of Alice Uden in her later years gives the impression of an affable grandmother. I have found no evidence that she ever married. Also as you will see later she was not afraid of controversy nor lacking in personal courage.
The Royal Gazette’s Roundabout column featured Major Uden the day after she was sworn in:
Major Uden can take care of herself and others. However, that seems to be but another qualification of the many possessed by Salvation Army workers. Not so long ago one of the Salvationist lassies was returning to her residence after performing several of her many duties. An inebriate stopped her and would not let her by. She quietly asked him to step aside. He not only would not budge but he made a grab for her.
The Salvationist stepped back, measured her “adversary” and let him have it on the point of the jaw. She then strode over his prostrate form. . .
The Salvation Army women have already done considerable good work here with girls who chose the wrong roads. There was one incorrigible girl, who, at twelve years of age, had ten convictions against her. The police were never too anxious to come to grips with her, as she had a well established record for biting them.
Eventually, the S.A. took her in. The first night she was there she made strips of sheets a rope by means of which she escaped from the home. The next time she broke the lock on the door and got away. Finally, her guardians used a bit of feminine strategy upon her. They praised the tidiness of other rooms in which two girls were kept and gradually the young Amazon saw the better of her ways.
She is now quite proper and acquiring an education. . . . .
Three months later Alice Uden was a featured speaker at the Bermuda Welfare Society and a report on the meeting was carried in the Royal Gazette on 30th January 1942. The article also features many of the social challenges that were facing Bermuda at that time:
Major Uden, the Colony’s Salvationist woman constable, told the St. George’s Branch of the Bermuda Welfare Society yesterday afternoon at their annual meeting that illegitimacy was “very bad" in the Islands.
She said that on her visits to homes she had found “some terrible cases” which were a contrast to the beauty of the country. She hoped that one day some men would be appointed who would find the fathers of the illegitimate children and that these fathers would be made to pay for their support.
On visiting bars, she added, many of the young girls found there, said they were eighteen. “But”, continued Major Uden, “they do not look like it”. She offered a suggestion.
She thought these girls should carry registration cards. Moreover, she felt it would be wise if there was an island where homes could be built to care for these young girls.
Major Uden also referred to the lack of a children’s aid society in the Colony. She thought there should be one, as she felt many of the little children were neglected from her own personal knowledge of some cases.
She quoted Victor Hugo: “All the vagabondage in the world begins with neglected children."
The meeting was held at the Methodist Church and the Rev. R.C. White was chairman. At the outset he paid several tributes to the Bermuda Welfare Society for their farsightedness. When they were asked to help with the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) it was found that the Society could be a tower of strength. “The Society is ever growing in influence and popularity," he said. He added, “We should never forget the fine work being done by the Welfare Society's branches throughout the Islands - for the most part unseen, unhonoured and unsung but ever on the alert."
Reading her annual report, the Secretary, Mrs. Leland Barnes, referred to last year's report when she stated "How one nurse kept going was a mystery."
“In comparison with 1941, “she continued, “I find the work has increased in every branch but midwifery, which showed a slight decrease for the year and we still have Miss Graham living. So I have come to the conclusion she is more of a mystery than ever.
“This year can best be described as historic. It started off quietly enough, then all of a sudden we were faced with an influx of people from across the way that made the pre-war tourist business fade into nothingness. We realised these people had come to stay for 99 years and, being human, they were heirs to all the ills of the flesh that we are.
“Your committee, I will admit, gave this situation a great deal of thought. We feared an epidemic. We knew the housing situation as was the water supply was acute, and just how much extra work could be put on one nurse without her collapsing, we did not know.
“Our fears were realised for Dengue Fever broke out and Miss Graham worked faithfully and well until she too, fell victim. Since then measles has been raging but they are being brought under control so, in view this happening last year, we have just cause to be thoughtful we have come through it at all.
“One of the outstanding features of our work this year was the leasing for a period of five years of a home for the nurse. We are grateful indeed to the committee appointed to make the home ready in such a short space of time. It is difficult enough with unlimited means to furnish a home today and with a limited amount at their disposal they have done a splendid job.
