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MAY MANN JENNINGS, 
FLORIDA'S GENTEEL ACTIVIST 



By 
LINDA DARLENE MOORE VANCE 



A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL 
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN 
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR 
THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY 



UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 
1930 



Copyright 19 8 

by 

Linda Darlene Moore Vance 



This dissertation is dedicated to 
my family. 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS 

The author is indebted to many people for the comple- 
tion of this work. First, to my children, who kept the 
pressure on by asking everyday for six years when "Momma" 
would be through with school and finished with her book; 
second, to the staff of the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida 
History at the University of Florida — Elizabeth Alexander, 
Ellen Hodges, and Steve Kerber — who were always helpful; 
third, to Dorothy Jennings Sandridge, who gave generously 
of her time and shared the Jennings family's papers, memen- 
toes, and photographs; fourth, to my parents who financed 
the undertaking when funds ran low; and finally to Dr. 
Samuel Proctor, friend, mentor, and chairman of my doctoral 
committee. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

page 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iv 

ABSTRACT vii 

CHAPTER 

I "CRYSTAL GROVE" AND PAPA 1 

Notes to Chapter 1 17 

II "BEYOND THE ALPS LIES ITALY" 20 

Notes to Chapter II 41 

III SHERMAN 44 

Notes to Chapter III 71 

IV THE GOVERNOR ' S LADY 7 5 

Notes to Chapter IV Ill 

V JACKSONVILLE, THE FEDERATION AND OTHER 

THINGS 114 

Notes to Chapter V 142 

VI "... AN ENTHUSIASTIC CLUBWOMAN" 145 

Notes to Chapter VI 183 

VII MADAM PRESIDENT AND THE OLD-GIRL NETWORK 136 

Notes to Chapter VII 237 

VIII A DEDICATED LIFE 240 

Notes to Chapter VIII 267 

IX DOCTOR MAY 271 

Notes to Chapter IX 297 

X " LOVER OF BEAUTY" 3 

Notes to Chapter X 320 



page 

APPENDIX I "BEYOND THE ALPS LIES ITALY" 322 

APPENDIX II LIST OF PRESIDENTS OF FFWC , 1895-1920.. 325 

APPENDIX III LIST OF CLUBS IN FFWC 326 

APPENDIX IV ANNUAL CONVENTIONS OF FFWC, 1896-1919.. 331 

APPENDIX V CAMPAIGN SONG FOR MAY MANN JENNINGS.... 333 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 335 

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 345 



Abstract of Dissertation Presented to 

the Graduate Council of the University of Florida 

in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements 

for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy 



MAY MANN JENNINGS, 
FLORIDA'S GENTEEL ACTIVIST 



BY 

Linda Darlene Moore Vance 

August 1980 

Chairman: Samuel Proctor 
Major Department: History 

May Mann Jennings, 1872-1963, was one of Florida's 
most distinguished twentieth-century activists. She stands 
alone as the state's most important and successful female 
citizen. Unlike other civic-minded women who were married 
to prominent Florida men, May Jennings' many public contri- 
butions were not dependent upon or overshadowed by those of 
her husband, William Sherman Jennings, the state's seventeenth 
governor. 

For over sixty years she provided ideas and leader- 
ship to the Florida women's movement and to other political 
and civic causes. She was unexcelled as a strategist and 
lobbyist and served on scores of state boards and commissions. 
She worked for progress in the areas of education, conserva- 
tion, beautif ication, political reform, and female rights. 
She also played an active role in making the Florida 



Federation of Women's Clubs politically viable, in estab- 
lishing the first state park, the first State Board of 
Forestry, and in the creation of Everglades National Park. 
She was directly responsible for the establishment of 
various Jacksonville civic organizations and in the plan- 
ning and implementation of many statewide beautif ication 
projects. Late in her career she was honored by the 
Florida Legislature, Stetson University, the State Chamber 
of Commerce, and the University of Florida. 

This assessment of May Jennings' life and contribu- 
tions to Florida has been based upon two things. First, 
upon her concrete accomplishments, as listed above, and 
second, upon the fact that she achieved many successes at 
a time when women were either politically disfranchised or 
were viewed with skepticism and ridiculed by their male 
counterparts. Against great odds she overcame society's 
roadblocks and unselfishly furthered the public good while 
at the same time helping to bring Florida women into the 
political mainstream. 



CHAPTER I 
"CRYSTAL GROVE" AND PAPA 



A young family from the north, Austin Mann, his wife, 
Rachel, and their baby daughter, May, wintered in Ocala in 
1873. Impressed with the beauty of the state, with the busi- 
ness opportunities that seemed available, and with the bene- 
ficial effects the warm climate had upon his wife's health, 
Austin decided to make Florida the family's permanent home. 
By autumn of the following year he had purchased an estab- 
lished orange grove at Crystal River in Hernando County and 
had moved his family into the small cottage on the premises. 
They called the place "Crystal Grove," and it became the 
childhood home of their daughter who would grow up to become 
one of Florida's most notable women. 

Many people, places, and events shaped May Mann's 
character and personality. First and foremost was her 
father who was very much like May in his political ambition 
and his ability to work with people. May's parents shared 
a loving relationship. Little is known about Rachel Mann, 
but more is available on Austin, who became a successful 
businessman and prominent Florida politician. He was a 
dynamic and carefree individual. Energetic and imaginative, 
with an inventive mind, his entrepreneurial talents develop- 
ed early. He was small of stature, feisty and restless by 



nature, a spellbinding talker, and a natty dresser who had 

an eye for the ladies. He was a born promoter, what some 

2 
might call a "wheeler dealer." Mann was also a visionary 

who was often as impractical as he was ahead of his time. 

A free-thinking nonconformist, he was usually ready to try 

out new ideas and spent much of his life in economic and 

political pursuits which brought him both notoriety and 

financial rewards. 

By nearly every yardstick, he was already a success, 

when at the age of twenty-six, he moved his family to Florida. 

Born in Delaware County, Ohio, in 1847, he attended local 

schools and for three years attended Capitol University at 

3 
Columbus. He then studied law with his cousin, G.L. 

Converse, a future congressman, and was admitted to the Ohio 
bar in 1869. Mann was ambitious and interested in things 
other than the law, and moved east where he believed there 
were more business opportunities. While at Mauch Chunk, 
Pennsylvania, he met and married Rachel Elizabeth Kline, the 
second of five children of Frederick C. Kline and Z4arietta 
Staples Kline, longtime residents of the area. Rachel had 
thick, dark hair, attractive features, and was much admired 
for her piano playing and her clear soprano voice. She was 
a Methodist and sang in the local church's choir. Unfortu- 
nately, she suffered from poor health and was to die while 

still in her twenties. She and Austin were married on 

4 
April 24, 1871. On April 25, 1872, one year and a day 

after the marriage, May Elizabeth Austin Mann was born in 



Centerville, Bayonne Province, New Jersey, where the family 

5 
was then residing. Austin by that time had developed a 

new type of silver heel plate which proved valuable in the 

manufacture of shoes and which brought him a large, steady 

6 
income. 

After Austin made the decision to locate his family 
in Florida, he returned north, settled his business affairs, 
and with $90,000 received from selling the heel plate 
patent, he purchased "Crystal Grove." Posterity has not 
recorded what Rachel, a refined young lady from the urban 
Northeast, thought of Crystal River and its environs. She 
was probably appalled by the area's primitiveness and iso- 
lation and disappointed with the house at the grove. Years 
later, in an interview, May remembered that the dwelling 

was a small, crudely-built cottage sitting "on pine pillars 

7 
about eight to ten feet from the ground." That first 

encounter with the living conditions at "Crystal Grove" must 
have been disheartening since the family had been accus- 
tomed to more elegant accommodations. In those days houses 
in that part of Florida had only one major purpose, to pro- 
vide a high, dry place to eat and sleep. Austin soon built 
a more appropriate and spacious home for his family. 

In the 1870s Crystal River was scarcely more than a 

Q 

hamlet with a population of less than 100 people. Cut off 
from both major highway and railroad routes there was only 
one practical way in or out of the place. One had to travel 
aboard one of the steamers which stopped periodically to 



discharge freight and to take on firewood as it plied be- 
tween Cedar Key and Tampa Bay. Contemporary descriptions 
of the area were not very flattering. Daniel G. Brinton, 
who wrote a guidebook in 1869, described the Hernando County 

coastal lowland as "rich" even though it was "the most 

9 
unhealthy part of the penisula." J.M. Hawks, the author 

of another tourguide published in 1871 for "those who migrate 
with the swallows and robins," described Crystal River as a 
"flourishing village" whose inhabitants made their living 
by farming, fishing, tending citrus groves, and working in 
the cedar sawmills. The people were described as "peace- 
able and quiet, frugal and hospitable" but not much interest- 
ed in politics or in the outside world. There were no 
public schools, few churches, and the nearest newspapers 
were published at Ocala and Tampa, both a day's journey 
away. 

Why Austin Mann chose this remote spot to locate is 
not known. While Florida's tropical beauty and the promise 
of better health for his wife contributed to his decision, 
it is also obvious that he was afflicted with what one 
historian has called "orange fever," which was sweeping 
Florida in the 1870s. Intrigued by tales of quick riches, 
thousands of wealthy Northerners began moving south, invest- 
ing large sums of money in citrus acreage. How simple it 
all sounded; money figuratively growing on trees available 
just for the picking. One alluring advertisement induced 



many a Yankee and his money to come to Florida. It stated: 
"Clear off one acre of ground. Plant but one hundred 
orange trees twenty-one feet apart and in three years one 
has a capital of $10,000 bringing an interest of 10%. The 

land will cost but little. Each tree will produce 1,000 

12 • 

oranges each year bringing 1C a piece." This promise is 

more readily appreciated when one remembers that one dollar 
in those days was equivalent to approximately ten today. 
Would-be grove owners flooded the state but most by-passed 
the remote Gulf coast region. 

Hernando County was a frontier area in the 1870s. 
Although former United States Senator David Levy Yulee had 
his large and prosperous plantation there until the 1860s, 
few of the area's original settlers remained after the 
Civil War. Hampton Dunn, in his history of the county, says 
"it was still a frontier, the people hacking out a living 
under primitive conditions." According to one oldtimer, 
"in the early days bear and deer were as common as cattle 
now." Turkey, otter, and other wildlife were also abun- 
dant. The people lived off the land, which was fertile and 
productive. It was also cheap since most of it was nearly 
inaccessible. Although less isolated than far South Florida 
the area was still remote enough for its growth to be hin- 
dered. Most supplies and mail arrived by water although 
stagecoaches ran from Ocala and Brooksville weekly when the 
weather was good. Such land facilities were not very 



dependable. One of those coaches was described by a visi- 
tor to the area as "a little rattletrap sort of affair." 

Austin Mann, an active and ambitious man, acquired a 
reputation in his community as an adroit businessman. His 
grove proved lucrative and provided capital for other 
investments. He purchased additional lands for speculative 
purposes and undertook various innovative agricultural ven- 
tures. Florida's west coast needed developers like him; 

one writer noted that there was not "a single improved 

17 
farming implement in Hernando County. " At one time Mann 

tried raising sheep but the venture failed, even though he 

1 8 
imported high quality Marino stock from Spain. Perhaps 

his neighbors had something to do with his failure, for the 
cattlemen in the county resented the intrusion of the new 
livestock, and they turned their dogs loose on his flocks. 
Not to be outdone, he acquired the largest herd of cattle 
in the area, some 200 head. In addition to his agricultural 
and business interests he practiced law. He was very much 
interested in local politics, and by 1881 he had served two 
terms as a county commissioner, had attended various dis- 
trict and state political conventions, and had been elected 
to the 1880 Hancock-English presidential electoral ticket. 

Mann was able to pursue successful political and 
business careers simultaneously. His ingenuity and energies 
were well-suited to the post-Civil War era in which he lived. 
He held to the belief that progress and the public good were 



irrevocably linked to the many grand schemes in agriculture, 
timber, land, and railroad development which promoters and 
investors were relentlessly pursuing everywhere. As a con- 
sequence he involved himself in a number of activities 
which he hoped would attract settlers to Florida and make 
money for himself at the same time. He became an enthusias- 
tic booster of railroad, canal, and road development within 
his adopted state. 

While Mann had the ideas and the abilities needed 
to become a nineteenth-century tycoon, he did not have the 
ruthlessness necessary. He was a promoter, but he was 
also a maverick, for unlike many entrepreneurs of that 
period he was too trustful of those he met, and he often 
misjudged character. He also possessed a strong sympathy 
for poor people and devoted time and energy to provide them 
more economic opportunities and a measure of social and 
legal justice. Mann's forbears were Midwestern Protestants. 
Born and raised on a farm, he always thought of himself 
first as a farmer and then as a businessman. Thus, while 
his abilities and personality enabled him to adjust to a 
time when capitalists were profiting handsomely from the 
development of America's frontiers, he himself was never to 
pull off the coveted "Big Deal" and make the millions he 
desired. 

If he never became a millionaire, he was by most 
standards financially successful. Unfortunately, he never 



8 

managed his money very well; he was extravagant, spending 
freely on travel, fine clothes, cigars, horses, and expen- 
sive hotels and restaurants. He also enjoyed hob-nobbing 

with the rich and famous at their elegant watering holes 

19 
along the East Coast. His wife and children led as com- 
fortable and genteel a life as frontier Florida would 
permit. His business and political activities forced him 
to spend much time away from his home. Though his finances 
were to fluctuate his family never felt any insecurity, and 
as far as May ever knew there was always enough money avail- 
able to live well. She grew up feeling both emotionally 
and financially secure. Like her father, she v/as also to 
champion the less fortunate, work for social and political 
progress, and promote Florida and its people. 

Austin Mann's spendthrift nature sometimes forced 
him into debt, but mortgages and personal loans helped carry 
him between harvests, elections, and business deals. On 
occasion he was on the brink of bankruptcy, but he managed 
to recover, relying on little more than his perseverance. 
He never lost his optimistic outlook. Even in the bleakest 
of times he believed things would work out well. Through 
the years during dark times he wrote his family the follow- 
ing: "I can't make a deal at all. Seems tomorrow I think I 
will see a ray of light. ... It is simply almost impossi- 
ble to get men willing to part with cash and strange to say 
I have been parting with mine very rapidly but I know how 
to do once I am busted," and, "It takes pluck to make a 



deal at these times. If I fall down I might as well keep 
going. ... I am a fair sample of a gambler or like 
Napoleon believe in my Lucky Star. Yet even those who have a 

Lucky Star fail to see it in cloudy weather. Yet I am in 

20 
good spirits." To his daughter he wrote, "Why worry and 

make of life so anxious a matter? What you can't help 

don't worry about. Dear, you take life too seriously. It 

21 
is a large joke." May was to inherit her father's posi- 

tiveness but not his nonchalant fatalism. She had her feet 
planted more firmly on the ground. 

Austin Mann had a wide-ranging career. At one time 
or another after arriving in Florida he practiced law, owned 
and managed several sizable citrus groves and out-of-state 
peach farms, and operated a newspaper. He was elected to 
public office and was a leader in his political party. He 
promoted railroad, canal, and land development schemes, 
headed the Florida Orange and Vegetable Auction Company, 
managed the Florida Home Market and the Sub-Tropical Expo- 
sition, served as president of the Florida State Agriculture 

Association, and organized the Florida "Good Roads" move- 

22 
ment. This peripatetic lifestyle, together wxth his 

active mind, caused one friend to refer to him as a "brainy, 

23 

rushing man." He himself admitted: "I have to be moving. 

I hear the rumbling of the [railroad] car and must move on 

24 
even if it overtakes me." Throughout his life he remain- 
ed busy traveling, politicking, and organizing business 



10 

deals. He was reluctant to stop and rest although late in 
life he wrote his family: "I sometimes get tired of rambling 

always waiting for a deal to close. ... I am going to 

25 
get into something else. I am tired of skimming wind." 

May inherited her father's restlessness and tireless vital- 
ity, but she was able to channel her energies into more 
practical, worthwhile public service. 

Throughout his career, Mann was undaunted by incon- 
sistencies; he championed liberal political beliefs while 
still insisting upon a laissez-faire capitalistic economic 
philosophy. Apparently he was not aware of these incompat- 
ibilities. Accused sometimes of being a secret Republican, 
he was identified from time to time over the years as a 
Democrat, Independent, Allianceman, and Populist. His 
inconsistencies, plus the various situations and alliances 
he seemed always to be enmeshed in, led his political 
opponents to accuse him of erratic and fickle behavior. 
Enemies accused him at one time or another of being "an 
aristocrat," "a first-class demagogue," "a land shark" and 
a "Political Nondescript." Naturally his admirers and 
friends viewed him much differently. If his unconventional 
hybrid politics defy classification, it is obvious that he 
was a shrewd politician who possessed superior abilities and 
who seemed to thrive on the rough and tumble of Florida 
politics. Regardless of the assessment of Mann by friend 
or foe he left his mark on Florida and on its business and 
political institutions. 



11 

During the years that Mann was consolidating his 
business interests and establishing a political career his 
family continued to increase. Three years after May's birth, 
a boy, Roy Frederick, was born. In 1876 a second daughter, 
Nina Lucy, joined the family, and in 1879, Grace Irene was 
born. 27 A fifth child, Carl, died shortly after birth. 

"Crystal Grove" was a lively place to live in the 
1870s; it was not only the family's homestead, but also 
Mann's political headquarters. During these years May's 
lifelong fascination with politics began. From early child- 
hood she watched her father's political friends come and go. 
The lights often burned late at the Mann home while her 
papa and his associates held meetings to talk over political 
strategy. One can perhaps imagine the little girl standing 
in the shadows listening to the discussions as the grownups 
sat around the dinner table and talked politics. May was 
the only one of the Mann children to develop any inclination 
toward politics. 

Her father was the most important personal influence 
on her during her childhood years. Similar to him in per- 
sonality and habits, she followed in his footsteps by later 
pursuing her own public career. From her mother she inherit- 
ed artistic talents, but from her father she inherited a 
zest for life, and an optimistic outlook that was never to 
leave her. She also inherited his love of politics. From 
the beginning Mann treated his eldest daughter as his 



12 

favorite. He never excluded her from adult activities or 
discussions, and he never assumed that there were some 
things she could not do just because she was a girl. This 
liberating notion was to have a key place in her own philos- 
ophy of life. To her politics was just as legitimate an 
interest for women as for men. This radical, but to her 
natural, belief was to thrust her to the forefront of the 
women's movement just at the time when females were begin- 
ning to enter Florida's political arena. 

The Crystal River area began to expand with the 
arrival of new settlers. The Manns were recognized as one 
of the most prosperous and prominent families in the county. 
If life was comparatively simple, it was not dull. Children 
were educated either at home or at one of the small private 
schools in the town. In addition to the usual household 
and farm chores, there were picnics, church socials, polit- 
ical rallies, fishing trips, blackberry hunts, holiday 
celebrations, orange harvest time, romps in the new cut 
hay, and buggy rides down shady, moss draped forest lanes. 
May especially enjoyed horseback riding. She liked to 
perform stunts and do acrobatics while riding her horse. 
She became an expert horsewoman. Years later she hung her 

girlhood saddle and riding habit in her Jacksonville home 

2 8 
as a gentle reminder of those earlier, carefree days. 

Even "Crystal Grove" itself was to have an influence 

upon her. To grow up in rural Florida's tropical wilderness, 



13 

in the midst of a citrus grove where the sweet scents and 
beauty of nature were as close as the very air itself, was 
to leave a deep impression upon her. It produced in her a 
lifelong love of the outdoors. Plants, trees, flowers, and 
wildlife became for her a special and precious part of life. 
Later she planned and developed award-winning gardens and 
she owned thousands of acres of Florida land. Because of 
her attachment to nature she became a recognized leader in 
the movement to conserve and preserve Florida's tropical 
wilderness. Of all her public works her commitment to this 
cause never wavered. At times it would take precedence 
over all her other interests. When grown she remembered 
"Crystal Grove" with fondness. She wrote: "My memory lingers 
caressingly over the years spent in dear old Hernando . . . 

back to my childhood . . . Crystal River is very dear to 

„29 

me. 

After 188 the Mann family was never the same. First 
Nina Lucy, four years of age, died during the summer of 1880. 
Rachel, pregnant with the family's fifth child and weak 
from a chronic cough, never recovered from the death of 
her child. The next winter she contracted what the family 
believed was a severe cold but in reality was advanced 
tuberculosis. Unable to recover her strength she traveled 
to Pennsylvania to live with her parents and try to regain 
her health as she awaited the birth of her new child. Carl 
Mann was born on March 25, 1881, but Rachel never recovered. 
Weak and unable to care for her baby properly he too took 



14 

sick and died only a few months after his birth. This was 
a blow from which Rachel Mann never recovered. Bedridden 

and unable to care for herself she lingered less than a 

30 

year and died at her parents' home on August 20, 1882. 

She was only twenty-eight . The medical cause of her passing 
was tuberculosis, but grief no doubt played a major role. 
Austin was at her bedside when she died. A gentle woman, 
Florida friends remembered her as one who would "mount her 
horse with her babe and a basket of necessaries in her arms, and 
ride ten miles through the forest to minister to the sick 
and poor." She was buried in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. 

The loss of Nina Lucy affected May deeply, but 
nothing was to overwhelm her and change her life quite as 
much as the death of her mother. Years later when May was 
directing the clubwomen of Florida in public health work 
she wrote to a colleague, who was proposing an anti-tubercu- 
losis campaign, "I do not think there is any more important 
work. ... I lost my mother with the disease, when I was 

a little girl of nine. ... So you see the matter comes 

32 

very close to me." It is not difficult to imagine what 

a mother's death can mean to such a young child, but in 
May's case it is known that drastic changes took place in 
her life. She became the eldest female in the household 
and she was forced to assume responsibilities beyond her 
years. Her mother's death was a deep personal loss. In 
later years she hung an oil painting of her mother in her 



15 

bedroom, and one of the first things she did each morning 
was to wipe the moisture and dust from that portrait. It 

was a symbolic gesture allowing her to express her innermost 

33 

feelings . 

Austin Mann was also faced with a serious problem. 
How was he to raise three children alone? There were ser- 
vants in the house but they could hardly be expected to 
provide the close supervision and guidance which the 
children needed. He himself had neither the inclination 
nor the time to take on that responsibility, for at the 
moment he was in the midst of an intense political campaign 
for the state senate. Two months after his wife's death 
the following item appeared in a Tampa paper: "The Democrats 
of Hernando County have succeeded in getting their local 
politics into a terrible tangle. It seems the Mann nomi- 
nated for the Senate, was not the man they wanted at all, 

so another 'Conservative Democrat' has come out Independent- 

34 
ly against him." Mann won the election, and the problem 

of how to care for his children became more acute than ever. 

