This 1901 photo is of May Mann Jennings. [ ]
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Jennings to be inducted into Florida Women’s Hall of Fame

The General Federation of Women’s Clubs throughout Florida, including the GFWC Wewahitchka Woman’s Club and Philaco Woman’s Club, has tirelessly campaigned for the induction of May Mann Jennings into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, and on June 7, Gov. Ron DeSantis nominated her as one of his three inductees. 

This campaign was started in 2008 but saw a resurgence of interest in 2016 when GFWC Florida President Mary Powell was invited to speak at the rededication of Royal Palm Park, a landmark Jennings and her fellow clubwomen worked ardently to preserve.

Despite not making it to the top 10 in 2018, the determination of GFWC Florida did not falter. Grassroots efforts continued through various administrations, educating members about Jennings’ significance and advocating to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women. By 2019, these efforts paid off as Jennings made it to the top 10, leading to a surge of letters, visits, and calls to the Florida governor’s office.

Year after year, from 2019 onwards, Jennings made it to the top 10, but the final recognition remained elusive. However, GFWC Florida’s persistence mirrored Jennings’ own unwavering spirit. A prominent suffragist, Jennings said in 1917, after a failed suffrage amendment, “I know you are disappointed that we did not pass the suffrage amendment… Now we must work for a greater campaign for another two years. I dare say we shall have things in better shape another time and be sure we do not have men in the legislature who don’t favor suffrage.” This resilience inspired GFWC Florida clubwomen to continue their efforts, culminating in Jennings’ long-awaited induction.

Jennings’ legacy is multifaceted. Born into a politically active family, she gained early exposure to legislative processes, serving as an aide to her father, Austin Mann, a state senator and representative. Her marriage to William Sherman Jennings, who served as Florida’s 18th governor, expanded her influence and knowledge. During her time in Jacksonville, she became an active member of the GFWC Jacksonville Woman’s Club and the Springfield Improvement Association. 

Linda D. Vance, in her biography of Jennings, highlights her exceptional contributions: “Few women were able to match the number of projects she promoted, the number of clubs she belonged to, the many people that she knew on a first-name basis, or the intensity of effort which she brought to her work. Her name appeared frequently in the newspapers and on the rosters of scores of clubs and organizations. By 1910 she was well known to the general public, and four years later when she was elected president of the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs, she was easily identified as the most prominent woman in the state.”

Jennings’ work with GFWC Florida included a notable achievement in conservation. In 1914, she led the effort to create Royal Palm State Park to preserve unique royal palms amidst the threat of development. Leveraging her extensive network, she garnered support and secured funding for the park, demonstrating her remarkable ability to mobilize resources for environmental preservation.

May Mann Jennings’ induction into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame is a testament to her enduring impact on Florida’s history and the tireless advocacy of GFWC Florida clubwomen. Her legacy of leadership, resilience, and dedication to public service continues to inspire generations.

Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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