“Special thanks are due to Mr. R.O. McCallan for the many tasks he performed for us free of charge and also to those who helped with donations and labour.
“Then we have the satisfaction knowing our nurse is in a home of her own. Due to all those expenses our balance is considerably lower this year. We hope in the near future to make an effort to defray the cost and we bespeak a hearty response from all those interested
Before leaving the subject, I should like to thank Miss Julia McCallan for taking telephone calls for the nurse during 35 years when Miss Graham lived with her. We are now fortunate in having Mrs. Hyatt to carry on this work.
“I feel this report would not be complete without paying a tribute to the memory of a late officer of our executive who passed on this year, Mrs. J. W. Lambert. She it was who attended our annual meeting three years ago and fired us with the ambition to work for a permanent home for our nurse, and had not war intervened we may have had by now our own property.”
Attendance at the baby clinic at St. George’s amounted to 793, a decrease of 211, and at St. David's Island to 283, a decrease of 25. She continued that the majority of the free visits were to inmates of the Poor House. “As you know,” she stated, “the Parish Vestry gives us a grant each year. We, in turn, care for the inmates of that institute free of charge."
“I think,” stated Mrs. Barnes, “I should make mention of Miss Graham‘s first aid classes and tell you there are now over 30 in St. George’s holding the first aid and home nursing certificate. Some have now entered for their final examination. Some of the girls, she continued, planned to join the A.R.P.
Concluding the report, Mrs. Barnes said: Our thanks are due to the American medical staff as well as our own local military and civil doctors for their assistance and cooperation.
Your committee had 12 regular and two emergency meetings during the year and were represented at all executive meetings In conclusion, may I say that your committee are aware of the serious times through which we are passing, and just what the future may hold no one knows, but we started as a unit willing and ready to assist in any way we can."
The Royal Gazette had a column called THEY SAY which was used to express, in bullet points, social concerns being mooted in the community or opinions on potentially contentious issues. The author A.M. Purcell had been the Editor of the Royal Gazette from 1921 to 1939.
The Royal Gazette THEY SAY column of 31st January 1942 featured directly and indirectly Major Uden and also some other issues which I have retained to show the scope of the column.
THEY SAY By A.M. PURCELL
.......... That once again the women have done public service.
.......... That as non-citizens they set an example to the citizens
.......... That the A.R.P. organisers were all on the job.
.......... That the result was satisfactory
.......... That young coloured males are now liable to conscription.
.......... That this is has it should be.
.......... That it is also what they wanted.
.......... That there is no room for discrimination in colour, creed or sex these days******
.......... That the report of Major Uden, S.A. doesn't make pleasant reading.
.......... That the conditions she describes have formerly been whispered only.
.......... That is why nothing was done to improve matters.
.......... That the result was a blot on our reputation.
.......... That some people find consolation in the knowledge that things are worse elsewhere.
.......... That it is a poor comfort.
.......... That though membership decreased in the Church Society, the subscriptions increased.
.......... That this may be due to the greater business activity.
.......... That it should be due to the increased interest in the Church.
.......... That another Board has been appointed.
.......... That it has an important duty to perform.
.......... That nevertheless everyone hopes it won't have to function except in preliminary work.
Major Uden’s report, referred to above, was one she had previously given to the St Georges Branch of the Bermuda Welfare Society. The Royal Gazette of 31st January 1942 indicated that she also presented the report to the Annual General Meeting of the Smiths Branch of the Bermuda Welfare Society, but it was not until the 2nd February 1942 that the Royal Gazette added further insight into what Major Uden had told the gathered Welfare Society members
Although stating that she could not say very much about her work here, Major Uden, Bermuda's woman constable who came here from the Salvation Army's headquarters in Toronto offered some suggestions in view of her experience here to date,
“I came, across a girl the other day," she continued. “who was 20 years old. She had three illegitimate children by different fathers." She said that when she came here she was not given any specified work to do but I have gone from house to house." she remarked, “in different districts and I have found some terrible cases which I would not like to mention here. I tell you," she asserted, “there are a good many young girls who need to be chased off the streets.
