Women’s History Month – The Legacy Continues

Lois Bolinby Lois Bolin
Old Naples Historian

A woman’s work is Never Done as the Song says and happy Shee whos Strength holds out to the End of the rais.” So wrote Martha Ballard in her journal on Nov. 26, 1785, in a time when fewer than half the women in America were literate.

The fabric of our local culture has woven a unique tapestry from the determination, courage, and strength of women who did what all good women still do today: make their community a better place to live.

womens voteLEGACY & LEGENDS

Blanche, the wife of Collier County’s first sheriff, William Maynard, was appointed Chief Deputy in 1926 at a time when women were prohibited from jury duty. One day, while the Sheriff patrolled the Tamiami Trail, Blanche took her posse and two year old son on a 30 hour mission to capture three fugitives in the Everglades.

Deaconess Bedell faithfully served in the Everglades from 1933 to 1960 to improve the quality of life for the Miccosukee Seminole Indians by reviving forgotten crafts and by going to Congress to ensure that no foreign replications would undercut the price of the Indians’ native crafts.

Helen Sample, wife of the developer of Port Royal, deeded land in the 1950s to the area now known as the River Park Community Center. A few years ago talks of replacing the swimming pool with a splash pool were halted when City Council discovered there was a deed to the land stating should the land ever be used for anything other than a pool – it would go back to the Sample Foundation. Mrs. Sample’s strength is still holding out.

The Naples Woman’s Club was formed in September 1932 when Doris Gandees called a meeting with 17 original auxiliary club members from the Community Church, the only church in town until 1930. The club motto was: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Two of their projects still stand out in our community’s mind: the original Christmas Bazaar and the Veterans War Memorial at Cambier Park. While their Christmas Bazaar is no longer, the Veterans War Memorial still stands as a powerful reminder of “women’s work” thanks to Pilar Montes, mother of Lili Montes, partner at the Sea Salt and Barbatella restaurants, located on
historic Third Street South.


On March 31,1776, Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, and warned “if particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”

That time finally came in 1919. For those who complain about standing in line to vote, see the movie “Iron Jawed Angels.” They endured beatings and forced feeding in prison to ensure women could finally be citizens and not just chattel.

Naples first “revolutionary” women writers for the Collier County News were Lynn Hixon- Holley and Mary Ellen Hawkins, who went on to become our area’s first woman attorney and judge and first woman Republican elected to the Florida House of Representatives respectively. Their legacy inspired many who followed, including Gina Edwards, founder of the digital publication “Naples City Desk” on watchdogcity.com.

Gina has always made her mark “fighting the good fight.” Her most recent duke-fest is over the cost of public records. While she has prevailed three times in court against Collier Clerk of Courts Dwight Brock, this may not stop the Clerk, who has unlimited taxpayer money to hire lawyers, from filing again.

Edward’s attorneys’ fee have not been paid but her fight for the public rights for information is taking her to Tallahassee to shed light on two pending bills in the Legislature, Senate Bill 1220 and its companion, House Bill 1021.

The pending legislation, a reaction due to the thousands of public records requests by a Palm Beach attorney, would make the award of legal fees discretionary if a citizen prevails against the government.

Edwards asked, “Why should a citizen have to sue to get government to enforce the law enforced?”

Gina Edwards will address her Public Records issue at the Republican Women of SWFL Federated luncheon on March 2nd at Brios. Call 239.777.2281 for more details.

In the meantime, help this sentinel of freedom defend “we the people” by subscribing to watchdogcity.com. It will be a great gift to give another woman during Women’s History Month so we can ensure this woman’s work is never done.

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