Jordan Stecklerby Jordan Steckler, Marketing Intern

Become acquainted with just a few of Florida’s female daring dreamers, all featured among dozens of other women in They Dared to Dream by Doris Weatherford with the Florida Commission on the Status of Women Foundation, Inc.

In celebration of Women’s Equality Day, we’re running a discount on They Dared to Dream and our other women’s history books until September 9. Visit to see all of the books on sale, and use code WEQ15 at checkout to receive the discount.



I chose to write a post about these particular women because I thought they were brave, independent, and goal-minded. They persevered to accomplish great things for their families and their communities. As a result, these dreamers became leaders and role models in their communities, in Florida, and in the United States.




Elaine Gordon, Courtesy of FWHOF
Elaine Gordon, Courtesy of FWHOF

Elaine Gordon

A matriarch elected to the House of Representatives from Miami in 1972, Gordon pioneered a multitude of feminist legislations concerning abused children and survivors of sexual assault. In response to male colleagues blowing smoke in her face to express their dislike for her (and blatantly ignoring her tobacco allergy), Gordon banned smoking in the House chamber. Gordon also introduced “Ms.” and “chairperson” to the legislature to promote gender neutrality. In 1982 Gordon was the first woman inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. 




Carita Doggett Corse, Courtesy of FWHOF
Carita Doggett Corse, Courtesy of FWHOF

Carita Doggett Corse

A writer herself, Corse fully understood the distress writers felt during the Great Depression when their art form took a major hit along with the economy. Corse headed the Federal Writers’ Project, part of the Works Progress Administration program under Roosevelt’s New Deal campaign. The project offered writers opportunities to support themselves with federal funding during this challenging time. Corse was based in Jacksonville, FL, and hired many black writers, including Zora Neale Hurston, to create guide books, interview elderly people born into slavery for the Slave Narrative project, and document Florida’s history.




Jacqueline Cochran, Courtesy of FWHOF
Jacqueline Cochran, Courtesy of FWHOF

Jacqueline Cochran

A native of the Florida Panhandle, Cochran always knew she would fly one day. Born in poverty, she worked various jobs, including sweeping beauty salon floors, but sought any opportunity that moved her closer to her dream. Only two years after earning her pilot’s license, she participated in her first air race. During World War II, she headed the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASP), receiving the Distinguished Service Medal in 1945. She was the first woman to fly at supersonic speed.  When the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies started up again in 1992, U.S. Senator Lawton Chiles remembered Cochran and her bravery, and he submitted her name for induction.




Dr. Dazelle Dean Simpson

Watch a video of Simpson

When Simpson was a child, she told her father that she wanted to be a doctor. He simply replied, “Go for it.” And she did, becoming the first African American female pediatrician in Miami. She broke down other ethnic and gender barriers in South Florida, becoming the first African American appointed to the Florida Board of Medical Examiners in 1955 and being elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.



Barbara Jo Palmer, Courtesy of FWHOF
Barbara Jo Palmer, Courtesy of FWHOF

Barbara Jo Palmer

Palmer was the director of women’s sports at Florida State University. Developing programs for female athletes, she lobbied for Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendment because of clarifying moments that illuminated just how unfairly young women were being treated compared to their male counterparts. One such moment was when she had to pack a women’s volleyball team into a van that did not have enough seats—one girl had to sit on a pillow on the floor—while the men’s team flew to their regional competition. Because of her great achievements in establishing equality in collegiate sports, Palmer received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators and was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.




Carrie Meek, Courtesy of FWHOF
Carrie Meek, Courtesy of FWHOF

Carrie Meek

Carrie Meek began her career as a teacher at Bethune Cookman, teaching physical education, biological sciences, and coaching basketball. She went on to become the first African American woman elected to the Florida Senate in 1982. Later, she became the first African American to represent Florida in Congress since Reconstruction. Meek focused on economic, immigration, and feminist issues, and she continued to sponsor legislatures that helped women, such as the 1991 bill to enact the Commission on the Status of Women into law..



These women’s stories, along with dozens of others, are just part of the narrative history of Florida in They Dared to DreamRead this excerpt to discover more.



Doris Weatherford is the author of A History of the American Suffragist Movement and other reference guides on American women’s history.

