Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was the first Floridian to receive the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel (later named the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction). She won the award in 1939 for her book The Yearling.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953)
In 1928, Rawlings purchased an orange grove in Alachua County near Hawthorne, FL. Located between Lochloosa Lake and Orange Lake, the site was called Cross Creek. The surrounding area served as a setting, provided the characters, and influenced the stories of most of her novels and short stories. Themes of rural Florida, the Big Scrub area, and Florida Cracker culture are prevalent in her works.
Cross Creek, FL
The plots of her novels revolved around her observations in this area: farming, hunting, the interaction with the environment and its inhabitants, moonshining, and poverty. Rawling’s depictions were so direct from her experience, people she met were named in her novels and descriptions were recognized by the locals resulting in threats and at least one law suit for invasion of privacy.
MGM set for the film adaptation of The Yearling, 1940 with Gregory Peck & Jane Wyman
Her works garnered several awards including an O. Henry Award in 1932 (for “Gal Young Un”) and the Newbery Honor in 1956 (for The Secret River). Several of her works have been adapted for stage and screen. The story rights to The Yearling were purchased by MGM and an Academy Award winning film adaptation was released in 1946, increasing her fame.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home in Cross Creek, FL
Rawlings’ Cross Creek home, where she once hosted Zora Neale Hurston, is now preserved as the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
A Joint Resolution of Congress in 1971 designated August 26th of each year as Women’s Equality Day and requested the President to issue a proclamation annually to commemorate that day. That Joint Resolution resulted in this 1972 Proclamation issued by President Richard Nixon.
Women’s Rights Day proclamation signed by President Richard Nixon, 1972.
The Proclamation was later presented to Roxcy O’Neal Bolton, the driving force behind the designation of August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.
Letter from Senator Edward J. Gurney to Roxcy Bolton, September 12, 1972.
A long-time Coral Gables resident and a 1984 inductee in the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, Bolton is known in Florida for gaining access for women to the previously all-male lunchrooms at Burdines and Jordan Marsh department stores; for helping to end the practice of naming hurricanes only for women; and for opening the influential Tiger Bay political club to women.
Bolton was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s stances on civil rights and was profoundly affected by her address at the 1956 Democratic National Convention, hearing her call to “help all of our people to a better life” as a personal call to action.
Roxcy Bolton with Eleanor Roosevelt at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, 1956.
Roosevelt, who was a strong proponent of gender equality and supporter of working women, had her own sources of inspiration, including from Floridians. She met Mary McLeod Bethune at an education conference in 1927, gaining from her an understanding of racial issues and becoming a close friend of Bethune’s.
Eleanor Roosevelt with Mary McLeod Bethune (center) at Bethune Cookman College, Daytona Beach, 1952.
Educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune was born on July 10, 1875, in Mayesville, South Carolina. Mary was one of 16 children born to former slaves Samuel and Patsy McIntosh McLeod.
Birthplace of Mary McLeod Bethune: Mayesville, South Carolina (late 1800s)
After completing her studies at the Moody Bible Institute, Bethune moved to Daytona Beach, Florida, in 1904 to start her own school. She taught reading, writing and home economics to African-American girls in a one-room schoolhouse. Bethune’s modest school eventually became the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls.
Mary McLeod Bethune with a line of girls from her school: Daytona Beach, Florida (ca. 1905)
In 1931, the institution started by Mary McLeod Bethune became Bethune-Cookman College. Learn more about the life and achievements of Mary McLeod Bethune, including the founding of Bethune-Cookman College and her impact on civil rights, on Florida Memory.
Mary McLeod Bethune (ca. 1904)
UPDATE: On Tuesday, February 28, 2012, Governor Rick Scott announced the first inductees into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame: Mary McLeod Bethune, Claude Denson Pepper and Charles Kenzie Steele. Established by the Florida Legislature in 2010, the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who made significant contributions in furthering civil rights for all Floridians.
Florida Memory is funded under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services.