Women's History in St. Augustine

Many women, whose names are lost to history, are responsible for the survival and success of St. Augustine. They served their families, cooked, cleaned, raised children, nursed the sick, grew crops, mended and washed clothes, took care of entire households, served their community, and kept taking on responsibilities. They became business women, leaders, voters, artists, activists, and more. If noted in early history books, they were often recorded in the important roles as someone's wife, mother, daughter, or sister, but rarely did their names and contributions shine as they should, for they helped St. Augustine survive and grow into what it has become today. This page is dedicated to a few stories that were recorded in hopes that we continue to explore more untold stories in Women's History.

First Spanish Period, 1565-1763

Drawing of an engraving of the Timucuan collecting food in baskets.
Theodor de Bry & Jacques de Moyne depicting Timucuan, "Bringing in Animals and Other Stores

Florida Memory Project

Timucuan Women, 3,000 BC-1763

The Timucua raised crops like corn, squash, beans, pumpkins and melons. The women cooked the meals, cleaned, and prepared the animal hides for clothing. The women also made pottery for use in cooking. In 1539, Hernando de Soto led an army of more than 500 men in a devastating expedition through central and north Florida. His army seized food, took women for consorts, and forced men to serve as guides and bearers. After the arrival of the French and Spanish, the number of Timucua became smaller with each passing year. The Europeans brought diseases with them that the Timucua easily caught and died from. At the acquisition of Florida by Britain in 1763 there were perhaps 125 remaining. This last remnant either migrated with the Spanish colonists to Cuba or were absorbed into the Seminole population. They are now considered an extinct tribe.

Doña Antonia, 1560s

When Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded the city of St. Augustine, the Calusa tribe on the southwest coast of Florida was governed by a chief, who became known as King Carlos. Menendez was introduced to King Carlos and his sister. Her Indian name is not known, but when she was presented to Menéndez as a wife, she was baptized Antonia. Initially, Menéndez protested, since he already had a wife in Spain, but in the interest of diplomacy, Menéndez had no choice but to accept her as his “wife.” Antonia was sent to Havana, Cuba, to be instructed in the Catholic religion. Antonia was upset that Menéndez would not truly treat her as his wife and evenually Menéndez returned her to her brother in Florida. King Carlos planned to re-marry Antonia to a Christianized Indian named Don Pedro, who had been named heir to Carlos’s throne. Menéndez sent Antonia back to Havana, but Carlos threatened to kill many Spaniards unless his sister was returned. Antonia had clearly become a pawn in the dealings of Carlos and the Spanish governor, but she was not a silent pawn. When Menéndez orchestrated an unfavorable peace treaty between the Tocobaga and the Calusa, Antonia let her outrage be known. Menéndez returned to St. Augustine and probably never saw her again. In 1568, the tensions between the Calusa and the Spanish reached a high point, and King Carlos was killed by Spanish soldiers. Menéndez died in Spain in 1574. Antonia remained with her people for a time, teaching them the Catholic religion, but she eventually returned to Havana, Cuba, where she died.

Illustration of Teresa Camacho: Indian woman married to a Spanish soldier.
Artist's rendering of Teresa Camacho: native woman married to a Spanish soldier.

Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

Teresa Camacho, 1580s

Francisco Camacho came to Florida in the 1560’s from San Lucar de Barrameda, near Cadiz. He was a soldier in the regiment, and also a fisherman. He married an native woman named Teresa, and in 1580 the couple’s household in St. Augustine included Francisco, Teresa, Teresa‘s sister Catalina, and Catalina’s son, Juan. Fewer than half of the Spanish men in St. Augustine were married, and fewer than half of those had a Spanish wife.

Illustration of Francisca de Vera, 1580s.
Artist's rendering of Francisca de Vera: Widow, boardinghouse owner, and laundress.

Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

Francisca de Vera, 1580s

Señora de Vera’s soldier husband died in St. Augustine sometime before 1580. She supported herself by opening her home as a boardinghouse, renting space to five soldiers. Three of the soldiers also worked on the side as carpenters, and one worked as a barber. Men vastly out-numbered women and they generally continued to live in the comrade groups mandated by Pedro Menéndez at the first settlement, in order to pool rations and share household needs. Most soldiers also practiced trades or crafts on the side to supplement their meager salaries, usually through barter.

Artist's rendering of Timucua Cacica Doña María Melendez, ca. 1600
Artist's rendering of Timucua Cacica Doña María Melendez, ca. 1600.