Crystal River friends helped out temporarily but a 

more permanent arrangement was necessary if Mann was to 

fulfill his public duties and be sure that his children's 

needs were properly met. He persuaded his cousin and her 

husband to come from Ohio to live at "Crystal Grove" and to 

care for the children while he attended the legislative 

session at Tallahassee. The arrangement was only for a 

short while because the couple had to return to their own 



16 



home after a few months. Mann then took the children to 

Jacksonville where they lived with friends, but this too 

35 
proved unsatisfactory. Once more he was faced with the 

problem of what to do. In October, 18 83, he thought he 
had found a solution. Roy was to be cared for by family 
friends in Brooksville, and May and Grace were enrolled as 
year-round boarders at St. Joseph's Academy, a convent 
school in St. Augustine. 

Austin Mann continued to cultivate both his grove 
and his political career. In 1885 he married again. His 
second wife was Susie B. Williams of Nashville, Tennessee. 
Once more there was a mother in the household but only for 
a brief time. She too died a short time later in child- 
birth. Again Austin was left a widower, and now there 
was a newborn infant to care for. The family with which 
Roy was living agreed to take Austin, Jr. The girls remained 
at the academy, and a new chapter in May's life began. 



17 

Notes to Chapter I 

John Q. Langford, Jr. , "Senator Austin S. Mann" 
(unpublished MS., Gainesville, 1950), P.K. Yonge Library 
of Florida History, n.p. 

2 

Interview with Dorothy Brown Jennings. July 27, 

1978, Penney Farms, Florida. 

3 
Florida Legislative Directory 12th Session 1883 , 

p. 59. Austin Mann was born January 14, 1847. 

4 
Elizabeth Bell Hightower to author. July 2, 1978. 

Rachel Kline was born on September 11, 1852. 

Lucy Worthington Blackman, The Women of Florida 
(Jacksonville, 1939), II, p. 92. " ~ ~" " 

r 

Langford, Jr., "Senator Austin S. Mann," n.p. 
7 Ibid . 

g 

Richard J. Stanaback, A History of Hernando County, 
1840-1975 (Brooksville, 1976), p. 47. 

9 
David G. Brinton, A Guidebook of Florida and the 

South for Tourists, Invalids, and Immigrants (Jacksonville, 

1869) , p. 107. 

J.M. Hawks, The Florida Gazetteer (New Orleans, 
1871) , p. 45. 

R.A. Divine, "The History of Citrus Culture in 
Florida, 1565-1895" (unpublished MS., Gainesville, 1952), 
P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, n.p. 

12 

Hawks, Florida Gazetteer , p. 45. 

13 

Hampton Dunn , Back Home: A History of Citrus County, 

Florida (Inverness, 1978), p. 74. 

14 

Ibid . , p. 67. 

15 

George M. Barbour, Florida for Tourists, Invalids 

and Settlers (New York, 1882), p. 53. 

"I c 

Hernando County land ownership certificates for 
79.8, 119.7, 40, 41.6, 80.7, and 40.1 acres, 1882. Austin 
Shuey Mann Papers (3 Boxes), Box 1. P.K. Yonge Library of 
Florida History, Gainesville (hereafter cited as the ASM 
Papers) . 



17 

Hawks, Florida Gazetteer , p. 46. 

18 

Langford, Jr., "Senator Austin S. Mann," n.p. 

19 

Interview with Dorothy Brown Jennings. 

20 

A.S. Mann to May M. Jennings, October 5, 19 03, 

December 4, 1903, and December 14, 1903. May Mann Jennings 
Papers (19 Boxes) , Box 1 (hereafter cited as MMJ Papers) . 
A.S. Mann to William S. Jennings, August 22, 1899. William 
S. Jennings Papers (28 Boxes) , Box 3. P.K. Yonge Library 
of Florida History, Gainesville (hereafter cited as WSJ 
Papers) . 

21 

A.S. Mann to May Jennings, August 9, 1906, December 

10, 19 03. MMJ Papers, Box 2. 

22 

Langford, Jr., "Senator Austin S. Mann," n.p. 

23 

S.S. Harvey to A.S. Mann, June 5, 19 02. ASM Papers, 

Box 1. 

24 

A.S. Mann to May Jennings, December 22, 1903. MMJ 

Papers, Box 2. 

25 

A.S. Mann to Marietta Staples Kline, December 22, 

19 03; and to May Jennings, October 11, 19 04. MMJ Papers, 

Box 2. 

2 ft 

Landford, Jr., "Senator Austin S. Mann," n.p. 

27 

United States Census, 10th, 1880 Florida , Hernando 

County. 

28 

Interview with Dorothy Jennings Sandridge, June 8, 

1978. Orange Park, Florida. 

29 

Speech, May Jennings, "What Brooksville and Hernando 

County Can Be If Her People Will," 1915. MMJ Papers, Box 
16. May Jennings to Mrs. Louis Thompson, May 18, 1917. 
MMJ Papers, Box 10. 

Mann- Jennings family Bible in possession of Dorothy 
Jennings Sandridge. 

31 

Undated and unidentified newspaper clipping in pos- 
session of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge. 

32 

May Jennings to Dr. Grace Whitford, September 7, 

1917. MMJ Papers, Box 11. 



19 
33. 

Tampa Sunland Tribune, October 20, 1882. 



Interview with Dorothy Brown Jennings. 
34 r 



35 

Biographical sketch of May Mann Jennings, 1919. 

MMJ Papers, Box 16. 

Austin Mann, Jr. , was born in Tallahassee, December 
20, 1886. 



CHAPTER II 
"BEYOND THE ALPS LIES ITALY" 



May Mann and her sister remained at the St. Augustine 
convent for almost seven years, a period that would leave 
an indelible mark upon the girls. Although they were only 
eleven and five at the time, St. Joseph's Academy provided 
May and Grace with the personal attention, discipline, and 
education that they needed. They received moral guidance 
and a sound education, and they left the school with a 
strong sense of duty and an understanding of their responsi- 
bility to society. 

While the convent provided the girls the love and care 
they needed, Roy and Austin, Jr., were not so fortunate. 
They were to become alienated and to develop behavior prob- 
lems which later brought dismay and grief to the family. 
The contrast between Austin Mann's sons and his two daugh- 
ters was striking and can only be attributed to the dif- 
ference in the quality of their respective up-bringings. 

The school at St. Augustine was operated by the Sisters 

of St. Joseph, a Catholic order which had been organized at 

2 
Le Puy, France, in 1648. The order came to America at the 

summons of Bishop Augustine Verot after the Civil War to 

minister to the newly-freed Florida slaves. Arriving in 

St. Augustine in 1866, they established one of the state's 

20 



21 
first schools for Negroes. A school for white boys was 
soon added, and in 1877 a school for white girls was estab- 
lished. The sisterhood started academies elsewhere in the 
state, the most important at Jacksonville and Fernandina. 
The St. Augustine school was the original institution and 
the site of the Motherhouse of the order in America. From 
the time the nuns arrived in Florida they raised money to 
support themselves and their schools by teaching, giving 
private art, music, and French lessons, and by selling 
their famous delicate, handmade lace. By 1883, when May 

and Grace enrolled at St. Joseph, its reputation as a highly 

4 
respected educational institution was firmly established. 

From 1874 until 198 the convent and academy have 
occupied the same site in St. Augustine. The O'Reilly 
house, one of the city's oldest structures, and still main- 
tained by the order, once served as the academy. When May 
entered the school, however, there was a new three-story 
building which housed the classrooms, chapel, and a dormi- 
tory. It was of Mediterranean style architecture, construc- 
ted of coquina and brick, overlaid with white plaster, and 
it had a red tile roof. It fronted on St. George street 
and was only two blocks from the waterfront and historic 

market square. The building still stands and is still in 

5 
use by the order. 

During the 1880s the school was surrounded by spacious 

grounds which contained vegetable, fruit and flower gardens, 



22 

grape arbors, and a quaint little octagonal-shaped gazebo. 
The entire property of several acres was enclosed by a high 
rock wall which provided privacy. Great wooden gates marked 
the entrances. The place projected a friendly, inviting 
appearance because of the lovely tropical vines and flowers 
that cascaded over the walls. 

From the time the academy first began enrolling white 
students most of them came from St. Augustine and the sur- 
rounding area. There were some, however, from elsewhere in 
Florida. Students of all religious persuasions, including 
those who were not Christian, were admitted, but the majority 
were Catholics. The Manns were Baptists, and May and Grace 
maintained that faith throughout their years at the academy. 

St. Joseph's Academy was unique; unlike most institutions 
in the South, with perhaps the exception of schools in New 
Orleans, it projected an international flavor. The nuns 
were French and many of the students came from Spanish, 
Minorcan, and Italian backgrounds. This fact perhaps added 
to May's natural inquisitive, searching nature. She was al- 
ways interested in other places and peoples. She was well- 
read and tried to learn as much about other people and far- 
away places as possible. She liked to travel and to read 
about other countries. Her interest in new ideas and 
different cultures was obvious to her friends and associates. 
Once, in explanation of her liberal attitude, she wrote, "I 

was educated in a convent and I look at life through much 

.16 
broader glasses than the average person does. 



23 

When May entered St. Joseph's the superior was Mother 
Marie Lazarus Lhostal and the principal was Sister Margaret 
Mary, both pioneer workers in the order. They became May's 
mentors and counselors and were to remain her friends long 
after she left the school. The steadying influence of the 
nuns at the convent left May with an equanimity and equipoise 
which she carried the rest of her life. 

May looked after Grace while they lived at the school. 
Their close relationship enabled them to maintain a sense 
of family and prevented them from feeling isolated and for- 
gotten. Grace remained under May's guardianship until years 
later when she was married and had established a home of 
her own. The girls lived in a large dormitory room on the 
top floor of the school building. "From the moment young 
girls arrived at the convent they were struck by the kind- 
ness of the sisters, women who wore long black dresses and 
veils, and white guimpes (collars) starched of linen, which 
they called holy habits. Almost immediately, the sisters 
would take the newcomer upstairs to be assigned her place 
in the dormitory. The first sight that met the eye left 
an impression of spotless cleanliness: long rows of (iron) 
beds neatly curtained in white and windows that opened 
almost to the floor, set in a large room made airy by tall 
ceilings. Off the dormitory was the lavatory, with several 
basins, tubs and stalls. Washing one's face in sulphur water 
was a new experience for some. Supper in the refectory 



24 

(seldom called the dining room) was served after dark, and 
then the girls gathered for what the sisters called recrea- 
tion. Bells sounded for all changes of occupation and when 
the bell rang, very loudly, for retiring, the rules of the 
academy were that the girls were to obey immediately. A 
new girl went through a period of orientation, learning the 
rules, including early rising, and going through the beau- 
tiful grounds of the academy. Students there interchanged 

the words academy and convent as if they were the same, but 

7 
the convent was off bounds for the students." 

The girls were allowed to take but few personal items 
to the school, but each had that omnipresent boarding school 
object, the traveling trunk, in which she kept her most 
personal and prized possessions. Twice each year the school 
had a "trunk day." The boarders carted the musty old things, 
some of which were quite large, out of the dormitory and 
down to the grounds below, where amongst the roses and fruit 
trees they opened them up and aired out their contents. 
"Trunk day" was looked forward to with some anticipation 
for it was like a holiday with fun and laughter and the 
exchanging and swapping of prized treasures. 

Despite the confinement and strict rules, life at St. 
Joseph's was not gloomy or harsh. The girls received, along 
with the academic course, a traditional southern-style 
finishing school education. A school prospectus described 
the school's offerings. Discipline was "mild but firm," 



25 

and the instruction the kind where "young ladies (were) 
tenderly cared for and trained not only in matters of knowl- 

g 

edge, but also in the principles of refined deportment." 
There was constant emphasis on morals and manners. 

Tuition and board were $140 per year. There were no 
uniforms except on Sundays when the girls were required to 
wear black dresses, white shirtwaists , and high-buttoned 
shoes. Rules and regulations were closely supervised, and 
included "strict adherence to correct and refined language, 
polite deportment, gentle and engaging manners at all times, 
mandatory attendance at all public exercises, the obser- 
vance of silence except in hours of recreation, no visits 
home during the entire year, the subjection of letters and 

packages to inspection, and the prohibition of private 

9 

friendships. " 

"Music, both vocal and instrumental, as well as draw- 
ing and painting, received special attention. The latest in 
chemistry apparatus was at the command of the pupils. 
Boarders were taught, without extra charge, plain sewing, 
embroidery, different kinds of needle work and the making 
of French lace. Every means was taken on the part of the 
sisters to make the academy not only a place where knowledge 
and manners were acquired, but also to make the institution 
a happy home for the pupils during their school terms. . . . 
The academy had some modern conveniences, with water through- 
out the house and cold and warm sulphur baths available. . . , 
Convent girls learned to live by group rules." 



26 
One boarder left this delightful description of the 
typical day in the life of a St. Joseph girl: "There are 
always some sleepy heads among the crowd, so the sister in 
charge has to shake the lazy ones and tell them the bell 
has rung. When all are up one of the girls says prayers 
and some answer. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. It 
depends on how I feel. Then we hurry to dress--not much 
time for primping but if you do not look neat you are 
ordered back to the dormitory before school and lose a mark 
on neatness. Besides you are reprimanded by one of the 
sisters before the other girls. As we do not enjoy that we 
try to look our prettiest. The next thing we hear is the 
clapping of hands. That is another signal and it means that 
it is time for Mass. We have one little girl who primps so 
long before the glass that she is never ready to go down- 
stairs with the rest. You can hear her thin voice chirp- 
ing out, 'Please don't lock the door, sister.' Sister 
stood the nonsense as long as she could, but one day she 
locked the young lady in and the rest of us proceeded on 
our way. The young lady rushed downstairs on the sisters' 
side of the house and met us on the second landing, and 
talked indignantly about being closed in. Downstairs this 
is what we met: 'Well, girls, I thought a regiment of 
soldiers was coming and not a crowd of convent girls. ' We 
know who was the guilty one but said nothing. We went a 
little farther on when out popped a sister from the 



27 

chapel: 'What do you mean, girls, by talking so loud. You 
knov; you are not permitted to talk going to or coming from 
the chapel.' All looked at one another and giggled a little 
and then proceeded to the chapel. We are expected to be 
there on time to say morning prayers before Mass, but some- 
times we are too late and other times we are too soon. It 
is very seldom, however, that we fail by being too early. 
Mass over we march out to breakfast. Occasionally some 
girls will laugh or talk so much that we all are called 
back and made to walk from the chapel to the refectory again. 
By this time we are quite hungry and are ready for break- 
fast so we behave. After breakfast we go upstairs and make 
up our beds; then some go to practice, others to study. 
From half-past eight to half-past two we are in school. 
From two- thirty until four we do fancy work, play or read, 
from four to six we study, at six we go to the chapel to 
say the beads. When the beads are said, we go to supper. 
After supper, if it is pleasant, we recreate in the yard; 
if not we go to the sitting room where the sister reads 
aloud to us large girls while we work on embroidery. The 
juniors at their end of the room play games or talk. Some- 
times they forget they are in the house and become too 
boisterous then sister stops reading to say, 'Not so loud, 
girls.' At eight-fifteen the bell rings to retire. We go 
to the chapel and one of the older girls says night prayers. 
Then we must go in silence and order to the dormitory. Some 



28 

of us would like to 'cut up' but we know that if we do not 
go up in order, we will be marched down again and again 
until we do as we are told; as that is not very enjoyable 
we usually try to behave. Some are noble enough to do right 
because it is right, but others — well, it takes all kinds 
of people to make a world." 

Life within the confines of St. Joseph's Academy was 
not completely isolated. During the 1880s, when May lived 
there, St. Augustine was a lively city. Henry Flagler had 
become fascinated with the area, where he came on his 
honeymoon in 1883, and had decided to turn the town into a 
fashionable winter resort for the rich. During the decade 
the place underwent a major boom in building and expansion. 
There was an excitement which permeated all of north Florida. 
Northern tourists, many in their private railroad cars, 
arrived to stay in the magnificent hotels, the Ponce de Leon, 
the Alcazar, and the Cordova, which Flagler built. There 
were parties, fancy-dress balls, lawn tennis, trips to the 

beach, historic sites to visit, and promenades along the 

12 
waterfront to keep the winter tourists busy. 

May and the other girls knew of the exciting happen- 
ings taking place just beyond the school's walls. They 
heard about the parties and the social life and about the 
rich and famous people who were visiting the town. For the 
girls there were occasional chaperoned visits to local 
stores to shop. There were also school plays, musicals, 



29 

picnics, and games to keep them occupied. Sometimes there 
were even trips to the beach. According to one school 
advertisement, parents were advised that "there is a fine 

bath house situated on the Bay near the Convent (and) the 

13 
young ladies are frequently taken to bathe." May lxked 

St. Augustine, and after leaving the school she visited the 
city each winter for over thirty years. 

The scholastic year was divided into two terms cover- 
ing the months of September through January and February 
through June. There were written examinations at the end 
of each term. The curriculum was divided into primary, 
junior, and senior courses of study. May was an excellent 
student. Self -motivated, articulate, and inquisitive, she 
had a brilliant mind. She was one of the best pupils ever 
to attend the school and was a regular member of the honor 
roll. She became proficient in music, piano, voice, and art, 
and was awarded a gold medal for excellence in class work 
in her junior year. She received gold medals in her 

senior year for achievements in music, art, piano, voice 

15 
English composition, and French. Her course requirement 

for her senior program, which took three years to complete, 
included catechism, Church history, etymology, geography, 
ancient history, Middle Ages history, rhetoric, grammar, 
science, mental and practical arithmetic, algebra, elocu- 
tion, modern history, logic, chemistry, botany, geology, 



30 
literature, astronomy, composition, classics, bookkeeping, 

1 c 

mental philosophy, and civil government. 

May graduated valedictorian of her class in 1889. 
Her valedictory address was entitled "Beyond the Alps Lies 
Italy." It was an amazing little Victorian composition, 
poetic in style, in which she described, through metaphor, 
her years of residence and study at St. Joseph's and how she 
felt about it and home now that she had achieved her goal 
and was leaving. She had climbed the mountains and overcome 

all obstacles, and down below lay the fair vista of a lovely 

17 
land which beckoned her onward. 

May did not leave the convent immediately but elected 

to stay an extra year for post-graduate study. By the time 

she left the school she was eighteen and an articulate, 

well-educated young woman who was ready to take her place 

in the outside world. Her fellow students wrote of her: 

"our esteemed friend and schoolmate, Miss May Mann through 

her amiable disposition is much regarded and will ever have 

the fondest love of her teachers and companions. Having 

entered the academy when a mere child she was placed under 

the careful guardianship of the sisters. At the expiration 

of six years (she) was the worthy recipient of the highest 

honors. She proved herself to be a studious girl, a res- 
no 
pectful pupil and a faithful friend. " 

During their years in St. Augustine, Austin Mann 

visited his daughters frequently. Undoubtedly he approved 



31 

of the educational program at the convent for he publicly 
supported the school by advertising in its monthly publi- 
cations. 19 During school holidays and summers May stayed 
with her father at "Crystal Grove" and later at Brooksville, 
where he moved in 1887. During those times she often accom- 
panied him to his political meetings and on his travels 
around his district. She received much valuable political 
experience during those visits home. 

Austin married a third time. In January of 1891 he 
married Alsina M. Clark of Jacksonville. She was much 
younger than he and outlived him by many years. May was 
distraught that her father married a woman her own age but 
she soon forgave him and became a good friend of her young 
stepmother. Mann's political career had continued while 
his daughters were at St. Joseph's. From 1883 until 1887 he 
represented Hernando County and the twenty-second district 
in the state senate. As a member of the liberal wing of 
the Democratic party, he differed with the Bourbon leader- 
ship over the issues of railroad and corporate regulation, 
agricultural policy, and Negro rights. 

Mann attended the 1883, 1885, and 1887 legislative 
sessions. His main interest was agriculture and the pro- 
motion and development of the state. For two sessions he 
chaired the committees on agriculture and immigration. He 
tried without success to get a state bureau and commission 
of agriculture established, and he sought to promote Florida 



32 

by urging the state's participation in world and regional 
fairs. Mann also served on committees which investigated 
the Disston land sale, Indian War claims, and the Internal 
Improvement Fund. Well known throughout Florida, it was 
rumored that he would become the Independent party's candi- 
date for governor in 1884, but he spurned that movement and 
supported the regular Democratxc candidates. 

In the 18 85 session Mann somewhat reluctantly sup- 
ported Wilkinson Call's election to the United States 
Senate, for he doubted the sincerity of Call's liberalism. 
During that session he served on the committee which organ- 
ized the historic state constitution convention which 
convened at Tallahassee, June 9, 1885. He played a promi- 
nent role at the convention, chairing the committee on 

suffrage and eligibility, around which swirled several of 

21 
the convention's most controversial issues. The 1885 

Constitution decentralized state government and stripped 
the governor of much of his appointive powers. Mann favored 
homerule and local elections, and he clashed with representa- 
tives from "blackbelt" counties who favored a strong execu- 
tive and who wanted to disfranchise Negroes by adopting 
the poll tax. The poll tax was not popular in the counties 
in which whites predominated. Mann, who sided with farmers 

and labor, believed that the "poll tax was unfair to the 

22 

hard-working laboring class." He was responsible for the 

constitutional articles which made prohibition a matter of 



33 

local option and which authorized construction of a cross- 
Florida ship canal. He also supported creation of a state 
commissioner of agriculture. 

In the 18 37 legislature Mann attempted to take over 
the leadership of the anti-railroad Democrats from the Call 
faction, but he failed. He withdrew his public endorsement 

of Call whom he considered a "windbag" and a "fair weather 

23 
liberal." His feud with Call, which lasted for many years, 

consumed much of his energy. In the 1837 session he also 

supported a bill which created Pasco and Citrus counties out 

of parts of Hernando County, although passage of this bill 

was to prove harmful to his career. 

A special election was called to choose representa- 
tives for the new counties. The election in Citrus County, 
Mann's old-new district, turned into a donnybrook. Mann, 
who was standing for reelection and who was already a con- 
troversial figure, threw his support behind the new town 
of Mannsfield, for county seat. He was one of its developers 
and had already succeeded in having it designated as the 
temporary county seat. The campaign became heated, and two 
factions developed labeled Manns and anti-Manns. 

