Born 1881 in British Honduras, Vivian Seay was a teacher, nurse, and activist who would go on to form Belize’s wing of the Black Cross Nurses. She would also encourage social change in the country.
When she finally finished her education in 1901, she would head to Xcalak, Mexico where she worked with the Mayans in 1910. She would marry one Elizah Seay. Her career would see Vivian Seay return to British Honduras in 1918. With the UNIA expanding the Black Cross Nurses throughout the world, she would establish the British Honduras branch of the organization two years later.
Political Career and Activism
Seay was responsible for a large recruiting drive and an uptick in membership in the 1920s following her infant and maternal mortality survey. The British Honduras branch was based out of Belize Town where there were over 20 nurses stationed in different in-need locations. In these areas, the nurses made house calls and helped with health, parental, and other education for seniors and families.
Her work led to influence in British Honduras in the 1930s. Vivian Seay would parlay this influence into political power when during the 1933 Belize Town Board elections. She would campaign for a candidate and ended up receiving a position as its first female board member. Seay would waste no time in pushing for social changes for women.
Of note was an attempt to create a kind of employment system for women with particular skills to find work. Women in the town would give their skills and clients would hire them accordingly. This was the alternative to women traveling residence to residence in hopes of finding work. The motion was rejected but she continued her work in activism for years. Seay was instrumental in divorce being legalized in British Honduras in 1935. That same year she was made a member of the Order of the British Empire that same year.
While Vivian Seay pushed for a number of social reforms in women’s status throughout British Honduras, she drew lines. The Labourers and Unemployed Association and Women’s League wanted voting rights for women of the poor and lower class. Seay opposed this but pushed for optional means of contributing to society. The main suggestion was that poor and unemployed women are granted property and learning farming. The idea was rejected.
Later Career of Vivian Seay
After years of supporting the Crown, Vivian Seay would co-found the National Party in 1951. The National Party sought independence from Britain. When the City Council was wiped later in that year, she joined the new Council. She remained involved with the Black Cross Nurses even as membership declined and would establish the British Honduras Federation of Women in 1952. This organization would make sure women were able to pursue careers and work for their family while also having daycare for their children.
She would pass in 1971, two years before British Honduras became Belize and ten years before it gained independence. Vivian Seay is honored as an important Belizean, getting a national stamp and have a street named after.