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Bust of Antigua & Barbuda’s Only Female Hero Erected at TOR Memorial School

(pictured from left to right) - Kingsley , Principal Arlene Gonsalves, Education Minister Daryll Matthew, Chairman of the Board Cordel Josiah

The event drew a crowd of past students, including former teachers, who gathered to witness the long-awaited tribute of Antigua & Barbuda’s only female national hero. 

A concrete bust immortalizing the memory and contributions of the late Dame Georgiana Nellie Robinson was erected at the site of the T.O.R Memorial – the school she founded 125 years ago. The commemorative sculpture was revealed last Thursday during the Founder’s Day activities, coinciding with the birthday celebration of the esteemed Dame.

The Cordel Josiah Chairman of the Board of Trustees expressed that this honour was a long time in the making. “Several of our other national heroes, there is a monument for them – either a bust or a statue.”

The concrete bust, crafted by Sir Reginald Samuel, had been donated to the school 25 years ago during its centennial celebration. However, due to resource constraints, the school was unable to erect the sculpture until last week when one of the staff members offered the services of her son and his friends.

During the Founder’s Day activities, a number of former and present staff were also awarded for their commitment towards T.O.R Memorial. 

Education Minister, Daryll Matthew says students should be proud of the tremendous impact that T.O.R Memorial school has had on Antigua and Barbuda.  “When an institution like this has been around for 125 years, it says something about the commitment of the persons who have dedicated, in some cases, their lives to make sure that it keeps going. It says something about the students and the parents who continue to have confidence in the institution and it says something about the teachers – who under difficult circumstances continue day after day.”

The T.OR Memorial, which the Dame named after her late brother Oliver Thomas, is one of oldest schools in the country and is best known for desegregating education during British colonialism. 

As the concrete bust of Dame Georgiana Nellie Robinson now stands proudly at the school she founded, it serves as a lasting tribute to a woman who not only played a pivotal role in education but also in shaping the cultural fabric of Antigua & Barbuda. 

Thomas Oliver Robinson after whom the TOR Memorial is named.

About the Dame

Born on the 7th of December 1880, Dame Georgiana Nellie Robinson emerged as a transformative figure in the history of Antigua & Barbuda. Sent to the United States as a young child, she spent most of her formative years there, receiving her education in the American school system. Her professional journey began as a child nurse, house worker, and governess, starting at the tender age of 13.

In April 1898, at the age of 18, Dame Robinson embarked on a career in education by teaching her siblings and the children of family friends. This humble beginning marked the inception of the TOR Memorial High School, named after her late brother, Thomas Oliver Robinson, whose untimely death in youth inspired the school’s name.

During World War I, Dame Robinson demonstrated exceptional leadership as the only black woman on the Mobilization Committee. Her efforts involved rallying local men to join the war effort and advocating for improved living conditions for recruits during the long sea voyage to Britain.

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A woman of diverse talents and interests, Dame Robinson played a crucial role in the Water Preservation Committee from 1912, contributing significantly to early initiatives to expand pipe-borne water in the country. She also led the first Arts and Cultural Committee in Antigua, providing essential support for the development of Carnival in the 1950s. Notably, she stood as one of the pioneers of the Guides movement for girls and served as an active committee member of the Guide Association.

Her commitment to education and nation-building did not go unnoticed. On the 25th Anniversary of Independence, Dame Nellie Robinson was posthumously honored with the title of Dame Companion of The Most Exalted Order of National Hero (DNH) for her outstanding services to education.

Dame Georgiana Nellie Robinson continued to inspire and contribute to her community until her passing on the 29th of April 1972, at the age of 92.

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