Mann was soundly defeated. One anecdote of the con- 
test was told years later by May and others and perhaps 
gives a clue to why he lost. It seems that, "the only 
charge that could be brought against [Mann] was that he 
was an aristocrat. He denied the charge and said he loved 



34 

Citrus County and its people, and was a cracker just like 
the rest of them. But when it came to the political 
speeches, the anti-Manns were loaded for bear. They charged 
that the senator slept in a nightshirt and was, therefore, 
an aristocrat. They called his hand when he was making a 
speech and forced him to admit that he (had) slept in a 
nightshirt even the night before. So what more did the 
people want? The candidate himself had admitted that he 
slept in a nightshirt, and anyone who slept in a nightshirt 
was an aristocrat, and an aristocrat was not a cracker, 
and by no stretch of the imagination should an aristocrat 
be a senator from Citrus County; and if you voted for him, 
someone might think you had a 'tetch' of aristocracy in 
your own system and might tell someone else. And it was 
just possible that it would become common knowledge. And 

that would be a disgrace that you could never live down. 

24 
On election day the senator was snowed under.' 

Mann's town fared little better. When an election 

was held to choose the county seat charges of stuffed ballot 

boxes resulted in an inconclusive outcome. The anti-Mann 

group settled the issue once and for all. They moved all 

the courthouse records, furniture, and equipment to Inverness 

at night, catching the Mann forces off guard. Mannsfield 

25 

soon became a ghost town. Angered and humiliated by his 

defeat and suffering from financial losses sustained during 
the harsh winter of 1886, Austin Mann left Crystal River. 



35 

He sold "Crystal Grove" and most of his other properties 

in that area and moved to Brooksville. There he established 

a new grove, bought the local newspaper, and began to prac- 

2 fi 

tice law. He continued his interest in politics. 

The 1880s were the years of farm discontent through- 
out the South and West. In 1887 the Farmer's Alliance, 
which had begun in Texas, began to organize in Florida. By 
1889 it was estimated that there were 20,000 Alliance mem- 
bers in the state. Mann was sympathetic to the organiza- 
tion's aims, some of which he had been espousing for years. 
He soon became one of its most prominent leaders. News 

reporters referred to him as the Alliance's "silver tongued 

27 
orator." It was Mann who organized the historic national 

convention which the Alliance held at Ocala in December of 

1890. Out of that meeting came the famous populist plat- 

2 8 

form known as the "Ocala Demands." It called for the 

abolition of all national banks, establishment of a sub- 
treasury plan which would provide farmers low-cost loans, 
regulation of railroads and trusts, direct popular election 
of United States Senators, coinage of unlimited amounts of 
silver, reform of the tariff system, and passage of a nation- 
al graduated income tax. All were radical ideas for those 
times. 

In the fall of 1890 the Alliance entered candidates 
in all of Florida's political races. Mann ran for the 
House, and it turned out to be one of his toughest races. 



36 

According to one historian it was a heated contest. Mann 
"had made a number of enemies in [Brooksville] because of 
the positions he took on the political issues of the 

day. ... It was a bitter campaign with lots of mud sling- 

29 
ing on both sides." Despite an anti-Mann torchlight 

parade on election eve Austin won the election. 

Over two-thirds of the 1891 legislators were 
Alliancemen and Mann was their leader. The legislative 
session was one of the stormiest on record. Wilkinson 
Call, Austin's old enemy, was up for reelection to the 
Senate. He was opposed by the railroad tycoon William D. 
Chipley and by Alliancemen, led by Mann. The two groups 
were uncomfortable "bedf ellows" ; only their opposition to 
Call united them. The pro- and con-Call forces actively 
debated his reelection. Mann's harsh laugh was often 
heard by the news reporters as it echoed above the din in 
the House. One of Mann's speeches v/as described as "a 
series of explosions." The pro-Alliance Daily Floridian 
called him "the Hero of Hernando." After weeks of incon- 
clusive wrangling and deadlocked votes Call ' s reelection 
was finally decided by an episode known as "Eabes-in-the- 
Woods." Seeking to prevent a quorum, Mann persuaded more 
than a dozen legislators to go on a "picnic" the day a 
crucial vote was to be taken. They journeyed to Thomasville, 
Georgia, where they whiled away the time eating lunch and 
drinking cider. The ploy failed. The pro-Call men, 



37 

undaunted by the maneuver, called a joint session and de- 
clared a quorum of both houses and reelected their candi- 
date. It was a bitter defeat for Mann and his Alliance 
followers. 

Disillusioned with his fellow Democrats and disap- 
pointed that the party did not adopt the Alliance's plat- 
form at its 1892 state convention, Mann broke with the 
Democratic party. He joined the newly formed People's 
Party, or Populist Party, as it was more commonly called, 
and became its candidate for Congress. Mann and the Popu- 
lists were branded as traitors by the Democrats. They were 
also opposed by almost every major newspaper in the state. 
The Jasper News derisively denounced Mann as "the chief 
hornblower [of a] scalaway circus." He and the other 
Populists were soundly defeated in the election. The 
agrarian movement was over, and so was Austin Mann's politi- 
cal career. Earlier, when the Alliance's co-op programs 

had gone under, Mann had remarked that "we busted because 

32 

we failed." The statement, while simplistic, applied just 

as aptly to his defeat in 18 92. He never again ran for 
public office although he continued to voice his unpopular 
and controversial views. He turned his interests elsewhere 
and began to work to improve Florida's road system and to 
develop the state's natural resources. 

May observed firsthand the last stormy years of her 
father's political career. In 1890 she left St. Joseph's and 



joined him in Brooksville. She helped him with his politi- 
cal campaign and with the arrangements of the Ocala convention. 
Late in 1890 her father introduced her to William Sherman 
Jennings, a judge from Brooksville who was an ambitious 
young man beginning to make a name for himself in Democratic 
party circles. Jennings was smitten with May, who had 
grown into a very attractive woman. Vivacious and charming, 
she was also Jennings' intellectual equal and she enjoyed 
politics as much as he did. They began to see each other 
often at political rallies, church socials, and cotillion 
dances. Soon he was calling at the Mann house to court her 
formally. 

During part of the 1891 legislative session May 

assisted her father. They lived at the St. James hotel 

33 

while in Tallahassee. She attended House sessions and 

handled Mann's correspondence and appointments. She also 
acted as his hostess. Government buildings were considered 
male sanctuaries in those days, and May must have created 
something of a stir as she moved through the Capitol corri- 
dors and offices. She was small, slim, fashionably dressed, 
and she wore her hair in the flattering Gibson Girl style. 
She enjoyed politics, and her capabilities, enthusiasm, and 
ease in handling politicians and adjusting to their way of 
life were quickly noticed by her associates. She soon made 
friends with legislators, their wives, and other state 
officials . 



39 

Jennings frequently visited Tallahassee on business. 
He made it his business to see May as often as possible. 
There were many places to go. Tallahassee, with a popula- 
tion of 2,000, was an exciting community, particularly when 
the legislature was in session. There were parties, dinners 
and dances. Picnics at Hall Lake and concerts by the Talla- 
hassee Silver Cornet Band provided entertainment. Quieter 
activities were also available. One local newspaper noted 
that, "the young folks of Tallahassee enjoy (the) lovely 
moonlight nights. Long (buggy) drives over the hard clay 
roads (on) cool, clear, nights arouse all the poetry in 
one s bexng." 

Sherman and May were married in Tallahassee on May 
12, 1891. She was eighteen and he was twenty-nine. Talla- 
hassee had never seen such an elegant wedding. The ceremony 
took place in the Methodist church (the Baptist church had 
recently burned down) , with Mann giving his daughter away 

and the members of the Legislature standing in a body to 

"35 
escort the newlyweds down the aisle. The local newspaper 

noted that the young couple departed the following day for 

3 fi 
St. Augustine, where they spent their honeymoon. May's 

former schoolmates at St. Joseph commented on the marriage. 

They wrote with enthusiasm: "We extend our sincerest wishes 

to the newlyweds, and hope that as they glide over a silvery 

ocean of time, the tide of a just life may bear them to a 

37 

heavenly felicity. " 



40 

May and Sherman were well suited to each other. 
Their partnership had been made, figuratively and literally, 
in the halls of government. Similar in background, educa- 
tion, and aspirations, their union proved to be very happy. 
They were to work side-by-side for the next thirty years, 
and it was fortunate for Florida that this happened. The 
young couple had set their goals. The future beckoned and 
before them lay fair Italy. 



41 
Notes to Chapter II 

St. Joseph Academy Roll, 1883, located in St. 
Joseph archives. The Mann girls' ages were erroneously- 
listed as twelve and eight. 

2 . . 

Living Waters (St. Augustine, 1966), n.p. 

3 
Sister Thomas Joseph McGoldrick, "The Contribution 

of the Sisters of St. Joseph of St. Augustine to Education, 

1866-1960" (M.A. thesis, University of Florida, 1960) , 

passim. 

4 . 

Sister Mary Alberta, "A Study of the Schools Con- 
ducted by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Diocese of 
St. Augustine, Florida, 1866-1940" (M.A. thesis, University 
of Florida, 1940) , passim. 

5 , 

Tne author was given a personal tour of the school 

by Sister Mary Albert Luzzier, February 19, 197 8. 

6 
May Jennings to Carrie McCollum, April 30, 1915. 

MMJ Papers, Box 5. 

7 
Jane Qumn, The Story of a Nun: Jeanie Gordon 

Brown (St. Augustine, 1978), p. 68. 

o 

Prospectus of St. Joseph's Academy (St. Augustine, 
1890) , nTp": 

9 Ibid. 

Quinn, Story of a Nun , p. 85. 

Florida Latimer, "Convent Life," Pascua Florida , 
XIV, February, 1903. Quoted in Quinn, ~ ~Story of a Nun , 
p. 86-87. * 

12 

Edward Nelson Akin, "Southern Reflections of the 

Gilded Age: Henry M. Flagler's System, 1885-1913" (Ph.D. 

dissertation, University of Florida, 1975) , passim. 

13 

The St. Augustine Directory (St. Augustine, 1884) , 

n.p- 

14 

Pascua Florida , II, May 1889, p. 9. 

15 

Biographical sketch of May Mann Jennings, 1919. 

MMJ Papers, Box 16. 



42 



Prospectus of St. Joseph's Academy , 1890, n.p. 

17 

Valedictory address. See Appendxx I. 

18 

Pascua Florida , II, June, 1891, p. 10. 

19 

Ibid . Flyleaf. One such advertisement read "the 

Florida Orange and Vegetable Auction Company of Jacksonville, 

Florida. Over one-hundred dealers represented, A.S. Mann, 

President and Manager." 

20 

Edward C. Williamson, "Independentism: A Challenge 

to the Florida Democracy of 1884," Florida Historical 
Quarterly , XXVII, July, 1948, p. 147. 

21 

Edward C. Williamson, "The Constitutional Conven- 
tion of 1885," Florida Historical Quarterly , XLI , October 
1962, p. 116. 

22 

Edward C. Williamson, Florida Politics in the Gilded 

Age: 1877-1893 (Gainesville, 1976), p. 137. 

23 Ibid . , p. 183. 

24 

Judge E.C. May, Gaters, Skeeters, and Malary: 

Recollections of a Pioneer Florida Judge (New York, 1953), 

p. 58. 

25 

Ibid . , p. 57 . 

The newspaper was the Brooksville Register , whose 
editor was Cash Thomas. According to Stanaback's A History 
of Hernando County the paper was well written and won prizes 
at state fairs. See Stanaback, p. 171. 

27 

Lloyd Walter Cory, "The Florida Farmer's Alliance: 

1887-1892" (M.A. thesis, Florida State University, 1963), 
p. 41. 

28 

James O. Knauss, "The Farmer's Alliance in Florida," 

The South Atlantic Quarterly , XXV, July, 1926, pp. 300-315. 

29 

Stanaback, History of Hernando County , p. 129. 

Tallahassee Daily Floridian , April 12, 1891. 

31 

Jasper News , August 12, 1892. 

32 

Arnold M. Pavlovsky, "We Busted Because We Failed: 

Florida Politics, 1880-1908" (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton 
University, 1973) , p. 151. 



43 
33 

: Ibid . , May 27, 1891 



Tallahassee Weekly Floridian , April 8, 1891. 
34. 



35 

Biographical sketch of May Mann Jennings, 1919. 

MMJ Papers, Box 16. 

Tallahassee Daily Floridian , May 14, 1891. 

37 

Pascua Florida, II, June, 1891, p. 10. 



CHAPTER III 
SHERMAN 



William Sherman Jennings was destined for a distin- 
guished career and would eventually be elected governor of 
Florida. His ascent within the Democratic party was one of 
the most meteoric in the state's history. Born March 24, 
1863, at Walnut Hill, Marion County, Illinois, he was one 
of nine children. His parents, longtime residents of the 
area, were Josephus Waters Jennings and Amanda Couch Jen- 
nings. Both were descended from colonial ancestors. 
Josephus Jennings was an attorney and for many years judge 
of the Marion County court. 

Jennings attended local schools and in 1882 and 1883 
he attended Southern Illinois Normal University at Carbon- 
dale. While there he served as a first sergeant in the 

2 

Douglas Corps of Cadets. Afterwards he went to Salem, 

Illinois, where he read law with his brother, Charles, and 
with his uncle, Silas Bryan, father of William Jennings 
Bryan, the "Great Commoner , " and the man many historians 
recognize as the founder of the modern Democratic party. 
Bryan's father and Jennings' mother were brother and sister, 
Sherman, who was three years younger than Bryan, did not 
look much like his famous cousin, nor did he have his ora- 
torical skills. Still, family members remarked how alike 



44 



45 

the two were in physical build and in personal philosophy, 
political ideology, and religious beliefs. Bryan's wife, 

Mary, later wrote May, "our husbands are so alike in body 

3 
and in mind." This similarity would not be unexpected in 

men who shared a common ancestry and childhood. Throughout 

their lives the two cousins were close friends. There is 

little doubt that the relationship was an asset to Sherman's 

career, for on several occasions Bryan arrived in Florida 

to give Sherman's political career a boost. Three different 

times in the 189 0s Bryan spoke in Brooksville, once from the 

4 
balcony of the Jennings home. 

In 1885 Sherman attended Union Law School, where his 

brother and Bryan had received their legal training. This 

institution was one of the most distinguished in Illinois, 

but its facilities were unimpressive. Located in downtown 

Chicago, it was housed "in a single building and consisted 

of a solitary lecture room, an office shared by the dean 

and his faculty . . . (and) a roof garden (which) had been 

5 
transformed into a library." 

After Jennings left the school he decided to move 

south. It is not known why he came to Florida or how he 

chose Brooksville as his new home, but he arrived in the 

little town in late 1885. He was twenty-two years of age. 

Pictures of him about this time show him to be a man of medium 

height and of stocky build. He had brown hair and eyes and 

he wore a prominent mustache. He dressed well and presented 



46 

a dignified appearance. He was reserved in his personal 
manner. 

One amusing fact about his trip to Florida was later 
used against him in the heat of a campaign. He paid for 
his trip south working as a drummer, or salesman, for a 
patent medicine company. He was later accused of having 
arrived in the state on a medicine wagon "hawking snake 
oil." Jennings never denied the accusation and turned the 
information to his advantage. He stated that he was proud 
to have been a workingman who came from modest circumstances. 
Wasn't it the American way that a chap who was ambitious and 
hardworking could rise in station and become a leader of 
his fellowmen? 

Jennings' intelligence and industriousness enabled 
him to succeed quicker than most men his age. In May of 
1886, just a few months after his arrival in Brooksville, he 
was admitted to the Florida bar. Eventually he was prac- 
ticing before the state Supreme Court. In 18 87 he was 
appointed court commissioner of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, 
and the following year was appointed county judge of Hernando 
County. A few months later he was elected to the same 
office for a full four-year term. As his involvement in 
local politics increased so did his influence and prestige 
within the Democratic party. 

Jennings took an active part in Brooksville ' s and 
Hernando County's civic affairs. For several years he 



47 



served as a county commissioner and for a decade he was a 

city councilman. Eight of those years he was president of 

7 
the council. He also served as president of the Brooks- 

ville High School board of trustees, and held a commission 

as colonel in the Fifth Florida Regiment. One student 

remembered that the future governor frequently drove out to 

the high school in his buggy to drill the school boys in 

o 

military tactics. On March 5, 1890, he married Corinne 
Jordan, the daughter of a Brooksville merchant, but she 
died only a few months after the ceremony. 

When Jennings married May he found the ideal compan- 
ion. Not only was she his intellectual equal but they 
shared common goals and aspirations. Both held a strong 
sense of noblesse oblige; community service was seen as a 
duty. High public and private standards were considered to 
be obligatory by those who considered themselves to be good 
citizens. 

After their honeymoon, May and Sherman returned to 
Brooksville. In 1891 it was an attractive, bustling com- 
munity of about 500 inhabitants. It had twenty stores, a 
newspaper, printing office, courthouse, Florida Southern 
Railway depot, and not a single paved street or sidewalk. 
There were many trees and in spring and summer the woods 
were filled with wild flowers. Agricultural enterprises 
formed the largest industry. Before the great freezes of 
1894-1895 large orange, lemon, and grapefruit groves dotted 



43 

the hillsides. From Booksville alone "100,000 boxes (of 
citrus) were shipped annually." Phosphate mines and 
timber added to the economy. 

Brooksville was situated upon some of the most 
beautiful land in Florida. There were gently rolling hills 
which provided far distant vistas. The soil was rich and 
dark brown in color. Numerous hammocks harbored magnifi- 
cent stands of hardwood trees. One visitor described the 
area as "the most un-Florida appearing place imaginable." 
Brooksville especially appealed to Midwesterners for it 
reminded them in many ways of home, although one traveler 
said it resembled "western New York" state. A land sales 
booklet, published in Chicago, stated that land near 
Brooksville was "as good as Illinois soil." it also 
claimed that the area had "no snakes," a fact apparently 
comforting to citified Northerners. 

May and Sherman built a large house in Brooksville 
and it became a center of social activity for the young 
married set of the community. A few months after their 
marriage an item in the local paper announced that "the 
frame of Judge Jennings' new residence looms upon Howell's 
Hill. It will be the handsomest residence in town." The 
house was a large, white, two-story wood structure which had 
porches, lead glass doors, and balconies. One contemporary 
commented upon its attractiveness and spacious grounds. It 
was noted by the same observer that, "Mrs. Jennings, as well 



49 

as her husband, takes great pride in keeping (the) home in 

the most excellent and inviting condition. She carefully 

15 
superintends in person every detail of home management." 

May enjoyed the outdoors and worked energetically in her 

yard. Her home was surrounded by flowers and trees and 

vegetable gardens. She also had chickens and a cow to care 

for. An observer described her domestic proclivities as 

follows: "While (Mrs. Jennings') many graces of mind and 

person eminently qualify her to preside over the social 

functions incident to her exalted position, she is at the 

same time more domestic than many a farmer's wife, and loves 

her poultry, her garden and her flowers." 

May spent much of her time making dress patterns 

and often employed a seamstress; she was fashion conscious 

and liked to wear the latest styles. Though small of stature, 

she was always dignified in her appearance; contemporaries 

remembered that she stood ramrod straight and carried her 

head high. Her bearing was perhaps the result of her 

training in "refined deportment" which she had received at 

St. Joseph's Academy. She never appeared in public without 

wearing gloves and a hat, even years later, after styles had 

been modified and were less formal. Her hats, usually 

large and decorated with bright bows and flowers, became 

her trademark. She was not an imperious woman, and her 

manner was never arrogant. Although self-confident and 

not afraid to speak her own mind, she was not over-bearing. 



50 

She was well liked and had many friends. Later, there were 
many followers and emulaters. 

May and Sherman were Brooksville ' s most active couple. 
For ten years they busied themselves with the political, 
civic, business, and social activities of the community. 
In November of 1893, their only child, Sherman Bryan Jennings, 
was born. He received the devoted love and attention of his 
parents. As he grew up he was taken into their confidences 
and was excluded from few of their activities. As her 
father had treated her, so did May relate to her own son. 
Next to her husband, her son was to become one of her closest 

allies and friends. It was noted that the Jennings treated 

17 
Bryan "like a dear chum" rather than a son. 

The Jennings were active members in Brooksville ' s 

First Baptist Church. Since Sherman had moved to Florida he 

had publicly identified himself as a Baptist. In 1889 he 

attended the eighth annual convention of the Florida Sunday 

18 

School Association and pledged $25.00 to its support. For 

many years he held church offices, including the vice- 
presidency of the Florida Baptist Convention and membership 

on the Baptist State Board of Missions. He also served as 

19 
a trustee of Stetson University. In the Brooksville church 

he was a deacon and a Sunday school teacher. When the church 

burned in 1899, Sherman and May led the drive to raise 

20 

building funds. Because of their Baptist beliefs neither 

ever smoked tobacco nor drank alcohol. Both were sympathetic 
to the temperance movement. 



51 

Jennings was elected to the state legislature in 
1892 and again in 1894. In the 1893 House of Representa- 
tives he served on the finance and taxation, judiciary, and 
constitutional amendments committees. He was chairman of 
public health and rules. He was well liked by his colleagues 
and was viewed as one of the ablest young men in the state. 
During the 1895 legislative session he served as speaker of 
the House. It was a responsible and powerful position and 
he garnered many friends and admirers at that time. The 
following year, Jennings was elected a presidential elector 
on the Bryan-Sewall ticket. By 18 98, when he served as 
chairman of the Democratic state convention at Ocala, his 
name had become recognized throughout the state. 

During the 1890s Jennings built up a busy and lucra- 
tive law practice. His professional card read "W.S. Jennings, 

Atty. at Law, Solicitor in Chancery. Office in the Bank 

21 
Building." His business interests included ownership 

and management of several citrus groves, including a sizable 

operation near Leesburg; organization and management of the 

Brooksville Orange Company; and vice-presidency of the 

Brooksville State Bank. He also added to his own real 

estate holdings. By 1900 Jennings could be regarded as a 

man of substantial wealth. 

