Susan Benton of Lorida is the first female elected sheriff in the history of the state of Florida and is currently serving her second term. Sheriff Benton is a fifth-generation Floridian who has served in law enforcement for over 30 years. She has risen through the ranks by gaining the respect and admiration of her colleagues and superiors. She has consistently gone above and beyond her duties to serve her community with innovative solutions, while pushing for programs to assist the elderly, mentor and educate youth, and punish criminals. Immediately upon taking office as Sheriff, she created a partnership between the community and the Sheriff’s Office to create its first-ever Strategic Plan. Sheriff Benton’s Strategic Plan facilitation not only involved the community, but all units and ranks within the Sheriff’s Office, another first for Highlands County. Sheriff Benton is the 2012 President of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, which is the first time a woman has served in this capacity in the Association’s 115-year history. Sheriff Benton continually promotes the advancement of women at every opportunity and has ensured that education, competency, ability and discernment are the most prominent factors for advancement in the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office. The female representation in the Sheriff’s Office has risen from 17 female employees in 2005 to 45female employees in 2012. Sheriff Benton’s fervor and compassion have made an impact on both her profession and her community. She is involved in community activities beyond the expectations of her position, and she is dedicated to service for all citizens. Her personal dedication and drive to enhance public safety and protect those in need has made her a hero in Highlands County.
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. She began caring for the sick and injured black population in her small Tampa home. In 1923, she moved to a small 17-bed hospital on Lamar Avenue, where she relied heavily on donations to alleviate the financial struggles of running a hospital. In 1928 the City of Tampa purchased the hospital, which was then known as the Tampa Negro Hospital. Ten years later the structure was dedicated as the Clara Frye Memorial Hospital. Political and economic struggles, lack of funding, overcrowding, and insufficient staffing led to the closing and demolition of the hospital in 1973. Ms. Frye died an impoverished woman in 1936. In her honor, Tampa General Hospital named a pavilion after her. In 2011 Ms. Frye was honored as one of the ten charter inductees into the newly established Hillsborough County Women’s Hall of Fame. She is remembered as a great selfless servant, leader, and a visionary humanitarian.
Pam Iorio of Tampa is a former two-term mayor of Tampa who left office with a remarkable 87% approval rating. First elected to public office at the age of 26, Ms. Iorio was the youngest person ever to win a seat on the Board of County Commissioners for Hillsborough County. At age 27 she was elected as Chairman of the Board. Subsequently, she served three terms as the county’s Supervisor of Elections. In 2003 she was elected as mayor of the city of Tampa, with reelection in 2007. Ms. Iorio is currently the Leader-In-Residence at the John H. Sykes Center of Business at the University of Tampa. She is a highly sought after lecturer, and is the author of Straightforward – Ways to Live and Lead, a book that highlights and examines leadership qualities, personal character, crises management, motivating change, and striking a balanced lifestyle. Ms. Iorio has served as an inspiration to many current women business leaders and elected officials. She has inspired other females to run for public office. Because of her inspiration to others, she has received countless accolades and awards from women’s groups and organizations. She is a natural born leader and teacher who sets examples, and then inspires others to get involved in helping others.
Dr. Madelyn M. Lockhart of Gainesville was the first woman dean of the University of Florida Graduate School. She received her Ph.D. from Ohio State University, where she was the only woman out of almost 100 students who was majoring in economics at the Ph.D. level. She developed a methodology to measure income by cities and counties for both Kentucky and Ohio, which had never been done before. UF wanted her to continue this particular kind of research, so she joined the UF College of Business Administration faculty in 1960. Since her husband was also employed by UF and they had a very strict rule against hiring faculty wives, she was hired on an “emergency basis”, and was fired and rehired every three months. Thus, she was never allowed the benefits and tenure of a full time professor. After four years she demanded a faculty appointment and was denied. She quit and went to work for the county, where she became the first director of the Community Action Program under President Lyndon Johnson’s poverty program. She worked to help establish neighborhood groups all over the county which worked to keep the Ku Klux Klan out and establish many programs for minorities. She subsequently moved with her family to Ohio and North Carolina, and then returned to Florida in 1970 where she received a full-time associate professor position. In 1973 she was appointed as assistant dean of the graduate school, and in 1981 became the associate dean. She became dean of the graduate school in 1985, one of only two women graduate deans in U.S. universities. While serving as dean, she also taught a course in African economics and spent 15 years traveling back and forth from Africa. Retiring from UF in 1995, she now serves as a consultant for governmental and educational agencies in economic development. Dr. Lockhart is a woman who forged ahead in mostly male-dominated fields and opened doors to new programs and opportunities in the areas of women and minorities.
Aleene 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 Tallahassee in 1961, Mrs. Kidd Mackenzie 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. In 1964, she was appointed by Governor Farris Bryant to organize and serve as the first Chair of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women. As Chair she organized the Commission into five areas of study regarding women: education, employment, home and community, legal status, and legislation. In 1966, Ms. Kidd Mackenzie created the Florida Association of Safety Leaders, which was made up of women’s organizations throughout the state who were given the challenge of publishing and putting into practice 16 amendments passed by the U.S. Congress to improve highway safety and save lives. Because of the outstanding organization and work of this women’s committee, Florida was the first state to ratify all 16 amendments. A meeting of all of the State associations was held in Washington, D.C. and the organization officially became the National Association of Women Highway Safety Leaders. Ms. Kidd Mackenzie because the first president of this association in 1967. She has been cited by the Governors of Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kentucky, and Florida for her volunteer service, and she also received a Secretary’s Commendation from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Through her natural ability to build relationships, she was able to form a statewide network of relationships with women from every walk of life. Now at 90 years of age, she is able to reflect back on how her handiwork helped shape the positive future of women’s lives.
