History Makers

By Conrad, Sara | The Florida Times Union, March 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

History Makers


Conrad, Sara, The Florida Times Union


Byline: SARA CONRAD

Most locals know about the famous historical men for which the city's architecture and streets are named. But what about the historical women who influenced Jacksonville? In light of Women's History Month, skirt! brings you several women who made history in Jacksonville - and hopefully make their way to being household names.

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE (1811-1896)

Stowe, author of the classic "Uncle Tom's Cabin," lived most of her life in Connecticut, but spent 15 winters in Jacksonville, said Emily Lisska, executive director of the Jacksonville Historical Society. Stowe bought 30 acres in Mandarin and in 1873 published "Palmetto Leaves," a book about her life in Mandarin. " 'Palmetto Leaves' was Mrs. Stowe's account of everyday life in Mandarin - describing jaunts and picnics on the St. Johns, the excitement of mail day, the wonders of the subtropical flora and fauna, the life of the area's black residents and other accounts and amusing daily activities," said Lisska. The book helped promote the area, which had a large tourism trade at the time, and helped establish Florida's reputation as a vacation spot.

HELEN HUNT WEST (1892-1964)

West was a Times-Union society editor and the first woman to register to vote in Duval County after fighting for women's suffrage as a teenager. She was also one of the first female lawyers in Florida, with her own law offices on Forsyth Street. "The old prejudice against women lawyers is dying out," she told the Times-Union in 1958. Mrs. West also founded a scholarship program for women who couldn't afford to attend college.

EARTHA MARY MAGDALENE WHITE (1876-1974)

White is most famous in Jacksonville for forming the Clara White Mission (613 W. Ashley St.) - named for her mother, Clara - to help local at-risk individuals. But among her many jobs, ranging from operating a taxi service to being a licensed real estate broker, she also nursed the wounded in the Spanish-American War and was part of the Oriental American Opera Company, said to be the nation's first African-American opera company. She was also an honorary colonel of the Women's National Defense Program under Honorary Gen. Mary McLeod Bethune during World War II. In 1971, she was appointed to the president's National Center for Voluntary Action.

NINAH MAY HOLDEN CUMMER (1875-1958)

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens started with just 60 pieces of art - all part of Ninah Cummer's personal collection. It was built on the lawn of Ninah and husband Arthur's house. …

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