While her husband's political and fiscal fortunes 

were on the ascendancy, May was also making a name for 

herself. She became one of Brooksville ' s most active 



52 

clubwomen. Although she worked to enhance her husband's 
career, she always reserved time to pursue her own interests, 
mainly club and community work. Her involvement in these 
activities increased over the years. Eventually she would 
become a recognized state leader. It is likely that she 
helped organize Brooksville ' s first woman's club, the Whit- 
tier Club (later the Ladies' Improvement Association), for 
she was its recognized leader. Intelligent and articulate, 
she was too interested in political and civic matters to 
remain uninvolved. Notices similar to the following began 

to appear with regularity, "The Ladies' Improvement Associa- 

22 
tion will meet at Mrs. W.S. Jennings', Thursday the 31st." 

The women involved themselves in numerous charitable 

and civic activities. One irritating public problem which 

concerned the Brooksville women was the nuisance created by 

the town's lack of a fence law. Livestock roamed everywhere; 

animals slept in the streets, doorways, and on private 

lawns. It was a familiar Florida problem, common to all towns 

and was to plague the state for many years. In Brooksville 

it was such an annoyance that on several occasions city 

emergency action was taken and men were employed to "chase 

23 
down and capture the animals." The ladies kept pressuring 

city officials (in many cases their own husbands) to do some- 
thing about the matter which was becoming also a health 
menance. Meetings were held and letters to the editor 
appeared frequently. One writer asked, "Can you tell me 



53 

why we have to run the risk of breaking our necks over a 

„24 
lot of sleeping cows everytime we go out? 

The problem created by free-roaming livestock was of 

such magnitude and so pervasive that when the clubwomen in 

the state formally organized the Florida Federation of 

Women's Clubs in 1895, it was the first major issue they 

25 
addressed. It also proved to be one of the most contro- 
versial and one of the longest. For more than fifty years 
women fought to remedy this situation, and May Jennings was 
one of the leaders in this battle. 

In 18 99 she turned her attention away from clubwork 
to help her husband achieve his goal of being elected 
governor of Florida. She had attended the previous three 
Democratic state conventions as well as the 1893 and 1895 
legislative sessions. She had worked for her husband as 
she had earlier supported her father; now she realized she 
would have the opportunity to put her political knowledge 
and organizational skills to work for a cause personally 
dear to her. She would work hard but very much enjoy the 
months that lay ahead. 

That she was one of Jennings' great political assets 
was recognized by many. One newpaper wrote, "There is little 
doubt that the rise of young Jennings was promoted by his 
marriage to May Mann, a lady of great charm (who) inherited 
much of her father's political ability. She was just such 
a person who would impress all those who came in contact 



54 

with her, just such a one as would prove a most fitting 
helpmeet ( sic ) to a husband who had both ability and polit- 
ical ambitions." 

Another contemporary noted that May had acquired 
"from her gifted and confiding father a keen interest in 
public affairs (and was) from girlhood equipped for the 
brilliant social career which is offered to the wife of an 
ambitious, able and influential public man. . . . Jennings 
owes much of his subsequent success at the bar and in the 
field of politics to the keen intelligence and winning tact 
of his wife (who) takes a very intelligent interest in 
political affairs. The advancement of her husband ... is 
very near and dear to her heart. Her modest and unassuming 
manner stops her from claiming any credit . . . but it is 

certain that he owes much to her excellent judgment and 

. . . 27 

untiring efforts in his behalf." 

From the time Jennings joined the Democratic party 
he had been identified with its liberal, anti-Bourbon wing. 
He was never regarded as a radical "wool hatter" as his 
controversial father-in-law had been; he was seen by many 
as a middle-of-the-road moderate. Nevertheless, he was a 
progressive as it was defined in early twentieth-century 
American political history. Other liberals of his genera- 
tion included Congressman Stephen Mai lory, Frank Pope, 
Duncan Fletcher, United States Senator Wilkinson Call, B.H. 



55 



Palmer, and the Jacksonville "straightouts," John N.C. 
Stockton, J.M. Barrs, and Napoleon Bonaparte Broward. 

The liberals opposed the party conservatives and the 
so-called "silk hat" railroad and corporate kingpins who, 
since the end of Reconstruction, had orchestrated and bene- 
fited from Florida's version of "the great American 
barbecue," in which the resources and rewards of the state 

were controlled by a small business elite, known as the 

2 8 
Bourbons. ' This conservative faction included William D. 

Chipley, James Taliaferro, Ziba King, William D. Bloxham, 

Henry B. Plant, F.A. Hendry, and Henry M. Flagler. The 

two sides clashed over state land grant policy, railroad 

regulation, state funding and taxation, political patronage, 

and nomination and election reforms. 

For more than twenty years the two sides were to 

fight for control of the state. The tumultuous 9 0s had 

witnessed the rise and demise of the Populists and the 

bitter battles over Senator Call's elections. It also saw 

skirmishes over railroad regulation and election reforms. 

These confrontations had finally resulted in such diffusion 

and dilution of power within the Florida Democratic party 

that, as one historian noted, "no single interest (could) 

29 3 

control Florida politics." It was everyman for himself. 

The party developed into a formless union of "warring, 
amorphous personal factions." In 1900 the party's nomina- 
tions seemed wide open. It would be the last time that the 



56 

nominating convention would be utilized to select nominees 
for state office. Henceforth, nominations would result 
from the primary system. In 1900 the Democratic nomination 
would go to the man who could corral the most delegates 
prior to the party convention. In a one-party state like 
Florida, nomination was tantamount to election. The time 
seemed right for an ambitious and relatively fresh newcomer. 
Sherman Jennings decided to enter the race. 

The effort would not be easy. There was no pervasive 
state political machine, as there were in other southern 
states, but Jennings felt that he had as good as chance as 
any other political hopeful. He had quietly sent out in- 
quiries to friends around the state asking for an assessment 
of his chances. The replies were encouraging. In the spring 
of 1899 he and May journeyed to Tallahassee and while there 
they dined with Governor and Mrs. Bloxham. Whether they 
revealed Sherman's intentions is not known, but when they 
returned to Brooksville they began to prepare for the pre- 
convention campaign. Aware that he was at a disadvantage 
because he was a Northerner by birth and had not served in 
the Civil War, Jennings was determined to lessen these 
handicaps. In June he purchased a copy of George R. Fair- 
bank's newly-published History of Florida , and began to 

learn as much as he could about the history of his adopted 

32 

state. He did not intend to be unprepared or appear 

ignorant about the state he sought to govern. He subscribed 



57 



to the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , the states ' most 
influential newspaper. He composed a biographical sketch 
of himself, sat for a formal photograph, and gave an inter- 
view to a reporter representing the Atlanta Constitution . 

33 

He also purchased a new surrey and a pair of sleek horses. 

In the beginning May acted as campaign manager; she 
helped devise strategy and organized the letter and mailing 
operations. Sherman later appointed George C. Martin, a 
Brooksville attorney and a prominent party official, as 
his manager. A circular letter was sent to every county 
asking for precinct information and the names of local dele- 
gates. According to one writer Jennings was the last 

Florida "gubernatorial hopeful to sit on his front porch 

34 
and conduct his pre-convention canvass by mail." Despite 

the restrained tone of this campaign, as compared with later 
ones in Florida history, Jennings did some personal politick- 
ing, but he combined it with legitimate business travels. 
Late in 1899 he was appointed to the Democratic state execu- 
tive committee. This was a boon to his candidacy for it 
gave him greater exposure and allowed him to keep tabs on 
the other gubernatorial hopefuls. 

Jennings was supported by delegates throughout Flori- 
da, but most of his strength came from the central and south- 
west portions of the state. His supporters represented all 
segments of the population. His earliest backers included 
men like Asa Roberts, Desota County editor; J.F. Dorman, 



Suwanee County tax collector; Herbert F. Drane, Lakeland 
insurance agent and party official; and Frank M. Simonton, 
a powerful Tampa political personality. 

While her husband traveled around the state May 
remained in Brooksville and ran the law office, which also 
served as campaign headquarters. She supervised all the 
correspondence. It was a prodigious task, but she proved 
capable and efficient. One contemporary wrote that she 
organized and executed "the hardest and most fatiguing, 
yet quite the most important work of the struggle (and) the 
masterly manner in which she handled the mass of correspond- 
ence and routine work of the campaign (could) be attested 

35 
to by hundreds of prominent Floridians." 

The pre-convention slate was so crowded with can- 
didates that the Florida Times-Union published numerous 
front page cartoons which poked fun at the plethora of 
gubernatorial aspirants. Much of the campaign seemed to 
be conducted through the newspapers. It was lackluster, and 
seemed to generate little interest or enthusiasm. One 
paper lamented the "scarcity of state political news," while 
another declared that "the people (were) tired of politics." 
Only Jennings ' campaign managed to create any excitement 
when his famous cousin William Jennings Bryan visited the 
state. In February of 1900, Bryan spent four days in 
Brooksville. He gave one speech from the balcony of the 



59 

Jennings' home. His visit received wide press coverage in 
the state and proved to be a publicity bonanza for Sherman's 
candidacy. 

The real campaign took place, not in the newspapers, 
but in the county conventions where delegates for the state 
meetings were chosen. The local caucuses were generally 
volatile affairs as the various candidates finagled and 
maneuvered to secure delegates. By the time the state 
convention convened in Jacksonville on June 19, 1900, the 
slate had been reduced to five recognized candidates, al- 
though the counties had selected only 115 instructed dele- 
gates out of a possible 282. The Deland Record declared 
that "so many of the counties are sending uninstructed 

delegates that what will be the convention's will is simply 

3 8 

guesswork." Another paper ran a banner headline telling 

,39 
the public to "Pay your money--Take your choice. 

The candidates, in addition to Sherman, were Fred T. 

Myers, Leon County state senator; James D. Beggs, Orange 

County judge; William H. Milton, Jr. , Jackson County 

committeeman and son of Florida's Civil War governor; and 

Danette H. Mays, Jefferson County legislator. All were 

more politically conservative than Sherman. Jennings was 

considered to have a slight advantage over the others. The 

Tampa Tribune , which endorsed him, wrote: "The political signs 

of the times point almost invariably to Jennings (whose) 



60 

strength has proved a revelation to his opponents and a 

. . 40 

little surprising even to his friends." 

The 1900 convention has been described as one of 

"the most remarkable political conventions ever held in 

41 
Florida. It was certainly one of the rowdiest and most 

tumultuous. It met in Jacksonville's new Emory Auditorium, 

which had been specially outfitted with electric lights 

and grandstands to hold the more than 2,000 people who 

attended. There were fewer than 300 delegate votes. The 

hall was decorated with potted ferns and palms, 1,500 yards 

of red, white, and blue bunting, and large pictures of 

famous past Democratic party greats. "A giant portrait of 

Willian Jennings Bryan gazed benignly from the back wall 

42 
of the rostrum. " A band was hired to entertain the spec- 
tators and delegates during lulls in the sessions. 

Jacksonville was almost overwhelmed by the event. 
The town was flooded with delegates and thousands of curi- 
osity seekers, including a few unsavory types. The local 
press was provided with plenty of colorful copy. When the 
Tampa delegation arrived, a reporter covering the event 
noted that "one of the features of the trip (had been) 
Colonel F.A. Salmonson, and his famous fighting gamecock 
'Fred' . . . one-eyed and generally disreputable looking 
as any bird that ever came to the city . . . (who the) 

colonel insisted on having crow at every station on the 

,,43 

way up. 



61 

Delegates were provided with free streetcar passes 
and free excursions on the St. Johns River and to Pablo 

Beach. They were also invited to a "smoker," which, accord- 

44 
ing to one report proved to be "a howling success." Dances 

were held every evening in the city's hotels, and there 
were many dinner parties, receptions, and soirees in pri- 
vate homes. It was advertised that "no tickets were required 

45 
to admxt ladies to the hall at anytime." Reporters noted 

the "faithful attendance of the fair sex," whose "flashing 

colors (and) bright costumes but added to the brilliancy 

46 
of the scene." May attended every session, sometimes 

accompanied by some of the wives of Hernando delegates, and 

other occasions by Mrs. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, wife of 

the prominent Duval politician who was a close friend. 

Although Jennings was conceded to be the favorite-- 
he had the largest number of committed votes and the support 
of the most important newspapers--the nomination was by no 
means guaranteed. When the convention was opened he had 
twenty-nine committed votes; Beggs, Mays, Meyers, and Milton 
had twenty-eight, twenty-seven, twenty, and eleven votes 
respectively. The nomination required a total of 188 votes. 
Whoever came out as winner was going to have to do some 
compromising and "horsetrading. " 

The Jennings party had reservations at the Windsor 
Hotel, which was reported to be the convention's "storm 
center . . . its lobbies and piazzas crowded until late 



62 

47 
hours." Liberals and conservatives, businessmen and 

farmers, citizens from Tallahassee and Jacksonville, and 

all over Florida vied for control of the convention. The 

Hernando County delegates, who strongly endorsed Jennings 

had only one-sixteenth a vote each. This, as opposed to 

one-fifth, one-fourth, one-half, and one vote per man in 

the other delegations, caused quite a stir. It was reported 

that "Jennings' fractionalization plan was a puzzle to the 

politicians, a source of deep regret, and established a new 

and ingenious method of preventing losses except in immate- 

48 
rial fractions." It created a stable base on which to 

build convention support. "Jennings' opponents tried to 

sabotage his candidacy by drawing attention to his Northern 

origins and alleging he was named for the hated Yankee 

general William Tecumseh Sherman. Jennings was also accused 

of engaging in 'south-hating antics. 1 The 'Bloody Shirt 1 

49 
of the Civil War and Reconstruction was still being waved." " 

The charges failed to sway many of the Jennings supporters. 

The first two days of the convention were taken up 
with choosing a chairman, drawing-up a platform, endorsing 
the 1896 National Democratic platform, and nominating minor 
candidates. The business of choosing a gubernatorial nomi- 
nee began the third day. Jennings was nominated by CM. 
Brown of Marion County and seconded by J.H. Curry and General 
Allen Thomas of Hillsborough County. Eight votes were taken, 
and Jennings' total climbed to 81. Myers trailed with 



63 



7 6 1/2 votes. It was exhausting for the secretaries who 
"were taxed in calling and announcing the votes (and) in 
the constant work of listening for the faintly heard 
answers . . . from the far ends of the hall and in footing 
the long columns of scores." They were "all heartily glad 
of the relief that came with adjournment." 

Balloting continued on the fourth, and as it turned 
out, the final day of the convention. Only once did Jen- 
nings trail. The climax came in the late afternoon. The 
hall was filled to capacity, every seat was occupied, and 
people stood up in the back and thronged the corridors. It 
was hot, and the delegates were tired. The roll calls 
seemed endless; everyone awaited the final outcome. Several 

times during the day rumors swept the hall, causing "the 

51 
convention (to) become wild with excitement and confusion." 

By the thirtieth ballot there was so much noise and confusion 
that the band was called upon to play so as to restore order. 
At 6 p.m., when the chair declared a suppertime recess, 
Jennings had 130 votes and Mays 122 1/2. 

Shortly after the convention reconvened, the deadlock 
was broken. Mays arose and solemnly announced his with- 
drawal. There were a few seconds of silence, and then the 
delegates realized that the expected break had come, and 
there was a mad scramble to switch votes. The hall was a 
sea of confusion. On the forty-third ballot Beggs withdrew, 
and the final obstacle was removed. On the next ballot, 



64 



cast at 10 p.m. , the Leon County delegation threw its sup- 
port to Jennings and he was over the top. He had 19 2 votes, 
and was declared the nominee. 

The delegates and spectators broke into cheers. May, 
and the ladies with her, applauded. Chaos reigned. "Dele- 
gates left their places and crowded around the nominee's 

chair. ... He was lifted to the shoulders of a dozen 

52 
stalwarts and carried the length of the hall." Not every- 
one, as it turned out was happy; Mrs. Mays, who was seated 
in the gallery, was overheard to remark, "Anybody can be 

governor of Florida these days, even a jack rabbit. All 

53 
you have to do is wag your ears and you are chosen." 

In a brief acceptance speech Jennings pledged his 

commitment to the party's platform. He viewed his nomina- 

. . 54 
tion as "an honor and sacred responsibility. When the 

final gavel of the convention sounded at 4 a.m. , only a few 

delegates remained in the hall. "The band, worn out with 

the labors of the day and night, were stretched on chairs 

sound asleep or lolling about waiting with hardly concealed 

55 
impatience for the last tune." 

How did Jennings win the nomination? What broke the 
deadlock and why did Mays withdraw from the race? Why did 
the Leon County delegation switch its vote? Did Henry 
Flagler and the railroads buy the convention? These were 
some of the questions being asked almost before the conven- 
tion was formally ended. It was speculated that Jennings 



65 

and Mays, a corporate man, had made some kind of deal during 
the 6:00 recess. It does seem likely that Mays would not 
have withdrawn at that time unless he thought he would reap 
some benefits for himself by that action. Yet, despite the 
historical surmises and curiosity, no evidence of a deal 
has ever been uncovered. The puzzles and questions still 
remain. 

J.D. Beggs later wrote Jennings to congratulate him 

and concede that he had been "fairly and honorably nomi- 

56 

nated." But Herbert Drane saw the convention as the 

57 

hardest most vindictive fight ever." J.M. Barrs felt that 

"for the first time in many years (the convention) was truly 
democratic and thoroughly representative of the people . . . 

many of those who had hereto dominated the party (did) not 

5 8 
enter the convention hall during any of its sessions. " 

Two modern students of Florida politics wrote that "the 

1900 convention was significant because it pointed out how 

difficult it had been to keep factionalism within the bounds 

of the convention system (with) party leaders (being) badly 

divided over Jennings' candidacy (some) clearly feeling that 

he was too progressive and too much a Yankee to be their 

gubernatorial candidate. The forty-four ballots had estab- 

59 
lished a record." Perhaps Jennings was nominated for no 

more sinister a reason than that he was the only middle-of- 
the-road candidate both sides could accept. 



66 

The Jennings nomination was celebrated by liberals 
and progressives throughout Florida. The "silk hats" had 
been defeated, or at least it seemed that way for the 
moment. A new era was beginning. One supporter wrote the 
new nominee, "I thank God the old fossil (bourbonism) in 
Florida is dead. Now we trust to have new blood, new 
ideas. " 

When the news of Jenning's nomination reached Brooks- 
ville it touched off a wild celebration. The Jennings 
party was met at the train station by practically the whole 
population and with the firing of "Roman candles, fire- 
crackers, and even .38 calibre guns. . . . The skies (were) 
aglow with happiness and hilarity." A carriage drawn by 
two horses and carrying onlookers to the festivities "ran 
away" and dumped all its occupants out on the street. The 
celebrating continued for several days. 

In August, Sherman, May and son Bryan, nov; six years 
old, traveled to Illinois for a rest and to visit relatives. 
Jennings attended the National Democratic convention in 
Indianapolis, and was present when his cousin Bryan won his 
second presidential nomination. When the Jennings family 
returned to Florida they began preparations for the fall 
campaign. Austin Mann, now fifty-three, wrote to his son- 
in-law offering his services. He could "bring up (his) 
Alliance Forces" if Sherman needed them. The offer was 
quietly declined. 



67 

Although the Democratic nomination was tantamount to 
election, it was deemed important to the ticket for the 
candidates to campaign. An elaborate and exhaustive itiner- 
ary was put together. In addition to Jennings, the party's 
nominees included John L. Crawford, secretary of state; 
William B. Lamar, attorney general; James B. Whitfield, 
state treasurer; William N. Sheats, superintendent of public 
instruction; Benjamin McLin , commissioner of agriculture; 
William H. Reynolds, comptroller, J. D. Morgan, railroad 
commissioner; and Stephen M. Sparkman and Robert W. Davis, 
for Congress. Jennings' two opponents were Republican 
Matthew B. MacFarlane and Populist A. M. Morton, neither of 
whom was considered a threat. 

The Florida platform called for the adoption of a 
state primary law, municipal ownership of utilities, improve- 
ment of public roads, reorganization of the state supreme 
court, reform of public roads, reform of the convict lease 
system, and support of the railroad commission. Jennings 
wanted the state to increase the responsibilities of the State 
Board of Health, adopt free school textbooks, and equalize 
assessments and taxes. Two issues dominated the campaign; 
a referendum on removal of the Capitol from Tallahassee and 
a proposal for teacher examinations. Four cities vied for the 
Capitol site. They were Tallahassee, Jacksonville, St. 
Augustine, and Ocala. Each community lobbied vigorously 



63 



making charges and promises in the attempt to win the covet- 
ed prize. The new teachers' certification program was lost 
in the debate that swirled around its sponsor, William N. 
Sheats. Jennings had approved the teachers' examination, 
but he was noncommittal concerning the Capitol site. 

The campaign was launched at Miami in September. It 
was Jennings' first visit to the city, and he was favorably 
impressed. For over a month and a half he and the other 
Democratic candidates toured the state giving speeches, 
attending receptions, eating barbecue, and meeting with 
voters. They traveled by boat, buggy, and train. In fifty- 
three days fifty-three towns and every Florida county was 
visited. Although the travel and speaking were fatiguing 
Jennings enjoyed the campaign. At Crystal River he sang 

with a quartet, and it was reported that he had a "fine 

64 
tenor voice. At Ocala he toured Silver Springs. In 

Defuniak Springs his host told the crowd that "Florida had 
had the ugliest Governor in the Union, she was now to have 
one of the handsomest. " " During each speech Sherman made 
it a point to recognize the ladies in the audience. At 
Pensacola he remarked that "women were more interested in 
good government than any other class of citizens." Re- 
porters noted that on more than one occasion "nearly every 

67 
lady in the audience went up and shook" his hand. Thus, 

it seemed that even though May was not on the campaign 



69 

trail with him, her presence and spirit evidently traveled 
with him. 

The campaign was dull and created little real news. 
Jennings stuck to the issues as had been expected. He 
seldom if ever mentioned his opponents. Of course, there 
was no real need to. Macfarlane, however, had much to say 
about the Democratic nominee. He called Jennings a Yankee, 
a carpetbagger, and a "snake oil salesman." It was also 
claimed that the only reason he had received the nomination 
was because he was William Jennings Bryan's cousin. 

Election day was November 6. Sherman, May and their 
friends waited for the returns in Brooksville. There was 
little doubt about the outcome. As expected, all of the 

Democratic candidates won. The vote in the governor's race 

68 

was Jennings 29,251, MacFarlane 6,248, and Morton 631. 

