Hailing from Belize, Cleopatra White was an important part of the Black Cross Nurses for several years. She also has the distinction of being one of the first wave of professionally trained nurses in Belize. Her years of dedication to the Black Cross Nurses and to British-held Belize resulted in her becoming a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
EARLY LIFE IN BRITISH HONDURAS
Cleopatra White began her life in June 1898 in British Honduras. Following the death of her mother, she would be raised by her father until she entered school for nursing. She became interested in the nursing field early on after seeing the work of Vivian Seay and took to her as a mentor. The two would be instrumental in the formation and development of the Belizean branch of the Black Cross Nurses.
NURSING AND SOCIAL WORK
This branch of the organization was formed to solve the specific needs of the people of Belize. Services were made to give health care, parental education, as well as daycare and work assistance. Following the 1931 hurricane, Cleopatra White worked with other nurses in establishing nursing and supply stations. She would later train to be a rural nurse and worked in that area of care for almost 20 years.
It was during her time in rural Belize that she began moving towards social work. White made steps to set up village councils, needed travel, and organize the frontline emergency response in Gales Point. In 1953 she was awarded the Victoria Medal for her work in community development.
She assisted in the relief effort for Hurricane Janet in 1955 and her village council plan became standard throughout Belize as result. Three years later, she was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire medal. During Hurricane Hattie in 1961, she assisted with the effort at Hattieville Clinic. She would remain there for the remainder of her career and retired before the end of the 1960s.
After retiring, she would train future nurses through the Black Cross Nurses. Even though she’d given decades to helping Belize and develop communities throughout, she would die poor in 1987 after years in the Belize Old Folks Home at 89. A clinic was opened in her honor in Belize City following her death and in 1993 Belize issued a postage stamp depicting Cleopatra White.