Spotlight on Women: Betty Campbell

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Spotlight on Women is a segment of The Future Is Feminist campaign. It aims to highlight women that young people in Cardiff think are inspirational and deserve more recognition. 

This article was written by Hallie, a young person from Cardiff, in collaboration with Cardiff Youth Service.

Betty Campbell’s Early Life

Betty Campbell was born in Butetown, Cardiff on 6th November 1934. She came from a poor household but worked incredibly hard at school resulting in her being top of her class. She won a scholarship to study at Lady Margaret High School for Girls and hoped her schooling would allow her to be a teacher – her dream job from a young age.

Whilst at school, she faced lots of discouragement from one of her teachers who told her that the problems for a working-class black girl would be extremely difficult to overcome. Despite this discouragement and challenges due to her background, class, race, gender, and becoming pregnant at the age of 17, Betty went onto follow her dreams.

With three children, Betty enrolled at Cardiff Teacher Training College (now Cardiff Metropolitan University) in 1960. She was 1 of only 6 female students to be admitted.

Betty Campbell’s Career

After graduating, she bagged her first job at a school in Llanrumney. Soon after, Betty found her way back to her birth town of Butetown and landed a teaching job at Mount Stuart Primary School, where she taught for 28 years. In the 1970’s, she became Wales’ first black headteacher at this school. She made an effort to teach children about racism, black history, slavery, and apartheid, later taking this education into her community.

After her teaching career, Betty became involved in politics. Between 1991 and 1995, Betty became a Butetown councillor on Cardiff City Council. She then served as an independent councillor for Butetown on Cardiff Council from 1999 to 2004. She even became a member of the Home Office’s race advisory committee and a member of the Commission for Racial Equality!

Why is Betty Campbell famous?

Betty Campbell is a hidden Welsh hero mostly known for her being a community activist and Wales’ first black headteacher. She was awarded an MBE in 2003 for her services to education and community life.

Betty Campbell died on 23th October 2017 in Butetown at age 82. In 2015, just 2 years before her death, Campbell received a lifetime achievement award from Unison Cymru‘s Black Members’ group, for her contribution to black history and Welsh education.

Image of Betty Campbell in the spotlight.

Why is Betty Campbell an inspiration to you?

Betty was constantly told that she was not good enough and faced many barriers along her journey, from her teachers to parents of her students! Despite this, she used her voice and platform to raise awareness of racism and better educate her community on issues of racial equality.

“I was determined that I was going to become one of those people and enhance the black spirit, black culture as much as I could.”

Betty Campbell

Betty’s ambition to keep following her dreams despite the adversity and racism is inspirational.

Related Information

If you’d like to show your respect to Betty Campbell, a statue of her is due to be unveiled on September 29th 2021 in front of the new HMRC building at 6 Central Square, Cardiff.

To find out more about the campaign group and to read more content from The Future Is Feminist campaign, click here.

Photographs of Betty Campbell:

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Funding Partners

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