Drawing by Bill Celander, Florida Museum, University of Florida

Doña Maria Melendez, 1600s

The generation of Timucuans born during the 1560’s reached adulthood in the 1580’s, which was when missionary efforts in St. Augustine realized their first successes. Success was aided by the cooperation of the Timucuan caciques (chiefs), who appear to have quickly recognized the advantages of Spanish alliance. Doña Maria Melendez, a member of the Timucuan noble class, is an example. She was the Chieftainess (cacica) of the Timucuan town of Nombre de Dios during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Doña Maria was a Christian, and her mother (who had been the ruling Chief of Nombre de Dios before her) was one of the very early Timucua converts to Christianity. Doña Maria married a Spanish soldier named Clemente de Vernal, and he lived with her and their children at Nombre de Dios. By 1606 she had become the ruler of the Timucuan tribes extending along the coast between St. Augustine and approximately Cumberland Island, Georgia, possibly through Spanish intervention.

Illustration of Isavel de Los Rios
Artist's rendering of Isavel de Los Rios, Baker and vendor.

Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

Isavel de Los Rios, 1600s

Isavel was a free citizen of mixed white and black ancestry who baked rosquetes, spiral-shaped cakes. She sold these cakes, as well as honey, door to door throughout the town, and from her home. She was an independent entrepreneur in an age when such a status was difficult for women.

Illustration of Estefanía de Cigarroa.
Artist's rendering of Estefanía de Cigarroa, Teenage pirate victim.

Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

Estefanía de Cigarroa, 1600s

Estefanía was the daughter of regimental Major Salvador de Cigarroa. She was in St. Augustine the night of the 1668 Searles raid, and ran into the street carrying her younger sister. One of the pirates shot at them, killing the smaller child and wounding Estefanía in the breast. It is not known if Estefanía was one of the well-to-do young ladies taken for ransom, but as an officer’s daughter she would have been both an eligible ransom candidate and an eligible bride in St. Augustine.

Illustration of Juana de Herrero, 1600s.
Artist's rendering of Juana de Herrero, 1600s.

Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

Juana de Herrero, 1600s

Juana was a native woman married to a Spanish soldier named Toma Hernando, and they had a house in St. Augustine. Juana died in 1689, and her death sparked a controversy between St. Augustine’s Franciscan (regular) clergy and their rivals, the secular clergy. The Franciscans claimed that they should see to her burial because she was a native, while the Parish priest asserted jurisdiction because she was a resident of the town and his parish, and lived like the Spanish. The case was appealed to the Bishop of Cuba, Diego de Compostela, who decreed in favor of the Parish priests, but not before the Franciscans secretly removed Juana’s body to the Convento de San Francisco for burial.


Doña Sebastiana Olazarraga y Aramburu, 1670s

Sergeant Major Manuel de Cendoya was appointed Governor of La Florida with responsibility of overseeing the building of Castillo de San Marcos, the stone masonry fort. He was not paid for his service. When Cendoya passed in 1673, Doña Sebastiana, his widow, was left with the Crown claiming her deceased husband owed them money and taking inventory of her property. For about ten years, she wrote and petitioned the Crown for funds to assist her in raising her three children. Eventually, Governor Juan Marquez assisted her in settling her debts and collecting what she was owed. She returned to Spain. Her hardships eventually contributed to the welfare of all women. In 1685, Spain decreed that wives of deceased governors could return to Spain despite unsettled estates, ensuring that women, like Doña Sebastiana, would not be placed in such destitute situations.

Illustration depicting the town burning as imagined from gun deck of fort.
Siege of 1702, Burning of the Town

Women of the Siege of 1702

The first news the Spanish governor of Florida, Joseph de Zúñiga y Zerda, had about the approaching attack of Governor Moore came from a baptized Indian woman of the Chacato tribe. At the village of Achito in Apalachicola (today's Georgia), the native woman had attended a town council in which plans were being discussed for an English inspired and supervised attack. The Chacato woman witnessed war preparations. Being devoted to the Spaniards, she fled to San Luis de Apalachee (today's Tallahassee), where she reported the news to the Spanish Commander that the governor of Charleston would come down with boats to attack St. Augustine.
Soon after receiving the news, the Governor Zúñiga ordered all the families of St. Augustine, about 1,500 people, to take refuge in Castillo de San Marcos. At the fort, the women cooked, cleaned, and cared for those inside. The siege would last over 50 days and would end in victory for the Spanish, but before the English retreated they burned the town. These resilient women and their families would have to rebuild their lives in the aftermath.
Illustration of María Magdalena Chrisístomo-Balthazar.
Artist's rendering of María Magdalena Chrisístomo-Balthazar.

Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

María Magdalena Chrisístomo-Balthazar, 1700s

María Magdalena’s mother, María Luisa Balthazar, was a Mocama Timucua native from the village of Palica, and her father, Juan Chrisístomo, was an enslaved Caribali African living in St. Augustine. María Magdalena and her sister Josepha Candelaria were born in their mother’s village, and were free. María Magdalena was married three times, first to Juan Margarita, who was thought to have been a native. In 1743 she married Pablo Prezilla, a free person of mixed white and black ancestry from Venezuela, and in 1745 she wed her third husband, Phelipe Gutiéres, a Spaniard. Her heritage and marriages illustrate the multiracial families that were common in St. Augustine.

Colonial woman illustrated to depict Antonia Avero.
Antonia Avero

Antonia Avero, 1717-1792

Antonia Avero was a wife and mother, but what distinguishes her from many other women of the 1700s is that she was able to inherit and own property. She was the great-grand-daughter to Francesca Maria Garcia de Acevedo Penaloza, whose home was burned by the English during the Siege of 1702. The Avero Family lived near the fort, on today's St. George Street, not too far from the City Gate. Antonia married Captain Don Joseph Guillen and mothered five children. When her husband died in 1743, she inherited several houses, enslaved men, and one sloop. She remarried Joaquin Blanco, an administrative elite of St. Augustine. During the 1763 evacuation of the town, when Florida was traded from the Spanish to the British, she was forced to sell her property when she fled to Cuba. Much of what is known about her is because she filed a legal suit in 1791 for the return of her ancestral lands after the Spanish regained Florida. One of the Avero homes can be visited today, as it became St. Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine, dedicated to America’s first Greek immigrants that landed on our shores in 1768.

Drawing of the triangular earthen fort at Mose.
Fort Mose

Women of Fort Mose, 1738-1763

Fort Mose was the first free African settlement legally sanctioned in what would become the United States. It became a haven for enslaved refugees from the British Colonies to the north, who would run away and escape to Spanish St. Augustine. The women and men of Mose won their liberty through great daring and effort and made important contributions to Florida’s multi-ethnic heritage. The village had a wall around it, with dwellings inside, as well as a church and an earthen fort. Fort Mose is on the Florida Black Heritage Trail and the NPS highlights it as a precursor site of the Underground Railroad.

Ana Maria de Escovar, Fort Mose

In 1715, Ana Maria, an enslaved Mandinga African, fled Carolina with her husband in hopes of freedom only to be taken by Perro Bravo, a Yamasee cacique (native chief). Perro Bravo was angry because he never received payment for the enslaved people he had brought into Florida years earlier, and threatened to kill Ana Maria, along with the others in the group. In 1718, acting St. Augustine Governor Juan de Ayala y Escovar paid Perro 600 pesos worth of corn and liquor for the enslaved people. It is thought that Ana Maria and her husband, Francisco Menéndez, lived with the acting governor for some time, because that is when she took the name Ana Maria de Escovar. By 1720, Ana Maria’s husband had been appointed to command a slave militia. After successfully defending St. Augustine, Francisco and Ana Maria petitioned for freedom, as King Charles II had declared Florida an official slave sanctuary, but they were denied. Manuel de Montiano was appointed the new governor in 1737, and they petitioned once again. On March 15th, 1738, all petitioners were granted freedom, and Fort Mose was established. A 1759 census showed there to be 23 females living at Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose (Fort Mose), the first free African settlement in North America. Ana Maria de Escovar was one of these 23. Ana Maria and Francisco had four children, and continued to live at Fort Mose for some time, all the while making great contributions to St. Augustine.

Modern photograph of the Gonzalez-Alvarez House with flags of the different nations that controlled St. Augustine out front.
Gonzalez-Alvarez House

British Period, 1763-1784

Mary Evans Fenwick, 1730-1792

The "Oldest House," known today as the Gonzalez-Alvarez House, is the oldest surviving Spanish colonial dwelling in St. Augustine built in 1723. It's most famous resident was Mary Evans Fenwick. When the British took control of St. Augustine, Major Joseph Peavett, paymaster for the English military, purchased this house. He married Mary Evans Fenwick (1730-1792), a widow and midwife. Upon his death, she remarried twice and became Mary Evans Fenwick Peavett Hudson. In addition to her business as a midwife, she operated an inn and tavern in what is today thought to be the oldest house in Florida. Two hundred years later, a fictional account of her life and times was recorded in Eugenie Price's book, Maria.

