Legacy of Kittitian Gertrude Paul, Leeds First Black Head Teacher set in stone

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, OCTOBER 23RD 2011 (CUOPM) – The life of an inspirational St. Kitts-born Leeds teacher has been honoured with the unveiling of a plaque at her school.

Gertrude Paul became the city’s first black Head Teacher and helped to create a lasting legacy for the Chapeltown community.

Laura Bowyer, writing in the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that Gertrude Paul, was one of the founders of the West Indian Carnival which has become one of the highlights of the city’s events calendar.

Gertrude also established many voluntary organisations from the early 1960s after she moved to England from St. Kitts.

Now her legacy has been set in stone after a prestigious Leeds Civic Trust blue plaque was unveiled at her former school, Elmhurst Middle School – now Bracken Edge Primary.

Among the guests, who travelled from across the world to attend the celebration, was Gertrude’s niece Anita Wisdom.

She said: “My aunt knew that educating yourself for the future could be enhanced by understanding your past. Being comfortable with who you were gave you the freedom to strive for who you wished to become.”

Gertrude was a teacher in south and north east Leeds from 1959 to 1991 and she set up the Leeds International Women’s Group, the Afro Asian Organisation and the United Caribbean Association.

She died a year after she finished teaching on January 7 in 1992.

Members of Chapeltown Heritage Trust nominated Gertrude for the accolade.

Local Councillor Jane Dowson, chairman of the group, said: “Gertrude was an inspirational woman who left her mark on generations of children across Leeds. Her influence can still be felt to this day by virtue of her passion for education, music and community which she passed on to all she taught.

“It is only fitting that such an influential and inspirational woman is recognised in history.

“When she became a head teacher, that was groundbreaking, not only for the city but for the country, and it was just absolutely fantastic.

“Her family are very proud of her and quite rightly so.”

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