“I trust." she told the meeting ”that I will get the co-operation of the people of Bermuda in this, because you will agree with me a lot of our young girls go wrong due to the lack of the right training. We have not many homes for these girls. They have a remand home at Warwick which is not very large.
Girls are only there until they are sixteen years of age. I think that should be extended to 21, because sixteen is a very tender age. Even then they have to commit crimes almost to get into the remand home."
Illustrating with actual cases, Major Uden also recommended the provision of a children’s aid society in Bermuda. She referred to the plight of babies left behind at home while the mothers, sometimes necessarily had to go out to work.
One case concerned a baby of eight months of age who was left in charge of a six-year old child.
Mr. Leonard R. Hall, United Services Organisation Director in Bermuda, took up where Major Uden left off. “You heard the Major relate to the welfare of young people here,” he said. “It is getting them before they are gone."
He recommended the provision of recreational facilities for the young people and particularly favoured the site of Bernard Park. He said places should be provided on week nights and on Sundays where youths could find leadership. “That will keep them from the need to be rescued,” he added, “and sent to detention places.”
“There is lots of work ahead,” he suggested, "and it possibly has to be taken in steps.” There was a wide compass of things which could be done, he said. The work would be hard and it might not even be too popular now, but it would be worthwhile to have one's finger on the pulse of such a move.
He added that he hoped his listeners would be patient with him because his comments were made with a view to being constructive, kindly and hopeful.
It could become a source for the leadership of youth and a feeder of new strength.
He said the churches could link their activities with a programme for the young people which would attract them and help them not only on Sunday mornings or afternoons but also during the evenings of the week.
After describing much of the work being done by the U.S.O. and giving many details about the organisation, Mr. Hall spoke of a “more liberal franchise" which would come in Bermuda. He said that many moral voices are going to have a say in things as the years go along. Referring to women having the vote by using an anecdote, Mr. Hall said “That’s one of the things that is going to change just as sure as you live because in Christian company no one should be afraid. I throw out another thing which will happen to you. The largest part of your family here has got to have more consideration. That's going to be one of the most unpopular causes of the future. If it is well led it will be all right. If not, lookout. Leadership is required. Where is the man that is head and shoulders above the crowd? Where is he who will do some of the things yet undone?”
On 11th February 1942 the Royal Gazette reported on a meeting convened with the local clergy, by His Excellency the Governor, Viscount Knollys. I have edited out those parts not relevant to this story.
His fourth point which had no bearing on the meeting, referred to the recent appointment of Major Uden, Bermuda's first woman police officer. He sincerely hoped that any recommendations put forward by Major Uden would not be pigeon-holed.
The first time a Court Case involving Woman Constable Major Alice Uden was reported by the Royal Gazette on 19th February 1942:
A 15-year-old girl was committed to the Girls’ Remand Home, Warwick, under the supervision of the Salvation Army, until she reaches the age of 16. The girl was charged yesterday with stealing, contrary to Section 324 of the Criminal Code, at Pembroke Parish, on Feb. 1, 1942.
Evidence was given by Major Alice Uden, Bermuda's woman constable.
The Bermuda Woman Suffrage Society was very active during the Second World War. The Bermuda women had yet to be given the vote nearly 25 years after British women were first allowed to vote.
On 5th March 1942 the Royal Gazette published an article, (here given in part) where Major Uden had addressed the assembled ladies. Her presentation did not make comfortable reading:
“I just call them horse stalls,” said Major Uden, Bermuda's Salvationist woman constable, in an address to the annual meeting of the Bermuda Woman Suffrage Society yesterday afternoon in Trinity Hall, referring to living conditions in several districts she had visited.
In addition to condemning overcrowded and unsanitary housing conditions in Bermuda, Major Uden broadened the scope of her remarks to take in considerable social work which is as yet undone in the Colony. Particularly, she talked about the prevalence of illegitimacy and the difficulty in getting the fathers of these children to bear their responsibilities.