Illustration depicting Benedita Usina, Menorcan refugee and farmer's wife
Artist's rendering of Benedita Usina, Menorcan refugee and farmer's wife.

Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

Benedita Usina, 1770s

Benedita was born in 1772 in the New Smyrna colony. Her parents, Bartolomé and María Usina, were original members of Turnbull’s expedition, and joined the Menorcan refugee group that fled to St. Augustine in 1777, when Benedita was just five. Her younger sister was born seven years later in 1784. The family occupied (as squatters) a Crown-owned lot on today’s Spanish Street and built a wood and thatch house there. Bartolomé farmed land to the north of St. Augustine, and by 1803 was able to buy the property legally. When Benedita was fourteen, although unmarried, she was listed as living with a neighboring family perhaps to help out in the house, or perhaps because of other family problems. She married Antonio Pons when she was fifteen, which was about a year older than the average age of marriage for Menorcan girls at that time. Pons had a farm in New Smyrna, and he took Benedita back to live with him there.

Illustration of Nansi Wiggins
Artist's rendering of Nansi Wiggins.

Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

Nansi Wiggins, British, Second Spanish, and American periods

The story of Nansi Wiggins and her family spans the British, Second Spanish, and American periods of Florida, and illustrates diversity, fluidity and unpredictability of life during those times. Nansi, also known as Ana Gallum, came to America from Senegal as an enslaved person. She was purchased by an English planter, Job Wiggins, who had a plantation near Rollestown, Florida. Sometime around 1778, Job freed Nansi and married her in a Protestant ceremony. They had six children before Job died in 1797, and he left the plantation and the charge of the children to Nansi. She managed 1,400 acres of land, a hundred head of cattle and fourteen enslaved people, and was frequently in St. Augustine selling horses and enslaved people. Nansi and Job’s children married into diverse families. Ten years later, Florida became a territory of the United States. Although many black and mixed race families left Florida for Cuba, others, including some of Nansi’s descendants, remained to experience the institutionalization of the two-caste racial system that was ushered in.

Second Spanish Period, 1784-1821

Antonia Venz, 1790s

Gerónimo Alvarez came to St. Augustine from Havana in 1784 and married a local Menorcan, Antonia Venz. In 1790, the family purchased the “Oldest House,” known today as the Gonzalez-Alvarez House. In 1791, they acquired another property, the Tovar house. Menorcans maintained a close-knit community and favors between community members allowed for mutual prosperity and social advancement. It seems that through Antonia, his Menorcan wife, Alvarez reaped the benefits of entering a large kinship network, which permitted him to prosper beyond his means as a baker and storekeeper. By marrying into the Menorcan segment of the population, Alvarez adapted to the frontier conditions of St. Augustine to his advantage.

The U.S. Period, 1821-present

Black and white photograph of a group of men and women outside the boarding house.
1860s Boarding House Visitors

Ximenez-Fatio House Museum

Women of the The Ximenez-Fatio House

The Ximenez-Fatio House was a fashionable rooming house for most of the 1800s operated by a succession of women owners. It was built between 1783-1820 by Andres Ximenez out of coquina. Ximenez married Juana Pellicer, daughter to the Minorcan community leader, Francisco Pellicer, and she ran the household. In 1821, when Florida became a U.S. territory, Margaret Cook began to buy property in St. Augustine. By 1830, she owned the building and decided to use it as a boarding house. Eliza Whitehurst managed it from 1830-1838. In 1838, Sarah Anderson purchased the house and property. In 1855, Louisa Fatio bought the house. After her death in 1875, the house became a gift shop and club. In 1939, the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Florida purchased the property. Today, visitors can tour the "boarding house" restored as it might have been when Eliza Whitehurst managed it.