The Florida Commission on the Status of Women Foundation, Inc., is dedicated to empowering women and girls in our state by supporting educational, entrepreneurial and self sufficiency programs and initiatives through grants, mentoring, and other opportunities. The FCSW Foundation supports the work and programs of the Florida Commission on the Status of Women, including the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.


The Florida Commission on the Status of Women Foundation, Inc. dedicates this book to: the women of the past who struggled to achieve gender equality and showed the path, the women of the present who continue with the same goal, and the women of the future who will carry the baton and make us proud.—Dr. Mona Jain

by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women Foundation, Inc

The Florida women’s history book project could not have been completed without the cooperation and support of many people. To thank all of them who made it possible would be nearly impossible. We would, however, like to express our sincere appreciation to those who have helped take this endeavor “from dream to reality.”

First and foremost, we are indebted forever to our nine charter members as well as to the generous donors to the History Book Project. Next, our thanks go to the founding members: Nancy Acevedo, Claudia Kirk Barto, Susanne Hebert, Laura McLeod, Dr. Jeanne O’Kon, Laurie Pizzo, Blanca Bichara, Dr. Mona Jain, Carrie Lee, and Kathleen Passidomo, Esq., who freely gave their time and talents. Our heartfelt thanks to Kelly Sciba and Michele Manning, who spent many, many hours of their own time to see that the project was moving forward smoothly. Special mention is also made here for the assistance given by Kimberly Mehr and Veronica Vasquez.

We gratefully acknowledge Doris Weatherford for writing this comprehensive Florida women’s history book. We are also grateful to the University Press of Florida for publishing the book as well as for valuable editorial help and comments.

Our special thanks to each and every one who played a part in discovering the stories behind the women that makes them unique and trailblazers. These notable women have created history. We are also thankful to many women and men for their well wishes and encouragement in order to fill a void in the history of the Sunshine State. Together we empower each other.

Last but not least the foundation members offer our deepest sense of appreciation to our families for believing in us as well as for their unwavering moral support.

To all others we have omitted inadvertently, please accept our sincere apologies and thanks. According to the old saying, “To err is human and to forgive is divine.”

Florida Commission on the Status of Women Foundation, Inc.
Founding Members, “Visionaries”

Blanca C. Bichara, Miami

Cheryl Holley, Tampa

Dr. Anila Jain, Bradenton-Sarasota

Dr. Mona Jain, Bradenton-Sarasota

Carrie E. Lee, Gainesville

Marie Flore Lindor-Latortue, Miami

Janet Mabry, Gulf Breeze

Representative Kathleen Passidomo, Esq., Naples

Debbie Sembler, Pinellas Park

Donors, from “Vision” to “Reality”
This Florida Women’s History Book Project has been made possible due to the generosity of the following:

Hawa Allarakhia, Bradenton

Blanca C. and Ricardo Bichara, Miami

Eugenia Price Joyce Blackburn Foundation

Brighthouse Networks of Manatee County for Rose Carlson, Bradenton

Leah Brown, Bradenton

Betty Chambliss, Bradenton

LaDonna Cloud, Sarasota

Community Foundation of Tampa Bay for Alex Sink, CFO

Representative Faye Culp, Tampa

Lynn and Dr. Arthur Guilford, Sarasota

Gini Hyman, Sarasota

Dr. Mona and Kailash Jain, Bradenton-Sarasota

Kappa Delta Foundation, Inc. for Dr. Anila Jain, Chair, Bradenton-Sarasota

Carrie E. and Dennis Lee, Gainesville

Manatee and Sarasota Commissions on the Status of Women

Miami-Dade Commission for Women

Dorothy Middleton, Bradenton

JoAnn Morgan, Melbourne

Representative Kathleen Passidomo, Esq., Naples

Mary Runnells, Bradenton

Linda Simmons, Tampa

St. Petersburg Times Fund (Lynda Keever)

Mariamma and Dr. George Thomas, Bradenton

University of South Florida for Dr. Judy Genshaft, President

Amy VanDell, Bradenton

Anne Voss, Tampa

Renee Warmak, Tampa

Senator Marlene Woodson-Howard, Bradenton




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