Her remarks often moved the suffragists to applause and after she had finished her talk the following resolution, moved by Mrs. J.S. Morrell, President was unanimously carried:
“THAT THIS MEETING URGES THAT LEGISLATION BE ENACTED TO PROVIDE THAT PAYMENTS DUE TO THE MOTHER OF ILLEGITIMATE CHILDREN UNDER AN AFFILIATION ORDER OF THE COURT SHALL BE ORDERED TO BE PAID INTO THE COURT BY THE FATHER OF THE CHILD."
Mrs. Morrell explained that at the present time the mother had to collect the funds from the father of the illegitimate child, which placed her in an unwarranted and dangerous position.
Those in the audience who spoke to the resolution wanted it made even stronger, and there was a sentiment that it should be withdrawn so that more “teeth” could be inserted. However, it was decided to pass the resolution and then prepare another one, more complete and comprehensive, on the same subject.
Mr. W.E. Spurling commented on the resolution. He referred to the select committee of the Assembly which was at the present time studying the question of illegitimacy. He said the present laws did not properly cover the questions. He supplied the information - explaining that he was chairman of the Pembroke Parish Vestry - that the Parish Vestries Act was going to be brought before the House “sometime in the near future."
"There are going to be many changes made to it,” he added,” This particular question is one very closely inter-woven with relief. In most of these cases that come up. It is very difficult to know who is the father, that is a point which you have to consider. Therefore, it is rather difficult to take action because the mother has been a very loose character." He concluded that he favoured a broader resolution.
Mrs. Morrell told the meeting that with regard to the select committee’s report on the Suffrage Society's petition, Sir Stanley Spurling had forwarded for Mrs. Butterﬁeld's information a draft of the report.
“That of course,” she explained, “is confidential and may not be the final form it will take.” The draft, she added, had probably been sent to Mrs. Butterfield as a sign of good faith in view of Sir Stanley's promise to have the report before the Legislature by the end of February.
The Treasurer‘s report showed an amount in hand of £6.6s.2d, most of which was contained in the Campaign Fund.
The annual report recorded the events of the year. In commenting upon it, Mrs. Morrell sounded an optimistic note that 1942 looked like “the year.” (Note – some Bermuda women were given the vote in 1943).
The report recorded an increase of 14 members bringing the present total to 262. It noted with satisfaction the appointment of a woman to the Food Board—long advocated by the Society—and the fact that there were now nine women members of the Colony's boards.
Reference is made to the speakers who appeared at the meetings during the year and there are paragraphs devoted to the visit here of Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Major Uden told the suffragists that since she has been in the Islands she has done “quite a lot of investigating.” She explained she has the power to make arrests but as yet had not made any.
"I have found," said the speaker,” right from Somerset to St. David’s Island quite a lot of things that I never thought really existed in Bermuda. The Police have been very kind and very willing to help me in every respect.”
She did not know how some of the people lived with big gaps and holes in the roofs, especially during recent torrential showers. “I suppose," she remarked, “they have to move their beds away from the rain when it comes in.”
She spoke of overcrowded houses. Among the examples she gave was one where 20 people were living in two rooms and a shed. She explained that they did their cooking outside. The table was covered with flies. “It’s a wonder,” she said, “there is not more disease than there has been, because there are so many flies around. I asked the lady where they all slept". ‘Would you come inside? she invited, ‘and I will show you. ‘I went in and I found where they slept—a good many of them on the floor. The beds were side by side. That’s where they slept."
Another home was like a big barn. She found the parent - a widower - drank heavily and extensively. His whole family boys and girls, slept side by side. “I do not think that should be," she commented. "I thought what chance have these youngsters, living in these homes, to be made into good citizens."
She told of her visits to the bars where she saw many mothers drinking with half a dozen men. She spoke of a bar “not far from here” where men and women apparently used the same bathroom. “I think that should be known and closed” she said.
