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Famous & historical women in Florida history

Famous & Historical Women™ is a series of occasional pieces celebrating women’s histories and Women’s History Month from a woman’s perspective.

During Women’s History Month, we’re reminded that history told by, for and from the perspective of women is sometimes very different from history we read in textbooks.

During Women’s History Month, we’re reminded that history told by, for and from the perspective of women is sometimes very different from history we read in textbooks.

Even when men and women have exactly the same jobs and training and live in exactly the same circumstances, our stories about how, why and when things happen often diverge widely.

Used to be that one knew there were famous women around but didn’t have the documentation to support the local knowledge.

Then famous women got more press and became easier to find.

Then what constituted fame changed as more women entered male-dominated fields in more and more visible roles.

With all the Hollywood glamour of big-name actresses and big-time women athletes, it’s worth the time to sit and think about what it means to be both famous and female.

Florida women in history

Never in the 500-year history of Florida has there been a shortage of famous and historical women.

In fact, famous women lived and worked in Florida centuries before the Spanish arrived and “discovered” the Indians.

On the heels of Black History Month, you’ll know about Zora Neale Hurston.

And if you’ve lived in GreaterJax™ for any length of time you know who Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings is and about Wings of Dreams at the Keystone Heights airport and its WASP exhibits and WASP History Center.

Trust Your Examiner – you had no idea about the rest of this. It’s not all cheesecake and the mermaids at Weeki Wachee.

Some famous Greater Jacksonville Women

So whom might you find closer to home?

Prepared to be pleasantly surprised.

  • Harriet Beecher Stowe – abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. After the Civil War, she settled in Mandarin to educate freed slaves. Frequent guest of Margaret Seton Fleming at the Hibernia Inn.
  • Eartha Mary Magdalene White educator and publisher born in Jacksonville, the 13th child of a former slave. Established the Clara White Mission in honor of her mother during the Depression in the 1930s. Also ran a prison mission. In 1967 she established the Eartha M.M. White Nursing Home, which grew into Jacksonville's largest employer of blacks.
  • Carrie Clarke seamstress and wife of Orange Park mayor William Clarke (1920s). Started the First Baptist Church of Orange Park on property she purchased, was an American Red Cross volunteer and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
  • Margaret Seton Fleming social activist and daughter of a former mayor of Fernandina Beach, ran the Hibernia Inn on Fleming Island after the death of her husband Lewis Fleming, founded St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church.
  • Jeannette Massee Patterson Orange Park heiress to the Palmolive soap fortune, investment broker with Bank of New York and E.F. Hutton. Developed high-end business of family property – Winterbourne, the Hilltop and Club Continental.

Read more about it

The mission of the National Women's History Project, founded in 1980, is to recognize and celebrate the diverse and historic accomplishments of women by providing information and educational materials and programs.

And take a few minutes to read more about women in Florida history and the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

Florida Commission on the Status of Women

  • Office of the State Attorney General
  • The Capitol, PL-01
  • Tallahassee, Fla. 32399-1050
  • Contact: Laurie Pizzo, 2013-2014 FCSW Chair
  • Phone: 850-414-3300
  • Fax: 850-921-4131


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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact:

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