Dottie Berger Mackinnon of Tampa is a tireless advocate for women and has left her footprint throughout the Bay area. She is one of the founders of Joshua House, a safe haven for abused, abandoned, and neglected children, in Tampa and she has passionately supported the children served there since 1992. After founding the institution she helped the group establish a $1.2 million endowment through the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay in order to ensure that they can continue the work that she started there long into the future. She also served the community as a Hillsborough County Commissioner from 1994-1998. On May 4, 2011 Dottie was honored with the Ellsworth G. Simmons Good Government Award by the Hillsborough County Commissioners in recognition of the significant role that she played in improving government through leadership and vision. From 2005-2009 she worked tirelessly to develop, create and co-found A Kid's Place, a residential care facility for foster siblings. Before A Kid's Place opened in 2009, kids who were taken away from abusive homes were often separated from their siblings. Rescued children now stay at comfortable houses at A Kid's Place for up to a month while officials work to find stable homes for groups of brothers and sisters. Her work with A Kid's Place continues to this day, as they just opened up a fifth residence hall due to her tireless work and fundraising. The achievements of Ms. Mackinnon are truly remarkable. She has been recognized as a true difference maker in the lives of the children of Tampa Bay. Although she now battles cancer, she still works unrelentingly in her quest to improve the lives of children in the Tampa Bay area.
Anne Briardy Mergen formerly of Miami was a pioneer in the field of women editorial cartoonists. Beginning in the mid 1930’s, she drew seven cartoons a week for more than twenty years. She and her family moved to Miami in 1926. With her talent and persistence, she convinced the editors that her work belonged on the editorial page. Her cartoons covered local, national, and worldwide subjects. With a bold and simple style, her work influenced and entertained thousands of readers daily. She brought awareness to many situations with her work, such as bringing attention to the need to preserve the Everglades before it became a park. Ms. Mergen’s cartoons appeared in The Atlanta Journal, The Dayton (Ohio) News, and the Miami Daily News. She received fan mail from several areas of the country including J. Edgar Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt requested two of Ms. Mergen’s cartoons to hang in the Roosevelt Memorial Room in Hyde Park. During her career, Ms. Mergen produced more than 7,000 cartoons, many of which now reside in the Library of Congress, The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library, and The Historic Museum of Southern Florida. Ms. Mergen had the courage to enter a field that had traditionally been a man’s territory, and her example has inspired other women to follow their dreams and venture off the beaten path.
Dr. Patricia Tennant Sokol of Morriston has spent her lifetime working in the human services field specializing in services to children as well as promoting, mentoring, and supporting young women. She was one of the first women in district management/leadership positions, appointed in 1976 to the District 3 office of the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services at a time when women were not seen in leadership positions. While in Gainesville, she was a founding member of the Gainesville Area Women’s Network supporting young women in leadership positions, and she also taught Women’s Studies courses at the community college. After living in North Carolina for five years, Dr. Sokol returned to Florida, where she served as Director of the Consortium for Child Welfare Studies at the University of South Florida. She also was a founding member of both St. Brigid’s and the Traditional Order of Anglican Sisters in Christ. Dr. Sokol currently serves as adjunct faculty at Webster University and teaches in the M.A. in Counseling program, providing mentoring for young women as they seek clinical internship experiences. She is also the project manager of a Pathways Out of Poverty federal grant for Workforce Connection in Ocala, where she continues with many opportunities to mentor young women in an area with the highest rate of poverty in the community.
Lillie Pierce Voss formerly of Delray Beach was the first non-Native American child born between Jupiter and Miami. As a child she learned to interact with the Seminole Indians and she learned to shoot, hunt, fish, and sail a boat as well as any male. 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 beach strip where they would start their historic treks. Her husband was a boat captain and steam engineer, who ran steamboats in South Florida in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Together they piloted yachts between Palm Beach and New England for wealthy seasonal Palm Beach residents. Ms. Voss was a pioneer woman and dynamic individual who helped build South Florida while raising her five children. She witnessed and participated in some of the watershed events in the development of Southeast Florida, raised a successful family, and survived a hard-scrabble existence in the wild, untamed frontier of Southeast Florida at a time when most male settlers could not survive. She was smart, tough, and was an intricate part of South Florida’s unique history.
Brownie Wise formerly of Orlando was instrumental in bringing a legion of women out of the home and into the business world. In 1951, Ms. Wise was a divorced single mother with minimal business experience. She earned extra income by selling Stanley Home Products at home party demonstrations. Inventor Earl Tupper was so impressed with her home method of selling that he agreed to pull his product off the shelves and sell it under her new plan. He also brought her on to head up the entire sales division of his company. From this time on, Tupperware was sold exclusively at home parties. Ms. Wise knew how to inspire her managers and dealers to work harder and to believe in themselves. She was a good writer and an excellent speaker. She offered women the opportunity to earn extra money, travel, and be part of an organization that pulled out the stops and did everything first class. She recognized women who got very little attention elsewhere in their lives, bestowing upon them trophies, luxury good, and applause, and she taught others in the company to do the same. Following her career with Tupperware, Ms. Wise worked as a consultant to direct sales companies and dabbled in real estate. She died in Kissimmee in 1992. Many other large companies, like Mary Kay Cosmetics, have copied the formula Ms. Wise perfected, extending her legacy in American business.