It was one of the largest Democratic victories in Florida 
political history; Jennings received eighty-one percent of 
the total vote. Tallahassee won reaffirmation as the state 
Capitol. The Democratic party was not as fortunate nation- 
ally as it had been in Florida. William Jennings Bryan, 
and his running mate, Adlai Stevenson, were defeated by 
McKinley and Roosevelt. Once again the "Great Commoner" 
was denied the presidency. Jennings received a kind congrat- 
ulatory note from his defeated cousin who urged him to be 
"a Jeffersonian and an equal rightist" and ended his letter 

with the despondent line, "well at least I can be known as 

69 
the cousin of a governor." 



70 

May had never been happier or prouder of her husband. 
She could hardly restrain her anticipation and enthusiasm 
as she began to make plans for the move to Tallahassee. 
Four years of political duty and personal pleasure lay ahead. 



71 
Notes to Chapter III 

A.B. Caldwell, editor, Makers of America: Florida 
Edition (Atlanta, 1911), IV, p. 252. 

2 

Cadet certificates in the possession of Dorothy 

Jennings Sandridge. 

3 
Mary Bryan to May Jennings, February 28, 1920. In 

the possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge. 

A 

"Brooksville Sun , June 27, 1952. 

5 
Louis W. Koenig, Bryan: A Political Biography of 

William Jennings Bryan (New York, 1971), p. 39. 

Florida Bar certificates in possession of Dorothy 
Jennings Sandridge. 

7 
James H. Jones, History of Brooksville City Govern - 
ment (Brooksville, 1965), n.p. 

q 

John R. Willis to May Jennings, February, 19 20. 
In possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge. 

9 

James H. Jones, Genealogical Record of Legal 

Marriages in Hernando County for the Period, 1877-1890 , 
n.p. ~ " 

Sunnylands: A Florida Monthly Magazine , III, August, 
1901, p. 109. 

Barbour, Florida for Tourists , p. 58. 

12 

Oliver Marvin Crosby, Florida Facts (New York, 

1887) , p. 101. 

13 

Brooksville Board of Trade, A Book of Facts for Those 

Seeking New Locations in the South (Chicago, 1909) , p. 6. 

\A 

'Brooksville The Hernando News , July 25, 1891. 

15 

Undated and unidentified newspapers clipping. 

Jennings Scrapbook No. 1, 19 01. WSJ Papers. 

1 6 

Gainesville Daily Sun , June 11, 1901. 

17 

Biographical sketch of May Mann Jennings, 1919. 

MMJ Papers, Box 19. 



72 

18 

Minutes of the Eighth Annual Convention of the 
Florida Sunday School Association (Ocala, 1889) , p. 24. 

19 

Harry C. Garwood, Stetson University and Florida 
Baptists (Deland, Florida, 1962), p. 78; Jack P. Dalton, 
"A History of Florida Baptists" (Ph.D. dissertation, Univer- 
sity of Florida, 1952) , passim. 

Brooksville Sun , November 28, 1952. 

21 

Brooksville The Hernando News , July 25, 1891. 

22 

Brooksville News Register , January 23, 1895. 

23 

Stanaback, History of Hernando County , p. 62. 

24 

Brooksville The Hernando News , August 22, 1891. 

25 , 

Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 130. 

26 

William T. Cash, The Story of Florida (New York, 
1938), II, p. 520. 

27 

Undated and unidentified newspaper clipping. Jen- 
nings Scrapbook No. 1, 19 01. WSJ Papers. 

2 8 

Williamson, Florida Politics in the Gilded Ag e, 
passim. ' ~ 

29 

Ibid . , p. 187. 

30 

V.O. Key, Jr., Southern Politics in State and Nation 
(New York, 1949) , p. 82"! ~ — 

31,, -, 

Pavlovsky, "We Busted Because We Failed," p. 215. 

32 

The book, costing $1.25, was ordered from Drew and 
Co., Jacksonville, June 17, 1899. WSJ Papers, Box 3. 

33 

William S. Jennings to Elkhart Carriage Comoany, 
October 24, 1899. WSJ Papers, Box 3. 

34 

Pavlovsky, "We Busted Because We Failed," p. 230. 

35 , 

Undated and unidentified newspaper cliopina. Jen- 
nings Scrapbook No. 1, 1901. WSJ Papers. 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , ADril 9, 1900, 
April 15, 1900, April 29, 1900, May 6, 1900. 



73 

37 

Palatka Advertiser , April 30, 1900; Tampa Times, 

May 10, 1900. 

3 8 

Deland Volusia County Record , May 17, 1900. 

39 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , May 27, 1900. 

40 

Tampa Tribune , May 28, 19 00. 

41 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , June 24, 1900. 

42 

Samuel Proctor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward: Florida's 

Fighting Democrat (Gainesville, 1950) , p. 161. 

43 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , June 19, 1900. 

44 

Ibid . , June 22, 1900. 

45 Ibid. , June 19, 1900. 

46 

Ibid . , June 20, 1900. 

47 Ibid. , June 18, 1900. 

Ibid . 

49 

David Colburn and Richard K. Scher, "Florida Guber- 
natorial Politics in the Twentieth Century" (Unpublished 
MS.) , p. 104. 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , June 12, 1900. 

51 ibid. 

52 ibia. 

53 

Proctor, Broward , p. 163. 

54 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , June 22, 1900. 

55 Ibid . , June 24, 1900. 

J.D. Beggs to William S. Jennings, July 5, 1900. 
WSJ Papers, Box 4. 

57 

Herbert Drane to William S. Jennings, June 25, 1900. 

WSJ Papers, Box 4. 

58 

John M. Barrs, Some A.D. 1900 Democratic Platforms 

in Florida (Jacksonville, 1900), n.p. "" " ' 



74 



Colburn and Scher, "Florida Gubernatorial Politics," 
p. 104. 

60 John H. Lee to William S. Jennings, June 23, 1900. 
WSJ Papers, Box 4. 

61 

E.R. Russell, Brooksville As I First Knew It 

(Brooksville, 1962) , n.p. 

A.S. Mann to William S. Jennings, August 22, 1899. 
WSJ Papers, Box 3. 

Barrs, Some A.D. 1900 Democrats Platforms , n.p. 

"Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , October 4, 1900. 

6 ° Ibid . , September 20, 1900. 

66 Ibid . , September 21, 1900. 

67 Ibid . , September 5, 1900. 

6 8 

William Jennings Bryan to William S. Jennings, 

October 15, 190 0. WSJ Papers, Box 5. 



CHAPTER IV 
THE GOVERNOR'S LADY 



As the 1901 Florida gubernatorial inauguration 
approached an air of optimism and excitement permeated the 
state. The people who arrived in the capital city for the 
event seemed happier and more enthusiastic than past 
inaugural crowds. The state was installing a man of youth, 
vitality, and new ideas. Floridians, at least those con- 
cerned with political matters, were satisfied. A new 
century had been ushered in. The state was recovering 
from the calamitous freezes of 1894, 1895, and 1898. Yellow 
fever was being brought under control. Tourism was booming. 
Personal income was up. The state's population was growing. 
Floridians believed that their state was on the threshold 
of a new era of development and progress. A confident 
future lay ahead. William Sherman Jennings, only thirty- 
seven at the time, and youngest governor up to that date, 
seemed to personify that future for Florida. 

The years that Sherman and May served as governor 
and First Lady would parallel many great events and changes 
in the history of America and the world. Between 1900 and 
1905 the Boer War in South Africa and the Philippine cam- 
paign would be concluded. Queen Victoria would pass away, 
and with her Europe's and the western world's stability. 

75 



76 



President McKinley would be assassinated, and his successor, 
Theodore Roosevelt, would stamp his own personality on the 
country's political thought. Marie Curie would win the 
Nobel Prize, and the equations of Einstein and Planck would 
turn topsy-turvy the very laws of the universe. The auto- 
mobile would begin to revolutionaize transportation and the 
Wright brother's "flying machine" would prove that man indeed 
could fly and that most of the world would one day be only 
hours or minutes away. It would be a time of science and 
invention, of wonder and amazement. 

These first years of the twentieth century would also 
be a time of optimism and idealism, of questioning, reflec- 
tion, and reform. America would begin to discover its 
conscience and would try to bring to reality some of the 
promises of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of 
Rights. Some Americans would begin to see things as they 
should be rather than as they were. The "public weal" 
would become society's watchwords, and reformation and 
redress would issue from every hall of government. As a 
reaction to the social and economic abuses of the "gilded 
age" a new ideology would develop which would accord to 
government a bigger role in its citizens' lives. 

During this time, reformers, North and South, would 
call for the establishment of primary elections; direct 
election of United States Senators; adoption of the Austral- 
ian ballot; the right to initiative, referendum, and recall; 



77 

public ownership of utilities; more vigorous regulation 
and curtailment of monopolies and trusts; laws regulating 
the drug and food industries; regulation of female and 
child labor; reform of public education, adoption of a 
national income tax; abolition of the poll tax; abolish- 
ment of the convict-lease system; improvement of roads 
and highways; and the adoption of the commissioner- 
manager type of city government. Later generations would 
look back and label this period the "progressive era." 

Sadly, progressivism would coincide with a movement 
which would deny many American citizens their political 
and civil rights. Jim Crow would emerge full flower out 
of the same political cauldron which produced reforms. 
The Jennings administration would be one of Florida's most 
liberal governments but on the race question it would join 
the conservative Southern majority. Blacks would be seen 
as intellectual and moral inferiors and be deemed useful 
and competent only when in the charge of whites. They would 
continue to live in poverty and in ignorance, inadequately 
paid and housed, uneducated, and with a shockingly high 
mortality rate. For poor whites it was also a time of 
economic oppression and hardship. They too were illiterate 
and uncultured. Hookworm and rickets would attack their 
children, and the poll tax would keep the adults away from 
the ballot box. 

Despite the prevailing attitude toward blacks, the 
Jennings would befriend many of them, and in later years 



78 

May would be viewed by blacks as an important friend and 
ally. But in 1901 white supremacy prevailed, and the 
Jennings lived by the accepted code. One of Sherman's first 
acts as governor would be to sign into law a bill estab- 
lishing a "white's only" political primary system in 
Florida. The new law would be hailed by progressives as 
necessary and forward looking even though it closed the 
door in the South to black involvement in the political 
process. In 19 01, when Booker T. Washington dined with 
President Roosevelt at the White House, Governor Jennings 
remarked to the newspapers that the event only encouraged 
"the Negro to demand a social equality that (could) not be 
granted him," and that he "personally regretted the (White 
House) matter exceedingly." 

To the Jennings and other southern liberals, physi- 
cal freedom for blacks would be tolerated, equality and 
full civil rights would not. One historian put it succinct- 
ly when he wrote, " (progressives) did not envision racial 
tolerance or political equality for the Negro. The gifts 

of Jeffersonian democracy were to be accorded only to the 

2 

white population." Nevertheless, the Jennings years 

would provide Florida with a generally progressive govern- 
ment. Sherman and May would look back with pride at their 
accomplishments and years in Tallahassee. 

The Jennings inaugural took place on January 8, 1901. 
The family, which consisted of Sherman, May, eight year old 



79 

Bryan, Sherman's mother, Amanda, and the Manns, Austin, 
Alsina, Grace, and Austin, Jr. , arrived in Tallahassee 
several days prior to the inaugural. They stayed at the 
elegant Leon Hotel where ten rooms had been reserved for 
them. In addition to family members, hundreds of friends 
and political acquaintances took, rooms at the Leon, the St. 
James, and at other city hostelries. 

In the week prior to the inaugural visitors began 
arriving in Tallahassee. Some came to participate in the 
festivities, others only to observe an exciting state event. 
Each incoming train was filled to capacity. Reporters noted 
that although Tallahassee had a population of less than 3,000 
people, triple that number had crowded into the capital 
during inaugural week. The community did its best to cope 
with the situation and to accommodate the multitudes. Dances, 
dinner parties, and public entertainments helped to keep the 
visitors busy, but they also visited the Capitol and other 
public buildings, and took carriage rides into the nearby 
countryside. By inaugural eve a carnival atmosphere per- 
vaded the town; "the streets (being) thronged with handsome 

soldiers in bright uniforms accompanied by lovely women" all 

3 
laughing and talking animatedly. 

Inaugural day was sunny and bright; it proved "de- 



lightful, fair and balmy, fitting for the first great event 

4 

of the new century." An impressive military parade led 

off the festivities. The procession, which formed behind 



30 

the Capitol building, commenced at 10:00 a.m., and pro- 
ceeded slowly through the downtown district and back up to 
the east side of the Capitol. Marching were the Pensacola 
Brass Band, the Governor's Guard and military staff, fifteen 
colorful military units from around the state, and Florida's 
small but impressive naval militia. These units were fol- 
lowed by the official party and other dignitaries riding 
in open carriages. They included Governor Bloxham and 
Jennings, Mrs. Bloxham and May, cabinet officers and their 
wives, city officials, and a detachment of Confederate 
veterans who when they drove by wearing their uniforms were 
wildly applauded. The parade route was festooned with flags, 
colorful bunting, and posters, and was lined with hundreds 
of citizens who cheered with enthusiasm as each new unit 
passed by. The local newspaper hailed the inaugural as "a 

red letter day in the capital city's history," and described 

5 
the parade as "a spectacle not soon forgotten." 

The oath of office was administered to the new gover- 
nor on the east portico of the Capitol at high noon. May, 
who was dressed in a black crepe de paris dress and a large, 
colorful hat, sat on the dais near her husband. She did not 
participate in the formal ceremony, but her presence was 
acknowledged by all the speakers. Chief Justice Fenwick 
Taylor administered the oath of office to Jennings who was 
dressed in a new black broadcloth suit which May had ordered 
from New York City. After presentation of the state seal 



81 

and remarks by Bloxham, Jennings delivered his inaugural 
address. It was read in a strong, forceful voice. Though 

written in ponderous prose and over 7,000 words in length, 

7 
the speech was uplifting and optimistic in tone. It was 

more than mere rhetoric; it outlined specific problems 
facing the state and offered concrete solutions. The new 
governor called for reform of the state's overcrowded and 
stalemated judicial system, establishment of uniform state- 
wide property tax assessments, liberal support of public 
education, and rigorous enforcement of the state's health 
laws. The address was warmly applauded by the crowd. 

At the conclusion of the formal ceremonies, the 
Jennings were escorted to the governor's chambers where 
they were greeted by the cabinet and other prominent state 
officials. At midafternoon May returned to the Leon Hotel 
to rest and to prepare for the evenings' events. Sherman, 
accompanied by a retinue of politicians and state digni- 
taries, walked over to Wayne Square for a barbecue and a 
review of the state troops. That evening a splendid recep- 
tion and ball were held at the Leon. No formal invitations 
had been sent, and ordinary folk — "crackers," farmers, and 
small town businessmen--were observed rubbing elbows with 
high ranking state officials. The new governor was applauded 
by the state's newspapers for insisting upon a "people's 
inaugural. 



82 

Hundreds of people jammed into the Leon, which was 
decorated, inside and out, with palms, bamboo, bunting and 
flowers. Entertainment included vocals and piano instru- 
mental by four Tallahassee ladies and dance music was 
provided by Chase's Orchestra brought in especially for the 
occasion from Jacksonville. A lavish buffet of "chicken 

salad, turkey, Maryland biscuits, coffee, and chocolat ( sic ) " 

9 
helped to safisfy everyone's hunger. May and Sherman 

received well-wishers in the hotel's east parlor until 10:00 

p.m. , at which time they were formally escorted into the 

ballroom, where they led off the grand march. They were a 

handsome couple. Sherman wore a new tuxedo, and May, only 

twenty-eight, was at the peak of her beauty. Her ballgown 

elicited much excitement. A friend wrote that "school girls 

studied fashion plates a solid week in order to understand 

the descriptions" of it. May had spent months designing 

and making the gown. It cost $150, a lot of money in 1901, 

and was of "white satin crepe, embroidered in large white 

chrysanthemums, with plain crepe folds trimmed in lace." 

She handmade the lace for the dress including a delicate 

little butterfly which she wore in her hair. Lacemaking was 

one of the domestic arts she had been taught by the French 

sisters at St. Joseph's. The affair, which included waltzes 

and two-steps, lasted until 2:00 a.m. It was reported to 

have been "one of the most magnificent balls Tallahassee 

12 

had ever witnessed. " 



83 

The Jennings settled into a busy political and social 
routine in the state's capital. Since they had lived in 
the city before, they were quickly accepted by the local 
residents. They visited in the homes of many of the city's 
oldest families, and were frequently entertained by friends 
and political acquaintances. May was a hostess with extra- 
ordinary flair and verve, and whenever she entertained it 
usually elicited newspaper comment. 

The Jennings played host to many distinguished nation- 
al personalities who visited Florida. They included scien- 
tists like Thomas A. Edison, and industrialists like Ransom 
E. Olds, the founder of the town of Oldsmar. Even before 
the 1900 election Jennings had met Theodore Roosevelt who 

had presented May with an armful of red roses in repayment 

13 
for her hospitality. 

During their stay in Tallahassee the Jennings occa- 
sionally attended local entertainments. Monroe's Opera 
House frequently booked traveling operas, roadshows, and 
concerts. These events, and others like "Lesley's All Girl 
Band" and "Miss Carrie Rouse, the Celebrated Whistler," were 
usually greeted by an enthusiastic , over-flowing audience. 
In 1901 Bryan Jennings was taken to see the circus which 
was visiting the town. 

For the first two years of their stay in Tallahassee 
the Jennings resided at the Leon. In late 1902 they rented 
the elegant Cohen mansion, on McCarthy Street, which was 



34 

described as one of Tallahassee's "handsomest and most 

14 
commodious residences." It was a practical choice by 

May for Grace still lived with the family and the Manns were 
frequent visitors. Bryan Jennings was reluctant to leave 
the Leon, however, and years later he remembered the old 
hotel with fondness, especially its great central mahogany 
staircase with its "smooth-as-silk" banisters. To an 
active and imaginative youngster those banisters had offered 
unlimited temptations. 

May spent most of her time helping her husband. They 
worked together as a political team. She continued to 
serve as his closest confidant, and she was frequently a 
participant in informal political and policy discussions. 
May was deeply interested in the daily workings of her hus- 
band's administration, and he in turn respected her opinions. 
One contemporary called May the governor's "right hand 

man." Another referred to her as Sherman's "trusted 

n „17 
counselor. 

May had a winning style with politicians for she was 

intelligent and tactful as well as cheerful and gracious. 

She kept abreast of both state and national political events, 

and when required she could expound confidently upon current 

issues. She was a good debator; she was articulate and 

she did her "homework," reading extensively and talking to 

people. Tallahassee had witnessed few politically astute 

females, and she acquired a reputation for her political 



knowledge. Her keen mind and political skills also garnered 
for her many admirers and friends. 

When the legislature was in session she often helped 
out in the governor's office, greeting visitors, helping 
keep tabs on critical legislation, and aiding the staff with 
the many tasks required to keep the office running smoothly. 
The governor's personal secretary was Charles H. Dickinson, 
of Madison County, who had been clerk of the 1895 House, 
and who had held his county delegation firmly in the Jen- 
nings camp at the 19 00 state convention. Grace Mann was 
her brother-in-law's chief stenographer. She had worked 
earlier for him in his Brooksville law office. Her secre- 
tarial skills and knowledge of legal matters was so exten- 
sive that at one time Sherman attempted to get her admitted 
to the Florida bar, but, the "hue and cry" from this all- 
male organization reached such a crescendo that even the 
state's chief executive had to relent and abandon the idea. 
According to Grace's daughter she carried the disappointment 

■4.U U * 19 

with her for many years. 

Jennings proved to be one of Florida's ablest chief 
executives. He is described by historians as an activist 

governor although his personal style of leadership was quiet, 

20 
dignified, and unassuming. He was the first governor to 

truly challenge the Bourbons and the railroads and big 
business interests which controlled the state. He is cred- 
ited with launching the progressive trend that Florida 



86 

gubernatorial politics followed the first two decades of 
this century. 

When he came into office the state's finances and 
land policies were in a tangle. The state was in deep debt, 
and it had deeded away or granted more public land to rail- 
roads and corporations than even itself owned. There was 
a critical need for the state to reestablish its authority 
and control over the public domain. Sherman Jennings ap- 
parently was the right man for the job. He was honest and 
sincere, and he had an unblemished personal and political 
record. He was also a pragmatic, "hardnosed" fiscal con- 
servative who possessed superior administrative and mana- 
gerial skills. He had all the qualities needed to lead 
Florida back to economic soundness. 

The Jennings administration established an impressive 
record. It increased state appropriations to higher educa- 
tion and provided aid to certain classes of high school and 
rural grade schools. It endorsed free textbooks. It 
established a State Auditing Department, and was responsi- 
ble for the passage of the state's first bird protection and 
timber protection laws, the first pure food and drug law, 
the first law preventing cruelty to children, and a law 
raising the age of female consent from sixteen years of 
age to eighteen years of age. It was responsible for the 
enlargement and renovation of the Capitol building in 1902, 
and it reorganized the state court system which resulted 



87 



in the appointment of three new Supreme Court justices and 
additional circuit court judges. It reorganized the state 
militia. The governor supported the establishment of the 
primary system, and under his leadership Florida achieved 
the enviable feat of reducing taxes while at the same time 
increasing revenue. During the 1901 legislative session 
two bills were passed which benefited Austin Mann and his 
cronies. One extended the life of the Florida Grand Trunk 
Railroad grant to 1910 and the second gave an exclusive 
franchise, to operate any future shipcanal across Florida, 
to the Florida Ship Canal Company. Mann was a director in 
each of these enterprises. Neither company, however, ever 
profited by its privileged status. 

In four years Jennings reduced the state's bonded 
debt by $1,032,000. By settling Florida's Indian War claims 
against the national government the state was able to pay 
off $132,000 in bonds and save $40,000 per year in interest, 
as well as receive a large cash settlement from Washington. 
Revenues from licenses, stamps, and minor taxes were in- 
creased. By reforming the state convict-lease system an 
additional $500,000 was brought into the treasury. During 
his tenure Jennings increased the amount of revenue from the 
sale of swamp and overflow lands by 100 percent, but he also 
vetoed numerous unnecessary appropriation bills. By 1905 
the treasury balance had been increased from $32,805 to 
almost $500,000, and the bonded debt had been reduced forty 



percent. More importantly the general tax rate was reduced 
from three mills to just one-half mill. All this occurred 
while funding for education, state institutions, internal 
improvements, and pensions was increased. It was a truly 
remarkable fiscal record and was enthusiastically endorsed 
by Florida's citizens. 