Modern photograph of a room inside the fort with arched ceilings, window, and exhibits.
Casemate 4 (Possibly the room Seminole prisoners escaped from)

Aoh-op-ho-yuy and Apas-e-ay, 1837

Over 230 Seminoles were imprisoned inside Fort Marion, as the Castillo was known at the time. During their confinement, they were kept in the rooms on the west side and southwest corner of the fort. Illness would prove to be a constant concern and pervasive problem during their two-month confinement. On the night of November 29, 1837, Coacoochee led 20 prisoners on an escape to freedom, two of whom were women, Aoh-op-ho-yuy and Apas-e-ay. Coacoochee, or Wild Cat, was an influential leader during the Seminole Wars. The details of that escape are highly debated today. According to US Army records and Coacoochee, they climbed out of a window of the fort. The details of the escape may be less important than the fact that it happened at all. Even today, most members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida trace their heritage back to those 20 prisoners who escaped.
Modern photograph of the St Augustine Lighthouse.
Present-Day St. Augustine Lighthouse

Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu, 1801-1871

In 1859, upon the death of her husband, Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu became one of the nation's first female lighthouse keepers, the first female Hispanic-American lighthouse keeper, and the first to command a federal shore installation. Maria was born to parents, Bartholomew Mestre and Marianna Lorenzo Mestre. She married Joseph Juan Andreu and had eight children. Joseph fell to his death when scaffolding collapsed. Maria took over as lighthouse keeper in St. Augustine in 1859 until the then Confederate States Navy darkened the tower during the Civil War in 1861 in an effort to hinder the Union Navy off Florida's coast. The Mestres and the Andreus, both Menorcan families, still have descendants living in St. Augustine today. The St. Augustine Lighthouse is one of Florida's first official lighthouses authorized by Congress. The present 165- foot tower dates from 1874 and is the state's only spiral-banded lighthouse. It also contains its original first-order Fresnel lens.

Black and white photograph of Anna Dummett.
Anna Dummett

St. Augustine Historical Society

Anna Dummett, 1817-1899

Caspar Garcia built the St. Francis Inn in 1791. Anna and Sarah Dummett operated it as a boarding house beginning in 1845. During the Civil War, sentiments in St. Augustine were intense. When Union forces took over St. Augustine, Anna heard that the Union flag had been raised at the St. Francis Barracks. Upset that St. Augustine had surrendered to the Union, she led a group of women who chopped down the wooden flagpole, thus preventing the Stars and Stripes from flying in place of the Stars and Bars.

Frances Kirby Smith, 1785-1875

Bernardo Segui, a prominent Menorcan businessman, constructed an imposing house about 1800, during the Second Spanish Period. Edmund Kirby Smith, the highest ranking Confederate officer from Florida and the last Confederate general to surrender in the Civil War, was born there in 1824. His mother, Frances Kirby Smith, was rumored to be a Confederate spy and was banished from St. Augustine during the Union occupation. Today, the building serves as the research library of the St. Augustine Historical Society.

A colorful postcard of the house.
Pena-Peck House

The Woman's Exchange of St. Augustine

Pena-Peck House and the Women's Exchange, 1892- Present Day

This historic home was built in 1750 for Royal Spanish Treasurer Juan Estevan de Peña. The house would change hands many times and end up being run by The Woman’s Exchange of St. Augustine, founded in 1892. It is a non-profit organization and part of the Federation of Woman’s Exchanges. Members follow in the footsteps of women in the 19th century who began Woman’s Exchanges to help other women who had fallen on hard times. During the Civil War, while husbands and sons were off fighting for the Confederacy, their wives and daughters were left at home with little to no income. They could make hand crafted items and anonymously sell them through the woman’s exchange for a profit. Peck’s granddaughter, Anna Gardner Burt, the last owner, died in 1931 and left her house, furnishings, priceless antiques, and artwork in a trust to the city. She was explicit in her will that it be “maintained as an example of the old antebellum homes of the South.” The city almost declined her gift because of the loss of future property taxes. The Woman’s Exchange stepped in, paid annual rent, and agreed to show the home. It opened the house for tours May 1, 1932, that same day, the Woman’s Exchange gift shop also began operating in its new home.

Black and white photograph of 8 Catholic nuns.
Sisters of St. Joseph

St. Joseph Academy

Sisters of St. Joseph, 1866-Present Day

The original eight Sisters came to St. Augustine, from Le Puy France, at the request of Bishop Augustin Verot. They learned English and began teaching the formerly enslaved children and adults. They supported themselves through the sales of handmade lace, private French lessons, music and art, and by boarding invalids. In 1874, they opened St. Joseph Academy and in the 1890s, they opened St. Benedict the Moor School in Lincolnville, a school for black youth. They opened hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, homes of unwed mothers, and served in pastoral ministries and the migrant missions. In 1980, the Academy relocated from St. George Street to State Road 207.
Black and white photograph of Peonte and Ah-kah
Peonte, Akes, and Comache prisoners