She described the case of a young girl of eighteen years who had had two children. “When I went to see her,” said Major Uden, “to my horror, she was lying on a bed without any mattress whatever. The baby was born in the morning. There she was lying on the springs and without any preparation whatever made for the little one coming.
Of course, immediate help was given to that girl.”
"I continually follow up these cases," Major Uden continued, “and try to get the confidence of the young girls as best I can. We are living, we know, in perilous times, and it is up to every individual to do his or her part to raise the standard whereby Bermuda will not only be noted for its beautiful surroundings but where people may be led to seek a higher life. I believe, too, that the excessive drinking of intoxicating liquor has a lot to do with the present condition of things."
The day after that damming article, the Royal Gazette reported on a relevant court case:
Charged with failing to support his wife and family, Joseph Repose Moniz, labourer, Devonshire Parish, yesterday was convicted and bound over. Evidence was given by Mrs. Moniz, Major Uden of the Salvation Army and the Rev. V. Ford of Hamilton. Three of the accused's youngest children were placed in the care of an approved person until such time that they can be admitted to the Ridgeway Home.
Action on social change was slow in coming but the Royal Gazette of 30th January 1943 reported on proceedings in the House of Assembly:
The Attorney General prepared the bill which is now before the House, taking out of the Juvenile Offences Act where, as the Attorney General points out, such provisions are misplaced as the children concerned are not offenders, certain provisions relating to neglected or ill-treated children and enacting those provisions in the present bill with considerable changes.
The bill provides for a children’s court in which the magistrate deals with cases coming within the ambit of this act in separate hours from the normal court proceedings.
It also includes the provision of an appointment of a probation officer, and places of detention or approved societies, that is to say, societies approved by the Governor-in-Council for the purpose of this act.
He continued that the bill made the neglect or ill-treatment of children an offence and defined what constituted neglected or ill-treated children. "
Major Uden may have ruffled a number of feathers in her public comments and actions.
The Royal Gazette of 4th March 1943 carried the following report:
Major Uden struggled with her assailant, who was threatening to do her harm, and managed to blow a police whistle which she always carries. Apparently the man was not aware that he had picked a policewoman for his victim.
The whistle, according to an informant of The Royal Gazette, was heard by a constable who rushed to Major Uden’s rescue. The man got away.
An immediate search was instituted and a little later the police heard screams. Rushing to that vicinity, it is learned that they found the same man. This time attacking a girl of 14 years.
It was subsequently reported that this attack on Major Uden was not because of her public actions but just because she was a women in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The Royal Gazette later devoted many column inches to the arrest of a United States serviceman and his subsequent court-martial charged with assaulting Major Uden and the attempted rape of the 14 year old girl. He was found guilty and sentenced to five years penal servitude in a military penitentiary.
War Cry, which carried the banner - “the official publication of the Salvation Army in Canada, Alaska, Newfoundland and Bermuda” carried the following article on 24th October 1942
Semi-tropical Bermuda scenes are of rare beauty. Pre-war tourists went to Bermuda and pronounced the Islands incredibly lovely. Red of hibiscus and poinsettias, lilies white with heavy fragrance, and living blue of rolling sea heralded the fact that these gems of the Atlantic are proudly British. Daubed with nature’s brightest shades the scene entranced those from northern climes. Pink oleanders blend with mauve bougainvillea growing profusely about pure white or tinted houses of coral. Over all waved lordly Royal Poinciana palms, beckoning wondering newcomers to beaches, where marine gardens of marvellous grace and colour scintillated in depths of crystal-clear water.
The Major is now a familiar figure in the Islands. Into the more sinister districts where policemen go well-armed and in pairs, the Major walks alone, wearing on her Army uniform a badge denoting her status as a police officer. Not only are native women and girls assisted, but many American mothers will thank God that a good woman troubled about their boys is now on war duty there.
Evils of drinking, poverty, and over-crowded conditions lead to immorality and subsequent suffering, especially in children. The Army has established a Home for neglected small girls, and has also a Remand Home where incorrigible women and girls are patiently assisted toward respectability. There are many difficulties in this work, but two young women, Captain Ruth Woolcott and Pro-Lieutenant Lorna Davidson are bravely meeting the very real challenge.