By far the greatest accomplishment and legacy of the 
Jennings administration was its land policy. For over twenty- 
five years public lands, originally designated for drainage 
and reclamation purposes, had been routinely granted to 
railroads and corporations as a subsidy. Of the 564 rail- 
roads receiving charters less than one-half ever built roads. 
By 1901 this misguided giveaway policy had resulted in the 
depletion of the public domain and in the curious situation 
of railroads and corporations holding grants to more land 
than the state owned. Jennings and other progressives 
argued that the lands belonged to the people, and they were 
outraged by the scandalous practice. The state's most 
prized resource had been squandered. The governor felt 
strongly that such a policy could be legally reversed for 
it was subverting the intent of the Internal Improvement 

Act of 1855, which had reserved the lands for the people 

21 
and for reclamation and drainage. 

For two years Jennings and his staff investigated, 

researched, studied, and prepared legal briefs on the status 

of the public lands. The work was painstaking and tedious; 



89 



few reports and records were extant. But Jennings perse- 
vered for he saw the administration of the state's lands 

22 

as "one of the greatest trusts" he had been vested with. 

He ordered a thorough search of all state offices and ar- 
chives and directed that minutes, records, and laws pertinent 
to the subject be published and put into the public record. 
In the course of these investigations he found that a vast 
tract of the Everglades had never been patented. With the 
help of Florida's congressional delegation and by personally 
pursuing the matter in Washington, the state received a 
patent to 2,862,080 acres of South Florida land. The rail- 
roads, citing earlier state grants to them, immediately 
laid claim to this acreage but the governor had other plans 
for it. 

In his 1903 message to the legislature Jennings 
unveiled an elaborate drainage and reclamation plan for the 
Everglades. The idea was not original but he was the first 
political leader to try to do something about the matter. 
The newly patented lands were surveyed and engineering 
studies were begun. To validate the feasibility of such an 
ambitious undertaking Jennings produced tables, charts, 
graphs, expert opinions, and what he later called "the 
famous map." About this document, he wrote "it served a 
great purpose (for) it brought to the attention of the 

public the whole situation of the lands and incited keen 

23 

interest." Napoleon Broward, Sherman's successor, was to 



90 



make the map even more well known during his own guberna- 
torial campaign of 1904. 

The legislature approved Jennings' plan, but the 
actual work of drainage and reclamation was not to begin 
until the year after he left office. Few projects before 
or since have captured the imagination of Floridians as 
did the Everglades drainage and reclamation program. During 
the Jennings administration not one acre of public lands was 
deeded to any corporation. As a consequence of this, and 
because of opposition to drainage, the railroads and cor- 
porations instituted numerous suits against the state. For 
years these legal battles threatened to slow down and even 
halt the reclamation work. Jennings acted as counsel for 
the state in many of these suits. Eventually Florida's 
ownership of the lands and its right to drain, reclaim, and 
tax them was upheld in the courts. 

The high stakes involved in the reclamation of the 
Everglades made it a highly controversial project. Most 
people viewed it as a wise undertaking which would conserve 
and make productive a hitherto useless area. To those now 
in the ecologically-minded 19 80s the plan appears naive and 
misguided, but in 1903 it was thought that only man's 
ingenuity prevented a useless swamp from becoming a "garden 
of eden." With only a few canals here, and a dike or two 
there, the Everglades could be made lush and green. The 
longterm detrimental consequences of the project on the land, 



91 

the animals, or the Indians were never fully contemplated. 
Few questioned the wisdom of the project. Floridians still 
live with both the positive and negative results of the 
great dream of V7illiam Sherman Jennings and Napoleon Bona- 
parte Broward. 

May stood firmly behind her husband and shared his 
plans for the Everglades. She too visualized a land of 
"milk and honey" springing out of the swampy vastness of 
South Florida. For years she had heard from her father of 
the fortunes and benefits that would accrue from the drain- 
age of the swamplands. As early as 1885 Austin Mann had 
toured South Florida in search of a route for a cross-state 
canal. May had heard him describe the paradise that lay 
below Kissimmee, but it would be years before she would see 
it for herself. Reclamation and conservation of the Ever- 
glades was an issue that was to burn deep in her heart and 
mind, until she became personally involved in the project. 
Her natural affinity for nature and for tropical Florida 
turned that involvement into a lifetime commitment. 

Despite its many accomplishments the Jennings admin- 
istration was not without its mistakes or its harrowing 
incidents. Strangely, most occurred during the first few 
months that Sherman and May were in Tallahassee. One of his 
first acts as governor was to investigate and renegotiate the 
state's convict-lease contracts. The convict-lease system 
was a deplorable institution which many progressives sought 



92 

to abolish. But after thorough study Jennings became con- 
vinced that it was the most practical solution available, 
for it meant that the state would not have to support a 
large and costly penal system. After a study of the prob- 
lems of convict-lease Jennings became convinced that the 
system's cruel abuses could be eliminated. Although his 
supervisor of convicts wrote that the prisoners were in the 

main "healthy and cheerful," others contradicted this 

24 
assertion. " Jennings also felt that any profits from the 

system belonged to the state. 

Under his leadership, the cabinet, through a series 
of ploys and deft political maneuvers, renegotiated a more 
lucrative contract. It brought to the treasury $148,000 
per year for 97 5 convicts, or a more than sevenfold increase 
over the previous amount received. The new contract was 
hailed as a great victory and the governor as one who had 
"outfoxed" the state's omnipotent phosphate companies. Not 
everyone viewed it as a victory, however, for progressives 
were disappointed that an entirely new penal system had not 
been established. The whole episode is examined by Gordon 
Carper in his study of the Florida convict-lease system. 
In a chapter entitled "Crime for Profit" he cautiously 
commends Governor Jennings' actions, but states that "unfor- 
tunately he achieved economy at the expense of the convicts.' 
He also notes that the inhumane practices of the system 



93 



continued, despite the good intentions of the Jennings 
administration. 

Probably the most controversial event of Jennings' 
term was the passage of the "Flagler Divorce Bill." Henry 
Flagler's second wife was confined to a New York insane 
asylum. Flagler tolerated the situation for some years 
until 19 00. Determined to marry Mary Kenan, a young and 
vivacious North Carolina belle with whom he had fallen in 
love, he decided to do something about the matter. First 
he transferred his legal residence from New York to Florida. 
Then he got supporters in the 1901 legislature to introduce 
a bill making incurable insanity grounds for divorce. The 
bill caused an immediate sensation across the state. 

Politicians, clergymen, and newspapers took up sides. 
Charges and countercharges were exchanged. There were 
rumors that Flagler had paid off the legislature. Even 
Jennings was said to be in Flagler's pocket. The state's 
Baptists were enraged and issued a call-to-arms . The 
governor, a trustee of Stetson University and Florida's 
most prominent Baptist, was bitterly criticized by pulpit 
and press for supporting and signing the bill. It was 
charged that Flagler had used his great wealth in the 19 00 
state convention to secure the nomination for Jennings in 
return for Sherman's support of the bill. It was a serious 
charge. That Jennings knew Flagler was well known, but 
there is no evidence to substantiate these contentions. 



94 



The question remains, however, as to why the governor, a 
staunch Baptist churchman, supported such an unpopular and 
morally controversial law. Flagler got his divorce, the 
bill was later repealed, and the governor suffered the 
consequences for his actions. The affair made enemies for 
him; his Baptist brethren remembered his involvement the 
next time he ran for public office. 

On May 3, 19 01, the greatest conflagration ever to 
strike a Florida city occurred when a large section of 
Jacksonville, the state's largest city, burned to the 
ground. When news of the calamity reached Tallahassee the 
governor and his staff quickly responded. Martial law was 
declared, and by afternoon of that same day a special train 
with state troops, newsmen, officials, and Jacksonville's 
legislative delegation aboard was dispatched to the still 
burning city. More than 100 blocks of the city's business 

and residential area was gutted. Some 2,368 buildings had 

27 
been destroyed, and thousands of citizens were homeless. 

May Jennings remembered the tragedy with "sadness and 

recalled the soup kitchens and emergency establishments" 

2 8 
that were hastily erected. 

The governor visited Jacksonville to inspect the 

damage and review the troops. His quick response to the 

emergency was noted but some criticized the small amount 

of financial aid he had sent to the city. Damage had 



95 



exceeded $15,000,000; state aid totaled only $20,000. Hun- 
dreds of thousands of dollars were donated to the city by 
people throughout the United States. 

On December 17, 19 03, the governor, while working 
quietly in his office, narrowly escaped a potential assassin's 
attack. An escaped inmate from a Georgia asylum had some- 
how traveled to Tallahassee, and entered the Capitol build- 
ing undetected. Suddenly he appeared in the governor's 
suite screaming that he needed protection from pursuing 
persecutors. Growing wild with rage he made a dash for 
the governor, but secretary Dickinson was able to close the 
door to the inner office, and he wrestled the distraught 

man to the floor while others summoned help. Jennings was 

29 

shaken but unharmed. 

The Jennings spent four busy years in Tallahassee. 
When the legislature was not in session activities in the 
capital city slowed down considerably. Dickinson once 

wrote at one of those times that, "everything is as dull 

30 
as can be here." Gubernatorial duties in those years 

were cyclical and limited, Jennings concentrated on non- 
critical state business and on his own law practice during 
the months that the legislature was not in session. May, 
whose energy seemed limitless, remained active and involved 
however sluggish life in Tallahassee became. There was much 
to demand her attention, particularly Bryan, who was attend- 
ing Miss Ame's private academy. May chaired a committee 



96 

to raise money for a new sanctuary for the Baptist church. 
There was also her own personal and official correspondence, 
and activities connected with her duties as First Lady. 
There was upkeep of the rented mansion, supervision of the 
Brooksville homestead, as well as daily shopping, sewing, 
gardening, and cooking. There was also her own wardrobe 
which required attention. She always wore stylish clothes. 
She had a favorite dressmaker who resided in St. Augustine 
and served the affluent winter tourists. A milliner by 
trade, this lady kept May posted about the latest styles. 
She was also a friend and offered what she called "pearls 

of wisdom." Once she wrote the first lady: "hats are like 

31 

husbands, they need to be selected with great care." " May 

loved the woman dearly and often lent her money to help her 
through slack periods in dressmaking. 

May had to oversee the governor's official entertain- 
ing which was considerable during the Jennings years. She 
was responsible for several tours de force in entertaining 
which garnered statewide comment. The first was an elaborate 
dinner party which the Jennings gave in 19 01 in honor of 
the cabinet, and which established her reputation in Talla- 
hassee as a gracious and creative hostess. The Daily 
Capitol reported that the dinner, given at the Leon and 
attended by seventeen people, was the "first time in the 
history of the capital that the cabinet had been so feted." 
The paper called it "one of the most enjoyable social 



97 



functions ever given in Tallahassee, a notable feature (was) 
the absence of formality, and the atmosphere of cordiality 

and geniality which the accomplished hostess so success- 

32 

fully imparted to the occasion." 

Even the food served at the dinner was noteworthy; 
it too made the front page of the newspaper. The elaborate 
menu included, "Apalachicola oysters, creme of fowl, consomme 
pretiniere, celery and olives, broiled lake trout in drawn 
butter sauce, saddle of venison with mushrooms, french peas, 
asparagus tips, roast turkey with stuffing and cranberry 
sauce, creamed potatoes, chicken salad, vanilla ice cream, 

assorted cakes, fruit, cheese, crackers, mixed nuts, and 

33 
coffee." ~ The dinner proved a gastronomic delight; people 

talked about it for weeks. 

On their twelfth wedding anniversary in 1903, the 
Jennings gave a reception in honor of the legislature, that 
was then in session. The following day's newspaper head- 
lines noted, "Governor's Reception a Brilliant Function- 
Elite of Tallahassee in Attendance. " Over 500 people 
attended, and several times during the evening there was 
"a jam of carriages" in front of the Jennings' residence. 
The mansion was beautifully decorated: "The veranda was 
ablaze with electric lights in the national colors of red, 
white and blue and was screened in with national flags . . . 
palms and yellow flowers occupied places in every nook 
and corner of the house and vines entwined around windows, 



93 

35 
arches and doorways." Each room of the house was deco- 
rated in a different color. The governor's study, which 
served as the ice cream parlor, was festooned in pink! A 
local orchestra provided music, and each guest was present- 
ed with a favor, a miniature American flag, upon his 
departure. The news reporter commented upon the handsome 
gowns worn by May and Grace and stated that "there was abso- 
lutely no formality about the function, and all guests spent 
a most delightful time." 

Not all of the Jennings' entertainments were elab- 
orate. The family also enjoyed picnics and playing ping- 
pong, and card games such as crazy eights and hearts. They 
often read aloud to one another, and joined in parlor 
"sing alongs." May enjoyed music and was proud of her 
singing ability. Music played an important role in the 
Jennings household. 

Once a week May and Bryan went buggy riding. They 
often rode with Sarah Lamar, wife of the attorney general, 
or with Colonel C.W. Walker, a family friend. When riding 
alone they toured the city and countryside in a "victoria 
and span" drawn by white horses. May is remembered on these 
rides as always being modishly dressed and sporting a para- 
sol. 

The records do not show that May participated in 
formal clubwork while living in Tallahassee, although she 
may have helped organize the local woman's club, for the 



99 

Tallahassee Improvement Association was established shortly- 
after the Jennings arrived in the city in 19 01. Organized 
by local women, it wanted to beautify the community by 
cleaning up the parks, sidewalks, and streets. By 1903, its 
successor, the Tallahassee Woman's Club, had become involved 
in more important civic matters. It wanted the state to 
build or purchase a home for the governor and his family, 
and it became an outspoken opponent of the local educational 
establishment. It endorsed the creation of a graded high 
school with a modern and comprehensive curricula, to replace 
Leon Academy, which had served the town for over a genera- 
tion. The local paper wryly noted that, "there is a woman's 
club in Tallahassee, and judging by the way in which they 
haul the local school board over the coals the club doesn't 

exist merely for the purpose of discussing social events 

37 
and fashions." It later added that "the ladies are 

3 8 
aroused (but) the school board ignores them. " Their per- 
sistence, however, eventually won out and Tallahassee's 
school system was reformed. 

Apparently May considered it impolitic to belong to 
such an outspoken organization, and she took no public 
stand on issues. Judged by her later battles, however, 
she probably supported the ladies' goals. She did oversee 
a special beautif ication project of her own. The renovation 
and improvement of the Capitol was completed late in 1902. 
From January until April the following year she supervised 



100 



the landscaping of the building's grounds. Rye grass was 
sown, paths marked out, and flowering shrubs and trees 

planted in time for the legislative session. Some of the 

39 
local women aided in the work. She also helped decorate 

the Capitol for the dedication in December. At that func- 
tion a banquet was served in the House chamber, while a ball 
was held in the Senate chamber. May also decorated the 
governor's new offices. The suite included a reception room, 
secretary's office, and the governor's office. There were 
new tables, settees, chairs, bookcases, desks, file cabinets, 
umbrella racks, wardrobes, and nine brass cuspidors. The 
furniture was mahogany and massive. The governor's rolltop 
desk was sixteen feet long. 

The Jennings traveled extensively but tried to 
spend their holidays in Brooksville. In February 1901 they 
made an official trip to Pensacola to participate in Mardi 
Gras festivities which coincided with a visit by the United 
States Navy's North Atlantic Squadron. There were dinners, 
a parade, and a ball held in honor of the visitors. While 
the governor conferred with Admiral N.H. Farquahar and 
Secretary of the Navy John D. Long about Florida's naval 
defenses, May was feted at the home of Mrs. William D. 
Chipley. This pattern was to be repeated many times. Whether 
traveling alone or with her husband, May usually 
received special attention from the local ladies. Thus 
she was able, in four years, to meet most of the prominent 



101 

women in Florida and to build-up a network of statewide 
friendships which would prove helpful to her future work. 

The Jennings received many invitations to attend 
state, regional, and national meetings. While most of them 
had to be refused, they did manage to attend a large number 
of functions. Except in rare cases, May almost always 
traveled with her husband. The events the Jennings attend- 
ed revealed their wide range of interests: the launching 
of the U.S.S. Florida at Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1901; 
the 1901 Tammany Society's July 4th lecture series in New 
York City; Florida Bar Association conventions; Florida 
Press Association conventions; Florida State Horticultural 
Society meetings; the annual Florida Baptist convention; the 
1902 California State Fair in San Francisco; the Southern 
Turpentine Association convention; Florida Education Asso- 
ciation convention; Florida State Fair (May served on the 
Fair's woman's board); St. Louis World's Fair; and the 
National Good Roads Association convention in New York. In 
1904 Jennings and his father-in-law attended the second 
official automobile races on the beach at Daytona. The 
Governor spoke at the Good Roads Convention which was held 
in conjunction with the races. Austin, who had attended the 
first race in 1903, was an officer in both the Good Roads 
organization and the Florida East Coast Automobile Associa- 
tion, which sponsored the races. Returning from the event 



102 



the two stopped in St. Augustine and had their picture 

39 
taken together. 

In addition to these travels the Jennings attended 
scores of Democratic party functions, political rallies, 
high school and college commencement exercises, and various 
minor civic events. The state legislature was still meeting 
only once every two years and the governor's duties were 
such that in 19 01 he could travel, conduct private business, 
lead an active social life, and still have time to carry on 
his responsibilities as chief executive. May enjoyed 
traveling, and later in her statewide clubwork she would 
travel thousands of miles in the performance of official 
duties. Extensive traveling was a natural part of her life 
style; "living out of a suitcase" never seemed to bother 
her. 

Two trips the Jennings took were especially important 
and interesting. In September 1901 they traveled by train 
with a number of Floridians to the Pan-American Exhibition 
in Buffalo, New York. The fair which had received world 
wide publicity featured exhibits from all the states and 

countries in the Western hemisphere. It was located on 

40 
a 350-acre site outside the city. The Jennings had come 

to participate in "Florida day" activities and to officially 

open the Florida exhibit, which was housed in a booth built 

to resemble a palmetto hut having beams and girders draped 

41 

with Spanish moss. 



103 

The gaiety of the event was dampened, for in a house 
near the fairgrounds, President McKinley lay dying, the 
victim of an assassin's bullet. The President had been 
shot while touring the fair only a few days prior to the 
Jennings arrival. McKinley ' s deteriorating condition had 
thrown the country into a state of melancholy and had cast 
a pall over the Exhibition. Despite the somberness of the 
occasion, the Jennings paid their respects at the president's 
residence, and then were accorded the honor of being shown 
the fairgrounds in a "horseless carriage," a privilege 
reserved for only the most distinguished guests. 

In the spring of 19 02 the Jennings were among the 
official party at ceremonies in Havana at which Cuban inde- 
pendence was formally recognized. Since the end of the 
Spanish- American War the island had been under the juris- 
diction of the United States. In 1902 that relationship 
ended, and Cuba was declared a free republic. The geographic 
proximity of Florida and Cuba and the fact that there had 
been close ties for centuries was a major reason why 
Florida's chief executive was chosen to represent the United 
States at the ceremonies. In addition to Sherman, May, 
their son Bryan, Grace, and a number of Washington digni- 
taries, the official party also included William Jennings 
Bryan, who traveled as a correspondent for the news magazine, 
Colliers' Weekly . The visitors were feted to a tour of the 
city, an elaborate banquet, a fancy dress ball, a jai alai 



104 

game, a fireworks display, and a yacht club breakfast. On 
May 20, 19 02, at an impressive ceremony at Moro Castle, 
with guns saluting, soldiers standing at attention, and a 

band playing anthems, the forty-five star American flag was 

43 
lowered and the new flag of Cuba was raised. The American 

flag was presented to May. She cherished it for many years. 
The Jennings once received an invitation from Profes- 
sor E. Warren Clark, who lived outside of Tallahassee on 
the old Croom plantation, Casa de Laga. The property occu- 
pied a thousand acres on a bend along the shoreline of Lake 
Jackson. Clark had turned it into a successful dairy farm 
and had renamed the place Shidzuoka. Clark was respected 
but was considered a bit eccentric. He was described as a 

man who "farmed with imagination and whose personality 

45 
added color to life along the west shore of Lake Jackson." 

A neighbor remembered that "the bespectacled Professor 

frequently peddled his bike along old Bainbridge Road and 

that he occasionally held elaborate celebrations at Shid- 

46 
zouka." Two of these celebrations involved the Jennings. 

The first was an elegant garden party on the plantation's 
spacious lawn beneath a grove of stately oak trees, held in 
honor of Sherman's inauguration. The Jennings and cabinet 
officials attended. 

Professor Clark was a kind-hearted man and was dedi- 
cated to the advancement of blacks. Periodically he held 
a day-long entertainment for Leon County's ex-slaves, to 



105 

celebrate May 20th, Florida's Emancipation day. 47 Clark, 
who came from a New England background, did not endear him- 
self to Leon County whites by holding these celebrations, 
but they tolerated them. The professor meant well and felt 
that he was helping the blacks. They, in turn, enjoyed 
his parties and looked forward to them with anticipation. 
Professor Clark expressed the accepted liberal attitude of 
the day. He viewed the former slaves as children who needed 
whites to protect them, educate them, and save their souls. 
Later his brand of liberalism would seem patently condes- 
cending, patronizing, and offensive, but in 1901 it repre- 
sented the most enlightened attitude that white liberals 
could bring to the racial question. 

In 19 01 he invited Governor and Mrs. Jennings to his 
next celebration. He wrote, "Next Monday is Emancipation 
Day. Sixteen years or more ago I gave a grand entertain- 
ment here at Lake Jackson for the Colored People, nearly a 
thousand of them came, and I invited Governor Perry out here 
to spend the night and address the Colored People, which he 
did. Could you drive out? After a five minute address to 
your 'colored constituents' we could show you immense 
stereocopticon views. This time our subject is 'Types of 
Colored Races of the World. ' The illustrations will include 
the native Hawaiians, Filipinos, Chinese, Japanese, Singa- 
lese, Hindoos, Brahmins, Mohammedans, ancient Egyptians, and 
Ethiopians ... a dense Black Crowd would listen to you and 



106 

49 
such a little visit would do a great deal of good." The 

professor, who apparently thought all non-whites were Negroes, 

concluded his invitation with the information that he was 

at that very minute writing a new book entitled "Uncle 

49 
Tom's Cabin Up to Date"! 

Professor Clark held his May 20th celebration as 
planned. Over 1,000 blacks attended, many traveling long 
distances to get to the plantation. Almost all were dressed 
in their best Sunday attire. There was food, hymn singing, 
lectures, "music by phonograph" and the much anticipated 
stereocopticon show of "types of colored races." Part of 
the day's entertainment was described by the local news- 
paper. It seems that "Dr. Wa-hoo-chee, an Indian lecturer 
and exhibiter, assisted Professor Clark. . . . Wa-hoo-chee 
whose Indian ancestors once roamed over (Florida's) 'happy 
hunting grounds' was photographed with his squaw and his 
dog in full Indian war costume, with tomahawk in one hand 
and open Bible in the other. . . . When the Indian presented 
his passion play to the colored people the scene of Lazarus 
arising from the dead and Christ himself unshrouding his 
risen body affected the emotional nature of the colored 

people so that some of them cried out as if Christ were 

50 
actually before them. " It is not known if the Jennings 

accepted Clark's invitation and attended the celebration. 