Peonte and Ah-kes, 1800s

From 1875-1878, Plains Indians were incarcerated in Castillo de San Marcos, known then as Fort Marion. The group consisted of 74 Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, and Caddo prisoners who were brought to St. Augustine from Fort Sill. All were male, except three. Two of them were not technically prisoners but had refused to leave Black Horse; Peonte, also known as Mother, was wife to Black Horse, and Ah-kes, her daughter, was nine years old. Initially, conditions were bleak at the fort. When Lieutenant Pratt took over, he would remove their shackles and bring in teachers to provide a western education. While incarcerated at the Fort, Ah-kes was taught English and wrote a letter to the President asking for the freedom of her people. After three years they were released to the care of the Indian Bureau. The pressure to give up their cultural identity for a new way of life had significant impact for generations to come.

Black and white photograph of Black Horse and Mochi.
Medicine Water and Mochi

Mochi (Buffalo Calf Woman), 1800s

Mochi (Buffalo Calf Woman) was born in 1841, a Southern Cheyenne woman of the Tse Tse Stus band. At 24, she was a member of the Black Kettle’s camp and witnessed the Sand Creek Massacre. This event lead her to become a warrior, and she fought with her husband in battles and raids for the next 11 years. For her actions, she was incarcerated and sent to Fort Marion. She was the only woman to be held as an official prisoner at the Fort during the Plains Indians incarceration (1875-1878). During her time at Fort Marion, she refused to learn western culture and mourned the loss of her family and former way of life. Upon her release, she returned to Oklahoma, where she stayed until her passing in 1881.

Ledger art drawing of school room with Plains Indians prisoners and teacher.
Ledger Art titled, "School"

Sarah Ann Mather, 1818-1894

Sarah Ann Mather and Rebecca Lathrop Perit started a school for the children of formerly enslaved people in St. Augustine. They later became teachers for the Plains Indians who were incarcerated at the fort from 1875-1878. Mather and Perit, along with Anna Pratt, Nannie Burt, Julia and Laura Gibbs, Amy Carruthers, and Harriet Beecher Stowe assisted Lieutenant Pratt in his efforts to educate the prisoners. For the prisoners who were released and wanted to continue their education, Mather worked to secure opportunities. In addition to learning how to read and write English, the prisoners also created Ledger Art, narrative drawings and paintings on old accounting books that depicted their experiences. During her time, Mather was considered a champion for education. However, past efforts to remove American Indians from their culture and "westernize" them are widely criticized today.

Black and white photograph of Harriet Beecher Stowe.
Harriet Beecher Stowe

Florida Memory

Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1811-1896

Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist, author, and educator. She is most remembered for authoring Uncle Tom's Cabin, a novel advocating for the end of slavery. In the late 1800s, Mrs. Stowe and her friend Miss Mather are depicted in some of the art created by the incarcerated Plains Indians who were their pupils at Fort Marion. She wrote extensively about the Plains Indian incarceration period, 1875-1878. In a memoir titled The Plains Indians at St. Augustine, she detailed her impression of the prisoners as eager students. Much of her writing reflects her cultural lens, viewing the white American way of life as preferred and superior over the American Indian way of life.

Black and white photograph of Lenna Geronimo.
Lenna Geronimo

National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

Lenna Geronimo, 1886-1919

Lenna Geronmio was born at Fort Marion in 1886, the daughter of famous war leader Geronimo and his wife Ih-tedda. Over 500 Apache, including Ih-tedda, were imprisoned in 1886 at Fort Marion for over a year as the U.S. Government attempted to prevent their resistance to the reservation system. When she was born, the Army medical staff named her Marion, after the fort; she later changed it to Lenna. In 1887, the Apache prisoners were relocated to Mount Vernon, Alabama, where they were reunited with family members, like Geronimo himself, who had been held at Fort Pickens in Pensacola. The Apache would be transferred again to Fort Sill in Oklahoma. They weren't released until 1913.
Black and white photograph of a woman in a dress.
Jennie Louise Flagler Benedict

Henry Morrison Flagler Museum

Jennie Louise Flagler Benedict, 1855-1889

The 1890 Memorial Presbyterian Church is a spectacular example of the Venetian Renaissance Revival style. It was built by hotel magnate Henry Flagler in memory of his daughter, Jennie Louise Flagler Benedict. She died of complications from childbirth, on her way to visit her father. The church was designed by internationally renowned architects John M. Carrere and Thomas Hastings, who had also designed Flagler's Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College). The remains of Henry Flagler, Mary Harkness Flagler (his first wife), Jennie Louise, and Margery (his infant grandaughter) are in a mausoleum within the church. The building's copper dome is modeled after the Basilica de San Marco in Venice. The women in Flagler's life had great influence on him. The guilt he felt over Jennie's death led him to change his work habits and lifestyle. In 1959, Jean Flagler Matthews, Henry Flagler's granddaughter, established the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum as a nonprofit corporation that houses an extenstive collection from America's Gilded Age.