One day the Major found a woman dying of a loathsome disease. On the concrete floor of the house which looked more like a hut but which served as their home, sat two girls, seven and nine years of age, washing broken dishes and drying them with paper. There were three other children. Coming from the bright out-of-doors, at first the Major saw only these mites and two broken chairs and a washtub— the only furniture in the room, but presently she saw over in the corner what appeared to be an animal covered with sacking on some bed springs. But the children said it was "Mom"! Innumerable flies buzzed over and on the miserable bed where, without benefit of mattress, the dying woman lay. Food and medical aid were quickly provided.
Exhaustion ended enunciation; all she could do was feebly to raise.
This smiling, courageous messenger of Justice and mercy, uses her bicycle to seek out needy persons on the Islands, and assists, whenever possible, delinquent women and offers her hand as an assurance to the watching Officer that she trusted Jesus to be her present Saviour. Shortly after, the hut was left for the company of the Redeemed. The Army conducted the funeral service and arranged for the children to be cared for in a proper home. It was an earthly Heaven for them, and who can say what they may yet do for the Master?
Following the publication of that article, local articles about the work of Major Uden seemed to have been reduced. It is almost as though the publishing of Bermuda’s dirty laundry internationally had local consequences for Major Uden.
In June 1943 Major Uden gave a talk on Bermuda’s new shortwave radio station ZFA2. ZFA2 was launched by the Bermuda Government in February 1943 to provide a weekly news and information program of about 30 minutes duration and to also function as an Emergency Broadcast Station should the need arise.
The Royal Gazette of 8th June 1943 gave a report on Major Uden’s talk. Yet again the Major’s revelations made uncomfortable listening.
Major Uden described the present epoch as one of “childrens needs”.
Her talk, which preceded one by the Rev. Victor E. Ford on The Protection of Children Act, was devoted mostly to a citation of some of the cases with which she had been confronted.
Here are a few of what she termed were “actual facts":
"A child, thirteen years of age admitted to me that she has never slept on a bed. As I went through the house I found very little furniture, but there were bundles of rags and sacks. There are three younger children who do not get their meals properly. One of the grocery clerks told me he had cut off some cold meat and gave it to the cat. One of the little children snatched it away and ate it as if she was half starved.”
“Eight children, the eldest only eight years of age, are left alone in the house for hours to fend for themselves. The mother thought she could help support them as her husbands pay was not sufficient to meet their needs. These little children were closed up in the house. They suffer from rickets because they are not receiving proper nourishing food.
“An elderly grandmother was trying to take care of her daughter’s children. When asked how many children there were she really did not know. The house is very small and a most obnoxious smell met me as the door opened. There were two small children cramped in a small box.”
“A little boy nine years old was sleeping in the bushes for two and three nights. The mother doesn’t care; she drinks heavily, as does the father . . . .”
“A family of three children, who were found with scabies and their heads covered with running sores, were taken away from their mother by a kind lady who cleaned them up.
When I saw them about two weeks ago they were without a blemish on them - thanks to the untiring efforts of that kind lady.”
“How,” asked Major Uden. “can we expect good citizens and a healthy nation under such appalling conditions?"
Concluding, she said. “I would plead with the parents and guardians of the children that are entrusted to your care to look after their spiritual, physical and moral welfare. It is their right to be happy”.
“In doing that we shall have a better community." Mr. Ford asserted: “Every case involving children reported to the L.C.C.F. will be investigated "by the children’s officer, who will report the results of such investigations to the proper committee. With those facts before it, the committee will draw on whatever resources it has to solve the problem with the improvement of the children's lot its primary consideration." He was referring to the scope provided by The Protection of Children Act.
"If," he continued, “the committee decides that there has been an offence against a child, or that the conditions are such that a child should not be left with them, then the children's officer will be instructed to seek the custody of the child through the Children's Court. If this be granted, then the child will be placed in a private home of its own religious persuasion, and its development properly supervised by the committee through its officer.”
