Dara Torres of Coral Springs, is arguably the fastest female swimmer in America. She entered her first international swimming competition at age 14 and competed in her first Olympics a few years later in 1984. At the Beijing Games in 2008, Dara became the oldest swimmer to compete in the Olympics. When she took three silver medals – including the infamous heartbreaking 50-meter freestyle race where she missed the Gold by 1/100th of a second – America loved her all the more for her astonishing achievement and her good-natured acceptance of the results.
Dr. Eugenie Clark of Sarasota is known worldwide as “The Shark Lady”. Genie loves sharks…and fish…and people in general. As an explorer, marine biologist and teacher, she is a perfect example of the heights women can attain in scientific study. In 1955, she founded a small marine laboratory that grew to become the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, FL, now a national center for shark and marine mammal research.
Anna I. Rodriguez of Bonita Springs is considered by many to be an indomitable force in the global fight against human trafficking. A native of Puerto Rico, she immigrated to Miami in late 1974. She is the founder and Executive Director of the Florida Coalition against Human Trafficking, an organization whose mission is to eradicate human trafficking locally, nationally, and internationally.
Mary Brennan Karl of Daytona Beach was a strong, innovative and accomplished woman who overcame the existing male oriented cultural barriers of her day. Beginning with a small public vocational program, she broadened the range of subjects taught and otherwise dramatically expanded the school. As WWII intensified, she provided around the clock training for thousands of citizens to work in the defense industries throughout the country.
Vicki Bryant Burke of Jacksonville graduated from the University of South Carolina and moved to Florida in 1978. She began working as a counselor with adolescent males and females in a juvenile justice day treatment program. Through her work, Ms. Burke learned institutionalization or incarceration was often the juvenile justice system’s response to addressing the needs of girls who committed delinquent acts and/or status offenses.
Elizabeth “Budd” Bell, formerly of Tallahassee, served for 77 years as a passionate advocate of children and women, the elderly, the mentally ill, and the disadvantaged. She pioneered coordinated childcare legislation in Florida, and helped pass the Child Care Bill, which secured the funding of early learning programs across the state.
Dr. Ruth H. Alexander of Gainesville, is a pioneer in the field of women’s sports. She served as Chair of the Department of Physical Education for Women at the University of Florida (UF). In 1972, she established the “Lady Gator Athletic” program. Before this no opportunities existed for women to participate in intercollegiate athletics. This program is ranked in the top ten in America annually.
Lillie Pierce Voss, formerly of Hypoluxo, was the first non-Native American child born between Jupiter and Miami. As a child she learned to interact with the local Seminole Indians, and she learned to shoot, hunt, fish, and sail a boat as well as any boy. She was known as the Sweetheart of the Barefoot Mailmen, helping her mother cook breakfast for the mailmen and rowing them across the lagoon to the ocean beach where they would start their historic treks. Her husband was a boat captain and steam engineer who ran steamboats up and down the South Florida coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Together they piloted yachts between Palm Beach and New England for wealthy seasonal Palm Beach residents
Aleene Pridgen Kidd MacKenzie of Miami paved the way for women, young and old, to have a different life than their mothers before them. After moving to Ocala in 1950, Aleene served as President of the Jr. and Sr. Women’s Clubs, a columnist for the Ocala Star Banner, and feature writer for All Florida magazine. Moving to Tallahassee in 1961, Aleene was appointed Assistant Director of Development by Florida State University president Gordon Blackwell. Her task was to establish the FSU Foundation, which today is a $440 million asset to the University.
Clara C. Frye, formerly of Tampa, was trained in nursing care in Alabama and moved to Tampa in 1901. She had heard many stories about the high volume of black patients who died because they were denied medical treatment in “whites only” facilities. She committed her life to providing medical care to Tampa’s black citizens.