In 1903 Sherman began to give serious thought to his 

political future. For over a year he had assessed the 



107 



feasibility of running for a higher office. In 1902 there 
had been rumors that he would become a "dark horse" candi- 
date for vice-president on the national Democratic ticket. 
There was also speculation that he would run for Congress. 
The voters waited for an announcement. Finally in August 
1903, he declared his intentions; he would enter the 1904 
primary and seek a seat in the United States Senate. To 
his supporters his gubernatorial record made him an unbeat- 
able candidate. More astute observers, however, were not so 
optimistic. He had waited too long to announce his candi- 
dacy, and he would be running against a popular and power- 
ful incumbent. 

Senator James P. Taliaferro would be a formidable 
opponent. He was a conservative Democrat who came from a 
wealthy Jacksonville family. In addition John N.C. Stockton, 
also from Duval County, and a protege of Napoleon Broward, 
was a candidate. By waiting so long to declare his inten- 
tions Jennings' campaign lost momentum before it ever really 
got started. From the beginning of the race he was the 
"underdog. " 

Although his record as governor was impressive and 
he was well-liked by most Floridians, he had angered many 
in the party by some of his decisions as governor. Also, 
his manner was quiet and reserved. Many felt that he lacked 
the charisma and personality required to win a wide-open 
primary race. To the voters he did not appear to have the 



108 

strong temperament or the toughness that Floridians thought 
their senator should have. In addition he was faced with 
the added burden of having to justify his candidacy to his 
follow Democrats. Why, they asked, did he dilute the 
liberal challenge to Taliaferro by making the primary a 
three-way race? Wasn't Stockton as much a liberal as he? 
Indeed, one historian has stated that even "the voters 
were inclined to regard Stockton as a more sincere liberal 
than Jennings." 

The three candidates attended the state Democratic 
convention at Punta Gorda, where a large rally was held to 
kick off the campaign. Each was called upon to speak. 
Jennings supporters must have realized their candidate was 
in trouble when it was reported that, "The Governor has not 
yet forsaken free silver, and his bold declaration of con- 
tinued affiliation with a dead issue was not unnoticed by 

52 
his hearers (who) regard (him) as a third party. " From 

that time onward the Jennings campaign seemed to go from 
bad to worse. The primary proved to be bitter and vitriolic. 
Charges, counter-charges, and mud-slinging became the rule 
rather than the exception. At times Jennings seemed over- 
whelmed by the bitter attacks, but he made a gallant effort 
to bypass personalities and campaign on the issues. 

May worked hard to reverse the trend. Again she 
was in charge of the campaign paperwork. She supervised 
a statewide mailing and publicity operation, and she 



109 

organized the Governor's speaking tour. Her formal title 

was "Chairman of the Jennings' Campaign Committee on Public- 

53 

lty and Promotion." She was also president of the Talla- 
hassee Jennings club. Despite her efforts and a valiant 
speaking tour in which Sherman tried to present himself as 
a forceful, dynamic leader, he and May knew that they were 
fighting an "uphill battle." The primary election returns 
showed just how difficult the battle had been. Sherman 
trailed far behind both of the other candidates and was 
eliminated from the race. May was disappointed by her hus- 
band's defeat but remained smiling and spirited in her 
public appearances. Sherman was more philosophical about 
his defeat, and seemed almost relieved that the ordeal was 
behind him. He threw his support to Broward, who was run- 
ning for governor, and then set about making plans for the 
future. 

The Jennings faced several options. They could 
return to Brooksville where Sherman would resume his law 
practice. He could try for another public office, or he 
could accept one of the offers of employment that v/ere 
being tendered to him. In November 19 04 the Governor 
made his decision. He had received a lucrative offer which 
he felt he could not refuse. A new financial institution, 
purported to be the state's largest, was being formed and 
he had been offered a vice-presidency of it and a handsome 
retainer to act as the firm's legal counsel. Sherman and 



110 



May would move to Jacksonville. For May the move was to 
prove fortunate for it would place her in the state's larg- 
est city, in the best location for her to pursue her 
avocations of club and civic work. May would make her mark 
in Jacksonville. 



Ill 

Notes to Chapter IV 

Unidentified newspaper clipping, October 18, 1901. 
WSJ Papers, Box 9. 

2 

Proctor, Broward , p. 174. 

3 

The Weekly Tallahassean , January 10, 1901. 

4 
Ibid . , January 17, 1901. 

5 Ibid. 

Lake City Citizen-Reporter , January 11, 1901. 

7 . . 

The handwritten original copy of the address is in 

the possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge. 

Q 

The Weekly Tallahassean , January 10, 1901. 

9 Ibid. 

Norton Kealthly to William S. Jennings, February 4, 
1901. WSJ Papers, Box 8. 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , July 10, 1955. 

12 

The Weekly Tallahassean , January 10, 19 01. 

13 Ibid. , October 25, 1901. 

Ibid . , August 1, 1902. 

15 

Interview with Dorothy Brown Jennings, July 27, 

1978. Penney Farms, Florida. 

Blackman, The Women of Florida , II, p. 92. 

17 

Eustis Lake Region , September 5, 1901. 

18 

Florida Legislative Directory 1903 (Tallahassee, 

1903) , p. 43. 

Elizabeth Bell Hightower to author, July 2, 197 8. 

20 

For an assessment of William S. Jennings' guberna- 
torial abilities see Colburn and Scher, "Florida Gubernatorial 
Politics," unpublished MS. In possession of authors, Uni- 
versity of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. 



112 

21 

For an overview of the public land policies see 

J.E. Dovell, "The Railroads and the Public Lands of Florida, 
1879-1905," Florida Historical Quarterly , XXXIV, January 
1956, pp. 236-258. 

22 

William S. Jennings, "Florida's Public Lands," 

Legislative Bluebook , 1917, p. 50. 

23 Ibid . , p. 54. 

24 

R.F. Rogers to William S. Jennings, April 1901. 

WSJ Papers, Box 8. 

25 

Gordon N. Carper, "The Convict-Lease System in 

Florida, 1866-1923" (Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State 

University, 1964), p. 186. 

26 

Photographs of Jennings and Flagler together are in 

possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge. 

27 

Benjamin Harrison, Acres of Ashes (Jacksonville, 

1901) , passim. 

2 8 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , July 10, 1955. 

29 

New York American , December 18, 1902. 

C.H. Dickinson to William S. Jennings, June 11, 
1901. WSJ Papers, Box 9. 

31 

Mary Wakefield to May Jennings, September, 19 01. 
MMJ Papers, Box 1. 

32 

The Daily Capital , December 5, 1901. 

Ibid . 
34 Ibid . , May 13, 1903. 

35 ibid. 
36 ibid. 

37 

The Weekly Tallahassean , July 17, 1903. 

3 8 

Ibid. , August 7, 1903. 

39 

Alice Strickland, "Florida's Golden Age of Racing," 

Florida Historical Quarterly, XXXXV, January, 1967, p. 259. 



113 



40 

Florida School Exponent , v. VIII, No. 4, December 
1900, p. 6. 

41 

Daytona Gazette-News, June 22, 1901. 



1901. 



42 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , September 13, 

43 , 

El Figaro, XVIII, June, 1902. 



44 

The Moro Castle flag is in the possession of 

Dorothy Jennings Sandridge. 

45 

Clifton Paisley, From Cotton to Quail: An Agricul - 
tural Chronicle of Leon County, Florida, 1860-1967 (Gaines- 
ville, 1968) , p. 75. " 

46 

Ibid . , p. 76. 

47 

For a description of May 20th Emancipation Day 

celebrations see Susan Bradford Eppes, The Negro of the Old 

South (Chicago, 1925), p. 115. 

48 

E. Warren Clark to William S. Jennings, May, 19 01. 

WSJ Papers, Box 9. 

49 

Ibid. 

The Weekly Tallahassean , May 23, 1901. 

51 

Proctor, Broward , p. 189. 

52 

Unidentified newspaper clipping, August 25, 1903. 

Jennings Scrapbook No. 2, WSJ Papers. 

53 

Letterhead on Campaign stationery, November, 1903. 

WSJ Papers, Box 16. 



CHAPTER V 
JACKSONVILLE, THE FEDERATION, 
AND OTHER THINGS 



The move to Jacksonville proved the right decision 
for the Jennings family. In 1905 the city's population was 
nearly 40,000. As the state's industrial and financial 
capital it had an active civic and social life and a good 
school system. Bryan Jennings would graduate from Duval 
High School and attend Stetson University where he would 
acquire a law degree. Grace Mann continued to live with 
the Jennings. She attended Wesleyan College in Macon, 
Georgia, and in 1910 married John M. Bell, a Jacksonville 
businessman. 

The first years in Jacksonville Governor Jennings 
solidified the family's finances. He became a vice- 
president of the Florida Bank and Trust. He bought stock 
in the Barnes- Jessup Naval Stores Company, and he acquired 
extensive real estate holdings. He developed a law prac- 
tice which became so large that eventually he took on Bryan, 
his son, and Benjamin F. Brass, as junior partners. The 
Jennings firm was located in the Dyal-Upchurch building on 
Bay Street. 

The first two years in the city the Jennings lived 
in rented homes, including the Meunart House at 12 9 East 
7th Street. In 1907 the family moved into their own house 

114 



115 

which they built on the corner of Main and Seventh streets 
in Springfield, which lay north of Hogan ' s Creek and which 
contained some of the city's most elegant residences. When 
the Jennings home was built the area was out in the country 
beyond the city limits. The trolley, which ran down tracks 
in the center of a landscaped esplanade on Main street, made 
a U-turn near the Jennings home, which at the time was the 
end of the line. 

The Jennings house was one of the largest in north 

Jacksonville. Two-story and frame, it cost $6,000 to 

2 
buxld--an impressive sum in 19 07. It had twelve rooms 

including eight upstairs bedrooms. On the first floor there 

were a large entrance hall, parlor, dining room, and a 

kitchen. The house had "broad airy porches on both the 

3 
first and second floors, front and rear." There was a 

large stable at the rear of the property which was later 
converted into a garage. Inside, the house had grain edge 
pine flooring, curley pine doors, chandeliers, leaded glass 
windows, and a mahogany staircase. The furniture--oak, 
ebony, and mahogany — was large, in the style of the time. 
There was a piano in the parlor and the governor's desk, a 
magnificent roll-top affair of burl and mahogany, was promi- 
nently displayed. The desk, which had been a parting gift 

from his cabinet, carried a brass placque with their names 

4 
and the dates of the Jennings administration. Linens 

used in the house were all hand embroidered by May and 

carried the family monogram. 



116 



Austin Mann wrote his daughter when she moved into 
her new home that, "God has sure been good to you." Provi- 
dence soon blessed Mann also for he too built a new home. 
This house, even larger than his daughter's, was an elegant 
structure which he named "Olivewood. " It was located on 
the northwest corner of Silver and Eleventh streets only a 
few blocks from the Jennings home. 

Soon after moving into her new home May planted 
trees, flowers, and gardens. The grounds, while not spa- 
cious, were tastefully landscaped. Gardening was one of 
May Jennings' favorite activities. Her appreciation of the 
outdoors and the beauties of nature continued throughout 
her life. She was especially fond of flowers such as roses, 
hollyhocks, snapdragons, larkspurs, and sweetpeas. Her 
garden also contained a bed of prize-winning lilies, which 
elicited much comment from those who visited the house. 
Over the years May was to become a skilled amateur horticul- 
turist and spent time ordering seeds and plants and writing 
friends and experts to exchange information about gardening 
and farming. When the house was demolished decades later 
several of the palm trees which she had planted in 1907, and 

which had grown very tall, were transplanted to the grounds 

7 
of Jacksonville's city hall. In its early years the 

Jennings house also had a small chicken yard on the premises. 

At one time May ordered an incubator to facilitate the 

raising of fowl. It was a novel device, and friends and 



117 

neighbors made special visits to view it in operation. 
Occasionally she raised pigeons and doves for their eggs, 
which she considered a delicacy. A cow was kept for its 
milk. 

Sometimes May's attachment and loyalty to her 
beloved state of Florida manifested itself in curious and 
humorous ways. Shortly before the family moved into their 
new home she chose as the house's box number 1845. The 
number was a sentimental choice because it was the date of 
Florida's entry into the Union as a state. The number 
worked fine as long as the Jennings home was out in the 
country, but the Springfield area grew rapidly, and even- 
tually the house number caused a monumental headache for 
the United States Postal Service. A conflict was inevita- 
ble for May was determined to keep her house number. After 
threats, cajolings, and finally negotiations the dilemma 
was solved. Despite the consternation of the postal 
service and the inconvenience the illogical number caused 
her neighbors, May retained the address of 1845 Main Street, 

Q 

and so it remained until her death. 

Because of the size of the house and because of the 
family's social position the Jennings always had servants. 
There was a laundress who had worked for them in Tallahassee 
and who had moved to Jacksonville with the family. The 
kitchen maid was a black, named Lizzie Logan, who worked 
for the Jennings many years. There was also a black houseman, 



118 



Benny, who served as handyman, gardener, and chauffeur. He 
too was employed by the family for many years. May was 

kind to her servants, but she always "expected from them 

9 
a full day's work for a full day's wages." 

After settling in Jacksonville the Jennings quickly 
immersed themselves in the city's civic life. Because they 
preferred activities which concerned philanthropic, civic, 
or political matters, rather than mere social fraterniza- 
tion, they never belonged to exclusive social organizations 
like the country club or the Seminole and Yacht clubs. 
Neither did they indulge in that faddish social activity, 
whist playing (the card game bridge) , which was then all 
the rage in Jacksonville. Their circle of friends included 
prominent local, state and national business and political 
leaders. As in Tallahassee, May gained a reputation as a 
hostess with exceptional abilities. The local paper pre- 
dicted before one of her parties that "All the guests will 
be talented, and an artists' evening will be enjoyed. That 
the evening will be a success, and every moment will be full 
of pleasure, goes without saying since Mrs. Jennings is the 
hostess." In addition to hospitality with her husband 
she frequently entertained her own friends, and for many 
years she played host to eminent clubwomen from Florida and 
the nation who happened to pass through the city. It was 
not uncommon for the Jennings to have a dozen or more over- 
night houseguests in the span of one month's time. 



119 

Governor Jennings never again held elective office, 
but he stayed active in politics and continued to speak out 
on major issues. In 19 08 he and Austin Mann, who at that 
time held high office in the state and national Good Roads 
association, were delegates to the national Democratic con- 
vention in Denver. That same year Jennings served as his 
cousin's southern campaign manager in William Jennings 
Bryan's third try for the presidency. In 1911 Jennings 
served on a special commission which studied Florida's out- 
moded tax system. He supported the Democratic candidates — 
Albert W. Gilchrist and Park Trammell — in the 1908 and 1912 
gubernatorial races, and in 1916 he backed William V. Knott 
in his contest against Sidney J. Catts. 

Jennings' prime interest until his death was the 
great Everglades drainage project. In 19 05 Governor Broward 
appointed him counsel to the trustees of the Internal 
Improvement Fund, a position he held almost five years. If 
Broward was the driving force and the "mouthpiece" of the 
vast reclamation project, then Jennings was its architect 
and legal "brains." It was because of his abilities that 
the legal ambiguities and threats to the project were 
untangled. Almost singlehandedly he was to see that all of 
the challenges against it were met and successfully resolved 
in the courts. He authored important enabling legislation, 
and he drafted the bills which financed the undertaking. 
The work was time-consuming and arduous, although he received 



120 

Broward's gratitude and a $5,00 yearly salary from the 
state for his services. VIork on the Everglades project 
embroiled Jennings in several controversies. In 1906 he 
sued the Jasper News for slander because of libelous 

editorials it published concerning his efforts on behalf of 

12 

drainage. He won the case. In 1907 he was involved in 

an altercation with Congressman Frank Clark, in which he 
struck the politician over the head with a hickory cane. 
The flap was caused by remarks Clark made about Jennings 
and the so-called profits Jennings had received from his 
work for the state. Working on behalf of the misunderstood 
reclamation program was not easy and Jennings and Broward 
were frequent targets of ambitious politicians and news- 
papers which printed sensational but often incorrect news 
stories. 

In 1909 Jennings resigned his post as counsel to the 
Trustees, but he shortly became attorney for the State 
Board of Drainage Commissioners. Again he defended the 
state's actions in the courts. Through the years the faith 
of Sherman and May in the reclamation project never diminish- 
ed. Jennings became a nationally recognized authority on 
the dual subjects of canals and drainage and gave numerous 
speeches around the country. May, also, "talked up" the 
drainage project whenever she could. Several times the 
Jennings journeyed to the work sites to observe the progress 
of the dredges as the mammoth machines plowed their way 



121 

across the glades. During one such trip the family boated 

up the Caloosahatchee River to inspect the dredges and to 

13 

indulge xn some "unexcelled duck shooting and fishing." 

In 1911 the Jennings traveled to Europe — Holland and other 
countries — on behalf of the National Drainage Association 
and to observe firsthand the great European canal projects. 
They returned to the United States aboard the British liner 
Lusitania , later destined for a tragic demise. 

In 1912 Jennings organized and hosted on behalf of 
the state a trip from Fort Myers to Fort Lauderdale via 
the newly-cut drainage canals. The journey, which treated 
northern newsmen and prominent Floridians to a free excur- 
sion, marked the official opening of a cross-state water- 
way. The trip, undertaken to blunt criticism of the costly 
Everglades project, was a success, for the participants 
returned to their homes and issued glowing reports about 
what they had seen in south Florida. Apparently, however, 
they did more than just observe the canals and scenery for 
in Jennings' expense log book of the expedition one finds 
outlays for items such as playing cards, poker chips, 
tumblers, cigars, strawhats, and bathing suits. Austin 
Mann, who had been promoting a cross-Florida canal for 
decades and who was now seventy- four, was one of the guests 
and it was one of the highlights of his life. 

The Jennings were entranced with south Florida and 
they began spending more and more of their time in the area. 



122 

In 1912 they purchased two waterfront lots in Miami, and in 
1916 built a large vacation home which they named "House- 
in-the-Woods. " It was located at 3633 Brickell Avenue, 

between the James Deering estate "Vizcaya" and the William 

15 
Jennxngs Bryan home "Villa Serena." "House-in-the-Woods" 

was the scene of several important meetings and parties 
which the Jennings held to promote Everglades drainage, 
conservation, political candidates, and women's rights. 

In 1910 Jennings became attorney for Richard J. 
Bolles, one of the largest landowners in the Everglades. 
Jennings, Mann, and Broward had met Bolles at the Democratic 
Convention in Colorado in 1908. A land speculator, Bolles 
eventually purchased more than one-half million acres of 
Florida's swamp and reclaimed lands. He was a controversial 
figure and some accused him of using questionable land pro- 
motion tactics. Eventually he was investigated by the 
United States Senate. Despite his reputation, his purchase 
of swamp land aided the state by bailing the drainage 

-i /r 

project out of its economic doldrums. Prior to Bolles 
the state was under continual attack by critics who accused 

Broward and his associates of "draining the treasury" as 

17 
well as the Everglades. To Jennings and other officials 

Bolles saved the beleaguered project during the time of its 

most serious crisis. Because of friendship and legal 

services performed for Bolles the Jennings became large 

landowners. They acquired two large tracts of land from 



123 

Bolles; nearly 60,000 acres of timber and farmland in Clay 
County that had been owned jointly by Bolles and Austin 
Mann, and thousands more acres in Dade County near Homestead. 
The Jennings family formed several companies. One, known 
as the Dade Muck Land Company, operated a truck farm and 
citrus grove on 3 00 acres, but it proved only marginally 
successful. Eventually most of this land was sold or lost 
to the banks during the economic depression of the 1930s. 
On the Clay county land the Jennings built themselves a 
large farmhouse, later named "San Lebrydo," and organized the 

Artesian Farm Company of Middleburg, which farmed vegetables 

18 
and sold acreage to out-of-state buyers. 

The Jennings continued to maintain their original 
homestead in Brooksville even though they seldom visited 
it. Thus by 1915 they owned homes in Brooksville, Jackson- 
ville, Miami, and Middleburg. Because of the ex-governor's 
busy law practice it was May's responsibility to oversee 
these properties and also much of the operation of the 
lands. These tasks she performed with her usual efficiency 
and aplomb. Through the years she had acquired a good 
knowledge of agricultural affairs from her father and 
husband. The management of the varied properties was a 
time-consuming chore and she conducted much of the day-to- 
day operations through the mails. Only the Middleburg 
property was regularly visited by the family. At one time 
May supervised work on a tangerine grove, pecan orchard, a 



124 

large potato patch, and a strawberry farm, each in a dif- 
ferent location. In using the mails to conduct business 
she followed the lead of Austin Mann for he had relied on 
this method for years. His hectic traveling schedule had 
dictated it. Between 1905 and 1914 he was managing a large 
peach plantation in Tennessee and properties in Brooksville, 
as well as a land speculation venture near Sanford known 
as Celery City. All of this was in addition to his Good 
Roads work. Both May and her father had the ability to 
handle simultaneously a variety of family, business, and 
political obligations. 

Occasionally the Jennings had relatives live in their 
houses and oversee the properties. Two such family members 
were Roy Mann, May's brother, and Tom Jennings, her brother- 
in-law. Even though Jacksonville was the family's permanent 
residence May felt comfortable in all of her houses, and 
they were always furnished and ready for an unannounced 
visit by the family. she felt a special affinity for her 
Miami home, which the Jennings comtemplated as a future 
retirement home. She made friends with many south Florida 
women and those friendships were later to be invaluable aids 
in her statewide clubwork. 