Black and white of Luella Day McConnell.
Luella Day McConnell

Luella Day McConnell, 1870-1927

Luella Day was a practicing physician who struck out in search of gold in the Klondike in 1897. In 1900, Luella and her husband, Edward McConnell, arrived in St. Augustine. She made quite an impression on high society with her ermine coats, bejeweled rings, and diamond-studded front tooth, which earned her the nickname Diamond Lil. The McConnells bought a large tract of land just north of town, on which stood a small, square coquina fountain. Luella began selling cups of “youth water” from her small fountain, turned her property into a park, and started charging charging admission. She claimed to “uncover” a stone cross in the ground that was 15 stones in length and 13 in width, supposedly signifying Ponce de Leon’s landing date, along with a metal casket that she claimed contained papers about the stone cross. Diamond Lil soon became very popular, but not everyone bought her “fountain of youth” story. Emily L. Watson, a contributor to the fledgling St. Augustine Historical Society, spent countless hours researching Luella’s claims, poring over Library of Congress documents, and looking for information disproving Diamond Lil. Wilson tried to dissuade Walter B. Fraser, a local businessman, from buying the property and continuing the myth, but she was unsuccessful; Fraser avidly developed the land. Today, the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is one of St. Augustine’s most popular tourist attractions. Despite the false fountain and wild claims, however, the site does have significant historical value. Archaeological excavations have revealed that the property once housed the village of Seloy, the Timucuan Indian settlement that Pedro Menéndez and his men encountered in 1565 when they first established the city of St. Augustine.

Modern photograph of Grace Memorial Church.
Grace Memorial Church

Wilma E. Davis, 1890- 1992

The 1887 Grace United Methodist Church is yet another Carrere & Hastings design, this one in the Spanish Renaissance Revival style. When Wilma E. Davis was baptized there in 1893, it marked the beginning of life lifelong association with the Methodist Church. At a time in which women ministers were rare, she was ordained a deacon in the Florida Conference of Methodism in 1924. Five years later she was ordained an elder, becoming the first woman to receive this certificate. As she traveled around the world, she maintained her association with Grace Church serving as a church pastor, working with youth and studying in Boston and the Middle East.

Black and white photograph of Zora Neale Hurston.
Zora Neale Hurston

Smithsonian American Art Museum, Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts

Zora Neale Hurston, 1891-1960

Inspired by her parents' determination to rise from former enslavement, she first attended Howard University and then earned a scholarship to attend Barnard College. Joining the cultural movement now known as the Harlem Renaissance, she traveled to the Caribbean and American South to study African culture. She lived in St. Augustine on several occasions throughout the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. She authored multiple essays, articles, and novels; the most popular being, Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937). She is regarded as a world-renowned writer and anthropologist of African Folklore. Her works were not appreciated in her lifetime due to segregation and racism. A rediscovery of her works in the 1980s and '90s led to a new appreciation of her works, many which are now standard reading in the curriculum of high school and college literature classes. The St. Augustine City Commission chose Zora Neale Hurston to be memorialized with the naming of a local park, located at the corner of King Street and US-1.

SPARs at Castillo de San Marcos.
SPARs at the Fort

SPARs, 1940s

The United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve was chartered in November 1942 as a way for women to join the war effort during the Second World War. SPAR stands for Semper Paratus, Always Ready, the Coast Guard motto. Although the SPARs could not go to sea and had no authority over any male Coast Guardsman, they could serve as yeoman, clerks, parachute riggers, chaplains’ assistants, air control tower operators, boatswains’ mates, coxswains, radiomen, ship's cooks, vehicle drivers, and many more shore jobs, freeing the men to fight overseas. The SPARs were under direct military discipline, and they marched and drilled and drew the same pay as their male counterparts. The Coast Guard Women’s Reserve trained in many places throughout the country, including St. Augustine. Most of the SPARs were housed in the Ponce de Leon Hotel, whose contract with the military helped pull them out of the slump in tourism caused by the first years of the war. The female “Coasties” lived on one floor of the hotel while the men lived on the others. After the end of World War II, SPARs were gradually discharged up until June 30, 1946, Demobilization Day. About 10,000 women departed the Coast Guard Reserve with the same spirit of patriotism and dedication with which they had entered, confident that they had done their part to win the war.

