“The success of every single woman is an inspiration for another.” -Diane von Furstenberg
In the United States, the events leading up to National Women’s History Month began in 1980 after President Jimmy Carter issued the first presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. Six years later, the National Women’s History Project successfully petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March.
We owe a great deal to the strong women who have contributed to our history, culture and society. Before the month closes, we would like to recognize the women who helped mold South Florida into what it is today.
Fort Lauderdale’s First Lady
Ivy Stranahan moved to the swamp wilderness known as Fort Lauderdale as the first schoolhouse teacher making $48 a month in 1899. During her five months of teaching she met and married Frank Stranahan, Fort Lauderdale’s first trading post owner. After his death, Ivy assumed control of the trading post and quickly became a successful business owner and entrepreneur in her own right. Eventually, she became president of the Women’s Suffrage Association, a member of the city’s Planning and Zoning Board, and founding member of the influential Fort Lauderdale Women’s Club. Her most noted accomplishments were the foundation of the “Friends of the Seminoles,” and her support of what later became Florida’s Homestead Exemption law.
The Mother of Miami
Julia Tuttle was an American business woman who moved to southern Florida in 1886. She purchased 640 acres, where the city of Miami is now located. She soon realized that the area would never prosper unless it could be accessed by railroads. Tuttle met with Henry M. Flagler, and after negotiations were made, Flagler agreed to lay foundations for a railroad to Miami. The first train arrived on April 13, 1896.
After arriving in South Florida as a domestic worker in 1904, Sylvia Hill Aldridge soon showed her entrepreneurial abilities. Her first business, “Sylvia’s Employment Agency,” helped African Americans find jobs in South Florida. Not long after starting the agency, she began a cab company called Victory Cabs to help usher her new employees to and from work. To add to those huge successes, she also began the first uniform company in South Florida, which quickly became a high-demand business as it allowed businesses to create a unified image for their company.
Women have unquestionably left their mark on history, especially in South Florida. Whether they influenced economic development, championed the marginalized, or fought for Florida to have significance in a young United States, these pioneering ladies made tremendous contributions to history. May they never be forgotten.