Florida’s First Ladies

Presented By Peggy Macdonald

This talk examines a selection of Florida’s First Ladies from the territorial period to the present day. As a girl, Rachel Donelson and her parents were among the first white settlers of Nashville, Tennessee. In 1821, she moved with her second husband, Andrew Jackson, to territorial Florida. He served as United States Commissioner and Governor of East and West Florida, and Rachel Donelson Jackson became Florida’s first First Lady. First Lady Martha Starke Peay Perry witnessed the rise of secession at the dawn of the Civil War, and Caroline Howze Milton experienced the catastrophic consequences of the war in Florida, including personal tragedy. At the turn of the 20th century, May Mann Jennings moved into the Governor’s mansion and used her clout to push for a variety of causes, ranging from women’s suffrage to conservation. Mildred Cone became the youngest First Lady at age 26. Columba Bush’s path to First Lady has been called a Cinderella story. She was also known as the invisible first lady. By contrast, Ann Scott has been one of the most most hands-on First Ladies since Rhea Chiles, who is remembered as an equal partner in her husband Lawton Chiles’ political career. This talk delves into the fascinating stories of some of Florida’s most memorable First Ladies and their impact upon the Sunshine State.

Required Equipment:

  • PowerPoint capability

Scholar/Presenter Information:

Peggy Macdonald

Peggy Macdonald is a native Floridian and the executive director of the Matheson History Museum in Gainesville. Dr. Macdonald has taught history at Stetson University, Florida Polytechnic University, Indian River State College and the University of Florida. Her recent book, Marjorie Harris Carr: Defender of Florida’s Environment, won Honorable Mention in Foreword Reviews’ 2014 INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award contest in Women’s Studies. She writes articles on local history for Gainesville Magazine, Our Town Magazine, Senior Times Magazine and Examiner.com. Macdonald is an alumna of the University of Florida (PhD in history, 2010) and Hollins University, a women’s college in Roanoke, Virginia.