Saving the Sunshine State

By Joanna Grey

Six women who left their mark on Florida’s history will be featured in the Matheson History Museum’s new exhibition, Saving the Sunshine State: Women Leaders in the Twentieth Century. The exhibit runs from September 1 to October 31. These six women all worked to improve Florida and the lives of its citizens in areas such as conservation, civil rights, writing, education and suffrage.

May Mann Jennings (1872-1963) – A Florida first lady and wife of the 18th governor of Florida, May Mann Jennings championed such causes as women’s suffrage, education funding, historic preservation and highway beautification.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) – Hurston was born in Alabama but was raised in Eatonville, Florida. She was a part of the Harlem Renaissance and was one of the most widely published African American woman writers and anthropologists of the twentieth century.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998) – Douglas moved to Miami in 1915 to work for the Miami Herald. She was a champion of suffrage and environmentalism. Douglas is best known as the author of The Everglades: River of Grass (1947) and the founder of Friends of the Everglades.

Marjorie Harris Carr (1915-1997) – Carr was raised in southwest Florida and led campaigns to save Paynes Prairie, Lake Alice and the Ocklawaha River. A cofounder of the Gainesville Garden Club, Alachua Audubon Society and Florida Defenders of the Environment, Carr led the successful campaign to stop construction of the Cross Florida Barge Canal.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953) – Rawlings moved to Cross Creek, Florida, in 1928 and authored the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Yearling, published in 1938. Rawlings’s work helped increase public awareness of the importance of preserving Florida’s natural beauty.

Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955) – Born to former slaves in South Carolina, Bethune founded what would become Bethune-Cookman University in 1904, assisted four different presidential administrations, and tirelessly worked for civil rights, education and women’s issues.

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