In Her Own Words: Remarkable Women in 20th-Century Florida

Women in Florida actively shaped the social and political life of the state in the 20th century. They held public office, established civic and social clubs and organized campaigns for the causes that were important to them.

One of the foremost issues women faced at the turn of the 20th century was the question of whether they would attain the right to vote. Campaigns for equal suffrage in Florida were met with mixed success. A number of municipalities amended their charters to allow women to vote in local elections, but the state legislature refused to pass a statewide suffrage amendment. Moreover, when Congress passed the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote in 1919, and sent it to the states for ratification, Florida legislators refused to approve it. The amendment went into effect on August 26, 1920, without Florida as part of the assenting majority.

Patricia Stephens Due being arrested
Mabel T. Rogers of Daytona Beach notes in her diary "Suffrage for women" on August 26, 1920. Rogers Family Papers, Collection N2018-15, Box 9, Folder 1, State Archives of Florida. Transcription: Did a little washing. Box came from Shiloh. In p.m. went to Hulins where the children played croquet. After supper played tennis with Marion. Suffrage for women.

The equal suffrage amendment was a historic triumph, but there was much left to do. Over the course of the 20th century, Florida's women were instrumental in campaigns for civil rights, environmental protection and equality for women under the law through the Equal Rights Amendment. Although women often faced opposition from their husbands and peers, they were able to make significant progress in their pursuit of equality.

The 15 women in this exhibit were some of the leaders in Florida who challenged the status quo as they strove to improve their lives and the lives of others. The letters featured here were written by these women and selected from the collections of the State Archives of Florida. In the letters, they voice their thoughts and opinions about the causes they were most passionate about.

But these women didn't do it alone. There were many more women leading the way or working behind the scenes to advance these causes. To honor these outstanding Floridians, this exhibit includes additional letters and photographs of activists, politicians, environmentalists, business owners, nurses and scientists from the collections at the State Archives.


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