Honours: Georgine Hill, right, is seen here with then Minister Patrice Minors. The many awards Mrs Hill received in her career include an MBE in 1993 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bermuda Arts Council in 2001.
Honours: Georgine Hill, right, is seen here with then Minister Patrice Minors. The many awards Mrs Hill received in her career include an MBE in 1993 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bermuda Arts Council in 2001.
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Georgine Mary Hill, a proud Bostonian who came to Bermuda in 1941 as young wife and mother and became a force in the arts and education and also as a social activist, died on Monday at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, following a brief illness. She would have been 96 years of age on Saturday, February 1. 

Her death comes just weeks after the death of her close friend, former MP and dance school founder Louise Jackson.  

A singer who was once known as the ‘Marian Anderson of Bermuda’, and a portrait painter who helped found the Bermuda Art Association, one of the island’s earliest arts organizations, Mrs Hill was also the first art teacher in the Government school system.

Mrs Hill was recognized for her involvement in all facets of the arts. She was an honorary trustee of the National Dance Foundation of Bermuda, which named one of four commemorative awards, The Georgine Mary Russell Hill Scholarship, in her honour.  

BNG

She was also founding trustee of the Bermuda National Gallery (BNG). 

Mrs Hill was the youngest of three daughters of Harvard University-educated dentist Dr. Alfred P. Russell and his wife Maybelle, a pianist and organist who attended the New England Conservatory of Music. 

She met her husband Hilton Hill II, a grandson of prominent businessman Samuel David Robinson and Berkeley Institute founder, during their college years in Boston, where she attended Girls Latin School and the Massachusetts College of Art. 

 During her first years in Bermuda, Hill was a featured soloist at many concerts. Her contralto invited comparisons with the celebrated African-American opera singer Marian Anderson. 

Later she teamed up with artists and art enthusiasts, helping to create a more vibrant and racially diverse arts community. In 1947, she became a founding member of the Bermuda Art Association, a forerunner of the Bermuda Society of Arts (BSoA). 

Mrs Hill and the sculptor Byllee Lang also established the annual children’s art exhibition. 

Her teaching career began in 1956 when she was asked to teach art at the Girls Institute of Arts and Crafts. For the first year she taught without pay and had to use her considerable powers of persuasion to obtain a salary from the Education Department.  Upon her retirement in 1975, she could count establishing the first public school art curriculum and using art as a positive force for student development as key achievements. 

St George’s Secondary School

She also taught at St George’s Secondary School, but spent the better part of her years as a teacher at Prospect Secondary School for Girls. Despite the generation gap, she maintained lifelong friendships with many of her students, who will almost certainly view her death as a major loss.

In 1951, she helped strike a blow against segregation when she, along with her husband, and sister-in-law, Carol Hill, organized a street protest against the Bermudiana Theatre Club, which refused to sell tickets to black patrons. 

The club, which staged plays by professional US actors, was forced to end its discriminatory practices following pressure from the British government and the US Actors Equity Guild.

It was a quiet and quickly-forgotten victory, but filmmaker Errol Williams stumbled upon the episode and gave Carol and Georgine Hill a star turn in his award-winning 2002 film about the pivotal 1959 Theatre Boycott, When Voices Rise… 

In the years following the 1951 protest, she teamed up with a group of activists to produce and distribute a document “An Analysis of Social Problems”, which called for sweeping social and political changes in Bermuda.

As a painter, Mrs Hill exhibited regularly during her first years in Bermuda, but was always very selective.  She once said: ”I was never a commercial artist. I always painted people who I found interesting, just as an actor chooses interesting roles.”

She was a political wife during a period when major change was on the horizon. Hilton Hill was a Member of Colonial Parliament from 1953 to 1958 and served on a parliamentary Inter-Racial Committee, which was created to investigate segregation. 

But his career prospects as a photographer were limited, and he moved overseas, where he established a travel business. Hilton Hill died in 2000. Mrs Hill’s community work includes serving on the board of Teen Services, for many years as chairman. 

Awards

She received an MBE in 1993 and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bermuda Arts Council in 2001. In 2010, she was one of 12 Bermudians honoured by Imagine Bermuda, an organization dedicated to achieving equality and racial harmony. 

In 2012, she received the Bermuda Arts Council’s Patron Award. In 2013, she was honoured by the Bermuda chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority as its oldest member. 

Her immediate survivors are her son Hilton “Buddy” Hill III, daughter Dr June Hill, grandsons Jay and Russell Butler and sister-in-law and daughter-in-law, both of whom are named Carol Hill. 

Funeral arrangements are pending.