Referring to the Governor’s remarks at the Empire Day Service in the Cathedral about the too little discipline he had found among their youth of Bermuda, Mr. Ford observed: "Unless we get a good stiff disciplinary wind to blow us right out of these doldrums, we will not only lack leadership in the future, but also the willingness to be led along the hard way.”
The Royal Gazette reported on 4th September that a Children’s Officer had been given some enforcement powers
In view of the limitation placed upon her as a constable it wouldn’t be correct to classify Miss Outerbridge in the same category as Major Alice Uden, of the Salvation Army.
Major Uden is the only woman constable on the strength of the Bermuda Police Force.
Over the next couple of years Woman Constable Major Alice Uden continued her service in Bermuda and her activities were occasionally reported in the Royal Gazette. She also continued to court controversy, most notably when she publicly advocated the use of Birth Control. This put her at odds with the local Commanding Officer of the Salvation Army and several of the local clergy.
On 26th May 1945 the following letter from her appeared in the Royal Gazette.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I wonder could I have a little space in your paper, as I would like to express my appreciation to the people of Bermuda, before I leave for Canada. In every Parish there has been “a Good Samaritan" where I could drop in for a cup of tea or a cool drink in the summer, these little acts of kindness will never be forgotten.
To Commissioner, J. S. McBeath, and members of the Bermuda Constabulary, also to Dr. Arton for their kindness.
To all my sincere thanks.
Major Alice Elizabeth Uden left Bermuda at the end of May 1945. In contrast to the fanfare of her arrival, her departure was noted by the Royal Gazette simply as a name in a list of departing passengers on the Pan American Clipper aircraft.
Major Uden, by now 53 years of age, returned to Canada and is believed to have continued in the service of the Salvation Army in the Brantford, Ontario region.
Burial marker of Sr. Major Alice E. Uden (Source: ancestry.com)
Alice Elizabeth Uden died on 5th September 1987 and is buried in Toronto, Canada.
Major Uden was replaced in Bermuda by Major Margaret Beaumont, another Englishwoman working for the Salvation Army in Canada. The Royal Gazette described Major Beaumont as a ‘Police Court Officer’.
It was not until some 16 years after the departure of Bermuda’s first woman constable that full time, female police officers were to be employed by the Bermuda Police Force.
The Winter 1961 edition of the Bermuda Police Magazine welcomed them with the following article:
However, man once again underestimated the power of the female and it was not long before a few of them put in an appearance round Headquarters as secretaries, clerks or switchboard operators. Once the thin edge of the wedge had been inserted the recruitment of women police was inevitable and this year we finally got the ladies in blue.
Admittedly, we have only two policewomen to date but it is hoped that we will eventually have a total of ten to assist us in the performance of our duties. The vanguard consists of Woman Inspector Isobel Mitchell Lee and Woman Sergeant Rose E. Nevill.
Woman Inspector Isobel Lee
Miss Lee, who was born in Motherwell, Lanarkshire, Scotland, served in the A.T.S. from 1942 to 1946. She joined the St. Albans Police in 1946 and three months later joined the Hertfordshire County Constabulary when the Forces were amalgamated.
Apart from a six months period with the Hamilton Borough Police, Miss Lee spent her entire service in Hertfordshire and was promoted to the rank of Woman Sergeant in 1954. She arrived in the colony on March 3, 1961, to take up duties with the Bermuda Police.
Woman Sergeant Rose E. Nevill
EDITORS NOTE - As stated by John Skinner at the start of this article, it was a complete surprise to discover that Major Alice Uden was appointed as a "Special Constable" in 1941, 20 years before the Bermuda Police were finally able to recruit women police officers. Although it is most unlikely, we would be delighted if anyone can provide us with a photograph of "Constable" Alice Uden, and we will put out an appeal on the "Old Bermuda: Our Island, Our History" Facebook page in hopes than someone may just be able to surprise us a second time!