Black and white photograph of Kat Twine.
Kat Twine

ACCORD Freedom Trail

Katherine Alice Twine, 1925-2002

Mrs. Katherine Twine, came to be known as the "Rosa Parks of St. Augustine" for her leadership in the civil rights movement. She demonstrated by marching and going to local segregated businesses in St Augustine. She was arrested so many times that she began to carry a large-brimmed hat which she called her "Freedom Hat" with her whenever she thought she would be arrested in order to have some shade from the sun in the outdoor stockade at the crowded jail. She also participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. She and her husband, who was the president of the NAACP division in St. Augustine, were among those who contacted and facilitated Dr. Martin Luther King coming to St. Augustine in 1964. The Twines continued to work for equality after the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. For their efforts, Katherine Twine was honored with the City of St. Augustine's prestigious "de Aviles Award" and they are both memorialized with the naming of Twine Street and Twine Park.

Black and white photograph of a Civil Rights March on Castillo's sidewalk.
Civil Rights March on Park's Sidewalk

Fannie Louise Fulwood, Civil Rights Movement

Fannie Louise Fulwood was a leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) during the 1960s Civil Rights movement in St. Augustine. In March of 1963, Mrs. Fannie Fulwood and Mrs. Eliza Hawthorne, representing the St. Augustine NAACP, wrote to President John F. Kennedy, asking that he oppose a federal grant for the city’s 400th birthday celebration because they excluded blacks citizens and would not meet with them to discuss the city’s racial problems. Fulwood, who earned her living as a housekeeper and maid, was the recipient of numerous awards, including the St. Augustine de Aviles Award and a fellowship award from the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Drawings of several female park rangers wearing uniforms from different time periods.
Early Female Ranger Uniforms

Women of the National Park Service, 1916-Present Day

Since its inception in 1916, the National Park Service has generally been a male-dominated organization, as it was originally formed from the United States Cavalry. The first official female employees of the Park Service appeared in 1918. They were Clare Marie Hodges and Helene Wilson, hired as temporary rangers while their male counterparts went to war. The Park Service was a hard field to break into for women, and most early female Rangers were Park Service wives, and they were usually temporary or confined to the job of naturalist. During World War II, many more women, especially wives of Rangers, joined the National Park Service as the men joined the military. The Park Service’s opinion of what was suitable duty for women was still a bit old-fashioned, and they were not placed positions where they would be called to fight fires, take part in rescue operations, or do other hazardous work. They were mostly confined to lecture programs, guided tours, museum and library work, and research programs. Today, female Park Rangers now have access to all the same positions as their male counterparts, and comprise just over 38% of the National Park Service staff. Martha Aikens became the first female Superintendent of Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in 1980.

Modern photograph of Kathy Deagan and other archaeologists during a dig.

Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida

Kathy Deagan: University Professor and Museum Curator

The University of Florida has maintained a program of research and field school training in St. Augustine since 1972, under the direction of Dr. Kathleen Deagan. This program has been designed to learn about Spanish adaptations and the development of a criollo culture in America, while at the same time providing field training for archaeology students. The field school program works closely with the City Archaeologist and the City of St. Augustine to provide input for their Living History Museum depicting life in Spanish St. Augustine. As a museum curator, Kathleen also directs the Florida Museum of Natural History’s program in Historical Archaeology, which is based on building and maintaining archaeological collections from historic sites, and developing research and exhibits projects related to the collections.

Photograph of Martha Aikens at her desk at Castillo NPS Headquarters.
Martha B. Aikens


Martha B. Aikens, National Park Service

Martha B. Aikens became the first female Superintendent of Castillo de San Marcos National Monument (1980-1983). In an interview in 1985, Aikens recalled that as the first double minority superintendent there was a community reaction of "wait and see," or a kind of guarded acceptance. With park experience as unit manager at Gateway/Breezy Point and in Everglades National Park she addressed a number of issues in need of resolution at St. Augustine. Aikens was with the NPS for over 30 years and received the Distinguished Service Award, the highest Departmental honor award, for her contributions as a manager, trainer, enterprising leader, and administrator for the National Park Service.


Women's National History

Loading results...

    Last updated: August 29, 2020

    Park footer

    Contact Info

    Mailing Address:

    8635 A1A South
    Saint Augustine, FL 32080


    904 471-0116

    Contact Us