Presenting 18 unforgettable Florida women

By Jacki Levine, Janet Scherberger, and Peggy Macdonald

Have you heard of Dr. Irene Duhart Long? She passed away last year, not yet 70, after achieving the career she dreamed of — combining her love of medicine with her fascination with space. Along the way, Dr. Long earned a string of notable “firsts,” including, in her last role, the first woman and first minority to serve as chief medical officer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The physician is among a long list of Florida women, who, while far from unsung, have stories that deserve to be more widely told.

On the following pages, we briefly introduce you to several such women, some you may already know.

Not included here are those whose work is not yet done or whose accomplishments are already well known, such as Mary Bethune, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Zora Neale Hurston, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. FORUM’s extensive archives offer story after story about notable Florida women, which we link to at FloridaHumanities. org/blog. Another good source of information is the Florida Commission on the Status of Women,

For more “frequently featured in FORUM Magazine” notable women, click here.

For the love of American Beach

MaVynee Oshun Betsch
Historic preservationist, environmentalist (American Beach, Amelia Island)
Years: 1935–2005

Blending tradition and modernity

Addie Buster Billie
A Florida Seminole (Clewiston)
Years: 1884–1994

Working for equality, in all things, always

Roxcy O’Neal Bolton
Feminist, community organizer (Miami)
Years: 1926–2017

The woman who stopped the canal

Marjorie Harris Carr
Zoologist, environmental activist (Gainesville)
Years: 1915–1997

Her life was filled with legal firsts

Gwen Cherry
Law/politics, state lawmaker (Miami)
Years: 1923–1979

Flying high in aviation and business

Jacqueline Cochran
Aviator, entrepreneur (Muskogee)
Years: 1906–1980

Dean of capital correspondents, was a mentor to many

Barbara Landstreet Frye
Journalist (Tallahassee)
Years: 1922–1982

Making music while protecting her family’s culinary legacy

Adela Hernandez Gonzmart
Restaurateur, musician, philanthropist (Tampa)
Years: 1920–2001

Opening the door for a major university

Elizabeth McCullough Johnson
Politics/Education (Orlando)
Years: 1909–1973

This civil rights leader helped end segregation

Eula Gany Johnson
Activist (Fort Lauderdale)
Years: 1906–2001

Fulfilling a dream of medicine and space

Dr. Irene Long
Pioneer in aerospace medicine (Merritt Island)
Years: 1950–2020

She died as she lived, for a cause she believed in

Harriette Vyda Simms Moore
Civil rights activist, educator (Mims)
Years: 1902–1952

Florida’s first female mayor, before the 19th amendment

Marian Newhall Horwitz O’Brien
Politician, developer of Moore Haven (Moore Haven)
Years: 1882–1932

An innovative cattle rancher and founder of a city

Bertha Palmer
Businesswoman, developer (Venice)
Years: 1848–1918

Armed with a physics degree, she did top secret work

Carolyn Beatrice Parker
Physicist, educator (Gainesville)
Years: 1917–1966

She founded a city with persistence and a rail line

Julia DeForest Tuttle
Real estate, development, promotion (Miami)
Years: 1849–1898

A progressive publisher pushed for justice

Lillian Carlisle West
Real estate, development, promotion (Miami)
Years: 1884–1970

A woman of influence who helped those in need

Eartha White
Humanitarian, educator, philanthropist (Jacksonville)
Years: 1876–1974
2021 Summer FORUM Magazine

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2021 Issue of FORUM Magazine. Visit our collection at the USFSP Digital Archive by clicking here.