May Jennings appeared to outside observers as a 
woman who was "all business," but to those who knew her 
intimately she was also a loving and compassionate person. 
While she had little outward sympathy for moral weakness or 



125 

indolence, for many years she privately loaned money to 
relatives and friends who needed help. She financed the 
college education of her husband's niece, Marie Kells, and 
supported her brother's family because he was an alcoholic 
and could not hold a permanent job. She loaned money to 
her dressmaker and her servants when they needed help. 
Because of her strong and sunny personality, which acted 
as a magnet, she drew to her those who needed a friend. 
Her manuscript collection is full of letters from strangers, 
as well as friends, requesting help. Over the years she 
gave money to the Children's Home Society, Daniel Memorial 
Orphanange, St. Luke's Hospital, the Audubon Society, the 
Jacksonville Y.W.C.A., and many other organizations. Her 
own talents as a fundraiser were often sought for she was 
not hesitant to ask her many friends for a donation to what 
she considered a worthy cause. 

May's club career began soon after the Jennings moved 
to Jacksonville. In November of 1905 she received a letter: 
"Dear Madam, At a recent regular meeting of the Executive 

Board of the Jacksonville Woman's Club you were duly elected 

19 

a member." She was thirty-three years old, and photo- 
graphs of her at that time show a slim, elegantly-dressed 
woman with strikingly attractive features. Her hats, 
always large and colorful, were already her trademark. 
Genteel in manner and dress she looked the part of the re- 
fined clubwoman. Her looks and gentility, however , disguised 



126 

a strong personality and a politically astute mind. Those 
who knew her realized that the small, cultured, fashiona- 
bly dressed woman could and did speak with authority and 
command of the facts. She was particularly persuasive 
when talking from a dais before an audience. Over the 
years the "sense of presence" and charisma that May Jennings 
exuded were regularly noted by observers. 

Within a short time of moving to Jacksonville she 
had joined the Woman's Club, Ladies' Friday Musicale, 
Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Springfield 
Improvement Association. She would eventually help 
organize the Jacksonville Y.W.C.A. and many other local and 
state organizations. During those early years in Jackson- 
ville she particularly enjoyed her membership in the 
Musicale, and was a member of its chorus which rehearsed 
weekly. At one Musicale gathering she sang a solo entitled 

"Absent" which, according to a newspaper report, was per- 

20 
formed in a "manner which called forth repeated applause. " 

In 1907 the Musicale 's chorus performed at the Dixieland 

Theatre as part of a Saengerfest sponsored by the local 

German society. A few weeks prior to the performance May 

read before her fellow chorus members a paper she had 

21 
written about Wagner's Tannhauser . Eventually she resigned 

from the chorus because of the press of other obligations, 

but she retained membership in the Musicale and continued 

to attend its many functions. 



127 

From 1905 until 1914 May's ablest efforts were 
expended on behalf of the Jacksonville Woman's Club (JWC) , 
because it more than any other organization seemed to meet 
her earnest need to be actively involved in community 
affairs. Through it she felt she could participate in the 
progressive political movement then underway in Florida, 
a movement which her husband's administration had helped 
launch. Through her clubwork May Jennings was to become 
one of the first women in Florida to enter the state's 
political scene. She became one of the first to take 
advantage of the new social and political changes that were 
beginning to impact American women, allowing them to play 
a more involved role. Those changes would thrust May Jen- 
nings into the forefront of activity and make her one of 
the best known personalities in the state. 

A major forum that women, like May Jennings, used 
to gain entry into the new worlds of political and civic 
responsibility was the woman's club — an organization which 
provided just the right amount of genteel respectability 
for public exposure, while at the same time providing the 
ladies with self help and educational programs. While the 
woman's club movement appeared to be a peripheral outgrowth 
of the national progressive movement that began during the 
1890s, in reality it could trace its roots back to the Civil 
War period. There was a direct link, a thread of continuity, 
running from the antebellum abolition societies to the 



128 



women's missionary societies of the 1870s, to the women's 

temperance unions a decade later, and then to the women's 

22 

clubs of the 1890s. it was not rare at all to find many 

clubwomen who had belonged to each of these earlier organi- 
zations. 

After the Civil War more and more women, North and 
South, sought employment outside their homes and began to 
handle their own property. The 1890s were to mark an impor- 
tant turning point in this phenomenon. Changing public 
attitudes toward women plus technology, which helped to 
free them from household drudgery, helped to promote a 
degree of liberation from a male-dominated society, and 
allowed them to devote themselves to interests beyond the 
family. They felt that a new day was dawning and they 
yearned to join the mainstream of American life, where 
educational, economic, and political opportunities were 
available The South had always been more conservative in 
its attitudes toward the role of women, but even here there 
seemed to be an enthusiasm expressed by females as they 
approached the twentieth century. A few even believed it 
would be possible to move from "pedestal to politics," to 

enter the mundane and hitherto forbidden areas of public and 

23 

political life. 

Women's clubs became a major vehicle for their 
members to participate in social and political matters. 
Still wearing "bustles, corsets, and stays," more and more 



129 

females began to venture forth to challenge the entrenched 
views of themselves and society. This spiritual and politi- 
cal awakening would have major consequences, for though 
the women lacked the franchise and other political rights, 
their clubs became mediums for progressive social change. 
Women's organizations in Florida and elsewhere made a major 
impact on life in America. Club leaders, like May 
Jennings, left an indelible mark on Florida's political, 
educational, and social institutions. 

The Florida woman's club movement spread rapidly. 
Organizations were formed throughout the state during the 
1890s, following the establishment of the Green Cove 
Springs club, the state's oldest, established in 1883. 24 
During the 1890s female reading societies and village 
improvement associations appeared everywhere, no town seemed 
to be too small for such an organization. Ladies met in 
their homes to study history, literature, music, art, and 
political science. They also participated in charity work, 
which usually encouraged them to discuss community problems. 
Many females came to realize that they had a responsibility 
to help resolve problems relating to education, housing, 
health, libraries, parks, crime, and sanitation. They met 
with local officials in an attempt to coax or coerce them 
into taking action. Political involvement at first was 
tempered by timidity and circumspection but as the women 
gained confidence their goals and tactics became bolder. 



130 

Their pathway was often impeded by ridicule, disappoint- 
ments, and defeats. Successes in the early days of the 
movement were few. Confrontations with male public officials 
were routine and left each club with its own "hairraising" 
story to insert into its minutes books. 

In the early period, 1890-1920, club membership was 
confined almost entirely to women from affluent, upper- 
middle-class families. Women like May Jennings became the 
leaders of the clubs, for they were well educated, possess- 
ed organizational abilities, and many were good public 
speakers. At first most of the clubs were little more 
than social gatherings with teas, cotillions, musicales, 
and garden parties consuming most of the members' time and 
energies, but as time passed this situation changed. Soon 
the women were studying social problems in depth, writing 

position papers, circulating petitions, and making public 

, 26 

speeches. 

Florida's early clubs sometimes had amusing names. 
Many names were purposely obscure for the women seemed to 
want to avoid publicity so as not to call attention either 
to themselves or their organizations. Unusual club names 
in Florida included the Fortnightly Club of Palatka, House- 
keepers of Coconut Grove, Progressive Culture Club of 
Titusville, Caxtons of Pensacola, Entre Nous of West Palm 
Beach, Current Topic Club of Lake City, Twentieth Century 
Club of Gainesville, Avila of Rockledge, and the Literary 



131 



and Debating Club of Melrose. There were also village 
improvement associations. Of course the names fooled no 
one; everyone knew they were women's clubs even if they did 
not sound like them. 

Most of the clubs eventually changed their names 
to something more identifiable. For example, Brooksville 
women first organized as the Whittier Club, became the 
Ladies' Improvement Society, and finally became the Brooks- 
ville Woman ' s Club. Whatever the designation, the organiza- 
tions furnished the comaraderie, intellectual stimulation, 
and leadership training which the women sought. Usually 
the first goal of each club was to build a clubhouse on a 
prominent site in town. Many of these structures were 
still standing in 1980. In smaller towns these buildings 
often served as the community center. 

By 1895 there were enough clubs and intercommunica- 
tion between them for a statewide meeting to be held to 
discuss federation. Such arrangements among women's clubs 
had already occurred in other states. There was even a new 
national federation, the General Federation of Women's 

Clubs (GFWC) , composed of state federations, which had been 

27 
organized in New York City in 1894. The GFWC eventually 

became a powerful organization with headquarters and lobby- 
ists located in Washington, D.C. Through the years the GFWC 
would work for municipal and national governmental reforms, 
child labor legislation, penal reform, equitable taxation, 



132 

improved public education, health laws, and national conser- 
vation laws. The strength of the General Federation was to 
lie in its numbers. By 1914 every state federation had 
joined it and it represented more than two million American 
women. 

The General Federation offered up to twenty different 
subjects to study, including everything from political 
science, music and art, to conservation, and public health. 
Subjects were dropped and others added as the times and 
political interests of the women dictated. The General 
Federation held a biennial convention in a large, major 
American city every two years, at which programs were 
presented on the different subjects, called departments in 
the Federation, after which the women would vote on pertinent 
issues that they wanted to push in the halls of government. 
In 1980 the General Federation of Women's Clubs was still a 
viable organization with its headquarters in Washington. 

On February 21, 1895, eight women representing five 

village associations met in the library of the Green Cove 

28 

Springs Village Improvement Association. '' Attending were 

Mrs. E.N. Burrows, Mrs. E.V. Low, Mrs. E.G. Munsell, and 
Mrs. E.A. Graves, Green Cove Springs; Mrs. S.B. Safford, 

Tarpon Springs; Mrs. Emma C. Tebbetts, Crescent City; Mrs. 

29 
S.L. Morse, Orange City, and Mrs. L.E. Wamboldt, Fairfield. 

That same day the women voted to federate their clubs and 

thereby established the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs 



133 

(FFWC) . The constitution and by-laws set forth the objec- 
tive: "To bring the women's clubs [of Florida] into acquain- 
tance and mutual helpfulness." Clubs applying for 
membership were expected to be "free from sectarian or 

political bias and [to express] the spirit of progress on 

31 

broad and humane lines." The Federation was governed by 

a state president, lesser officers, and a board of directors, 
which was to be composed of veteran clubwomen. All officers 
served two year terms. 

At first some Florida clubs refused to join the state 
federation, accusing it of "radicalism." This was particu- 
larly true of the conservative panhandle area of the state, 
yet the Federation grew. In 1910 it contained thirty-six 

clubs representing 16 00 women; by 1914 some 6,000 women had 

32 

joined. 

The Federation's organizational framework was 
patterned after the General's, which it joined the following 
year. Starting with only one section it was eventually 
divided into five state sections, formed by combining contig- 
uous counties. By 1920 there were twelve sections, each 



headed by a vice-president who worked under the state 

33 

president. Each section held an annual meeting; once a 

year the whole Federation met in convention. The first 

34 
statewide convention was held in 18 96 at Green Cove Springs. 

In the early years delegates sometimes had to overcome 

formidable odds just to attend the conventions; long 



134 

distances between cities, poor traveling facilities, and 
opposition from skeptical and hostile family members. Only 
eleven women attended the fourth annual state convention 
which met in Jacksonville in 1899. 

The Florida Federation's departments were the same 
as the General's, but as each state was allowed its own 
variations, Florida had additional ones. These included 
departments which promoted bird protection, forestry, 
waterways, good roads, and the Seminole Indians. Florida 
women reflected a more than ordinary interest in the develop- 
ment and conservation of the state's natural resources. As 
in the General Federation the departments in the state 
federation were added and dropped as interests dictated. 

From its inception in 1895 the Florida Federation 
was a politically-minded organization. The first official 
action taken by the women at the historic Green Cove 
Springs meeting, in 1895, was to direct each of the five 
member clubs to "hold a meeting for the purpose of drawing 
up a petition to the legislature of Florida, praying it to 

recind the act [which] allowed cattle to run at large in 

35 
towns of less than twelve hundred inhabitants." Thus 

was the Federation's first legislative program launched. 

The animal problem was a familiar one to Floridians. May 

Jennings and her sister clubwomen had tackled the problem 

in Brooksville as early as 1891. Amazingly the fledgling 

Federation almost made good on its stated objective for 



135 

"on May 6, 1895, Mr. Fleming introduced in the senate, Bill 
Number 284, amending the act defining what cities shall 
impound live cattle." The bill passed the Senate on May 
17, but failed in the House. 

The battle over free roaming and tick-laden Florida 
livestock had begun. It was to become one of the longest 
and toughest battles the Federation was ever to face. The 
Florida range industry was one of the state's most powerful 
and entrenched interests, and it proved to be a formidable 
foe. Lucy Blackman, historian of the Florida Federation, 
writing in the 1930s, described the consequences of that 
1895 call to legislative action as follows: "Thus has it 
been for more than thirty years that between the Federa- 
tion of Women's Clubs and the Legislature of Florida, the 
sacred Florida cow has been an everpresent bone of conten- 
tion—skin and bone literally. It looks as though there 
might be thirty more years of contention ahead of us before 
this ticky and emaciated beast shall have been sufficiently 
immersed and groomed, and made fit for good society. I can 
promise the legislators of those coming days that the 

Federation women will still be on hand with their resolu- 

37 
tions and persuasions." Mrs. Blackman 's prediction was 

true for the livestock problem was not completely resolved 

until the 1960s. The Federation ladies stood strong and 

adamant during the long battle, with May Jennings leading 

much of the fight. 



136 

From 1895 the Federation was never without a legis- 
lative program. At each annual convention the clubwomen 
would discuss the major issues pertinent to the organiza- 
tion's departments, and then by motion and vote produce 
a political action program which would become the following 
year's goal. This uniform, statewide solidarity on issues 
was one of the keys to the Federation's successes. Since 
the Federation objectives became the goals of each club, 
then each member was a fighter for the cause. A word from 
the leadership was enough to flood the legislature or 
special officials with hundreds of letters and telegrams. 
Some of the Federation's favorite programs took many years 
to accomplish. The fight for compulsory school attendance 
laws lasted fourteen years. The struggle to preserve part 
of tropical south Florida took more than forty years; the 
battle over unfenced and undipped livestock was waged over 
a period of seventy years. Many of the Federation's most 
spectacular successes occurred during its first twenty- 
five years. Success often depended on the calibre of the 
organization's leadership. Fortunately, women with the 
required talents were there when needed. The Federation's 
legislative committee, which was established in 1908, had 
the direct responsibility of seeing that the organization's 
political program was publicized and presented to the state's 
representatives at each session of the legislature. By 
necessity, the women who chaired this committee had to be 



137 

articulate and politically knowledgeable. Few were to equal 
May Jennings in political astuteness, and she served as a 
member of this important committee longer than any other 
woman in the Federation's history. 

Through the years the FFWC supported a myriad of 
political objectives. Gradually the organization was to 
become conservative in its political point of view, but, 
during its early history, it was as progressive as any 
organization in Florida. Although it supposedly was non- 
partisan, there was always a conservative faction in the 
Federation which opposed the more progressive majority. 
Nevertheless, for its day, the Federation was a liberal 
organization. 

During its first decades several themes tended to 
repeat themselves in the Federation's political programs. 
Ever concerned about "social purity," i.e. morality, and 
aware that their sex did not have full economic or legal 
rights, the women continually tried to upgrade the status 
of women in these areas. In 1897 they petitioned the legis- 
lature to raise the female age of moral and legal consent 
from age ten to twenty-one. In 19 01 the age was finally 
set at eighteen. The Federation ladies worked for legisla- 
tion which would protect the family and female and children's 

rights. In 1911 the organization issued a booklet titled 

3 8 

Some Laws of Importance to Women in Florida . It was the 

first of many pamphlets on female rights published in 
Florida. 



138 

Public education was another issue which the Federa- 
tion consistently promoted. As early as 1901 the women 
were urging the establishment of tax-funded kindergartens, 
modernized school curricula, improved teacher training, 
compulsory attendance laws, adequate public funding, and 
females being appointed to school boards. For twenty years 
the Federation sponsored a free traveling library which 
was open to the public and used by the public schools. 

Conservation and beautif ication were also promoted 
by the Federation. These issues were particularly championed 
by a small but vocal group of south Florida women. At 
the Federation's 1905 convention several of these ladies 
introduced a motion which would have far-reaching conse- 
quences for Florida and the nation. The motion as adopted 
advocated the creation of "a Federal forest reservation of 
Paradise Key in the Everglades, in order to preserve the 
unique groups of Royal Palms, this being the only spot in 

the United States where these palms are found growing 

39 

naturally. ' When May became president of the Federation 

years later she used this motion, which was still on the 
Federation's books, to help bring its promises to fruition. 
The Federation also worked to get a state Forestry Commis- 
sion established. 

From the beginning the Federation was concerned with 
public health and child care. In these areas the clubwomen 
were usually far ahead of local and state health officials. 



139 



In 19 07 the clubwomen began selling Christmas seals, with 
proceeds going into anti-tuberculosis work. They sponsored 
"health days" in the public schools. In 1910 the organiza- 
tion sponsored a speaking tour by Dr. Ellen Lowell Stevens, 
female doctor and clubwoman. In 1911 clubwomen in Jackson- 
ville were responsible for the establishment of a State 
Conference of Charities. The Federation was also a major 
pressure group which brought about the creation of the 
state's first tuberculosis sanitarium and school for the 
retarded and feeble-minded. 

The Federation's impact was first felt at the local 
level. Each club became a vehicle for social and civic 
change within its own community. In 1899 the Green Cove 
Springs Village Improvement Association launched a city 
beautif ication program, organized a forestry and bird club, 
and provided funding and staffing for a free public library. 
The St. Petersburg Women's Town Improvement Association 
worked to get an ordinance which would prevent loose chickens 
and other fowl from polluting public sidewalks and roadways. 
Other clubs were protecting birds, planting trees, cleaning 
streets, and establishing libraries; "sidewalks, bicycle 

paths, fences, and even school houses were built by these 

40 
intrepid women. They raised money for their projects 



140 

by sponsoring exhibitions, banquets, and candy and bake 
sales. The women's good works were being felt and acknowl- 
edged across the state. 

The clubwomen's activities were not always welcomed 
by the general public. City and county officials were 
often startled and usually perplexed when groups of local 
ladies marched into their offices, demanding that they 
clean up the communities and provide better services. Male 
consternation and anger were often confounded by the fact 
that the women confronting them were their very own wives, 
daughters, sisters, and mothers. Lucy Blackman refers to 
these pioneer clubwomen as "heroines" and "captains 
courageous." She states that they were consistently faced 
with "the old Adam war-cry 'Woman's Place Is In The Home,' 

which reverberated through the pines and over the rivers 

41 
and lakes and oceans from Pensacola to Key West. " One 

of these women, a member of one of Jacksonville's most 

prominent families, remembered that in those early days 

she was often reviled for associating with such an "iniqui- 

42 
tious movement" as a woman's club. Others recalled "that 

the men of the towns were bitter in their denunciations of 

Women's Clubs [but] that there were always enough women 

with spinal cords starched stiff, who raised eyebrows and 

43 
went forth anyway to do as they saw fit. 

If local officials resented the women, the members 

of Florida's all-male legislature were especially indignant. 



141 



Their ridicule, sarcasm, and mockery was routinely reported 
in the state's newspapers. It seems that the women had an 
"annoying habit of talking back to the legislators after 

they had been told politely to go home and tend their 

44 
babies. " With the exceptions of the two Jacksonville 

papers, the Florida Times-Union and the Metropolis , early 

allies, most of the state press was skeptical of what the 

women were trying to do. In an editorial "No Women in 

Politics Please," the Jacksonville Sun pleaded for some 

45 
way to "save us from this catastrophe." 

A writer in Florida Magazine wondered "What will the 

twentieth century woman be?" after observing that changes 

in manners and habits of thought had brought about radical 

46 
"new conditions" in the domestic sphere. And the Ladies 

Home Journal wishfully noted that "The tide of women rushing 

, 47 
pellmell into all kinds of business has been stemmed. 

Of course, the tide was not stemmed and women in Florida 
and elsewhere began to take their rightful place in public 
life. 

May Jennings, more than any other female in Florida, 
was to personify the new civic-minded twentieth-century 
woman. Her rise to prominence would begin in the Jackson- 
ville Woman's Club. 



142 

Notes to Chapter V 

Jennings was a director of the Leesburg State Bank 
and the State Bank of Ybor City. An income statement for 
1905 shows that the family spent $5,957 on living expenses, 
$2,866 on law office expenses, and $30,733 on investments. 
WSJ Papers, Box 20. 

2 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , May 23, 1964. 

3 Ibid . 

4 
Governor Jennings' desk is in the possession of 

Dorothy Jennings Sandridge. 

A.S. Mann to W.S. Jennings, June 30, 1907. WSJ 
Papers, Box 22. 

Jacksonville City Directory, 1912 (Jacksonville, 
1912) , n.p. 

7 
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , May 23, 1964. 

Q 

Interview with Dorothy Brown Jennings, July 27, 
197 8. Penney Farms, Florida. 

Ibid . 

Jacksonville Metropolis , April 20, 1908. 

For a description of Jennings ' role in resolving 
the legal problems which threatened the drainage project 
see W.S. Jennings, "Florida's Public Lands," Legislative 
Bluebook , 1917, pp. 55-73. 

12 

Jacksonville Metropolis , April 13, 1907. 

W.S. Jennings to William Jennings Bryan, November 
20, 1908. WSJ Papers, Box 22. 

14 

Itemized list of trip supplies. WSJ Papers, Box 

24. For additional details about the trip see Alfred J. 

and Katherine A. Hanna, Lake Okeechobee, Wellspring of the 

Everglades (Indianapolis, 1948) , pp. 159-161. 

Miami City Map, 1918 ; Miami City Directory, 1919 . 



143 

For the story of the Everglades project and Jennings', 
Broward's, and Bolle's roles in it see Hanna, Okeechobee , 
pp. 118-172. 

1 7 

Jacksonville Metropolis , February 28, 1906. 

18 

Arch Fredric Blakey, Parade of Memories, History of 

Clay County, Florida (Jacksonville, 1976) , pp. 187-188. 

The majority of the Clay County land was still in the hands 

of the Jennings family in 1980. 

Jacksonville Woman's Club to May Jennings, November 
25, 1905. MMJ Papers, Box 2. 

20 

Jacksonville Metropolis , March 16, 1907. 

2 1 

Souvenir zum Verbandsf est , 1907. May Jennings' copy 

of the Saengerfest program can be seen in the Haydon Burns 
City Library, Jacksonville, Florida. 

2 2 

For a short history of the women's movements of 

the nineteenth century and the role played by southern 
women see Anne F. Scott, The Southern Lady: From Pedestal 
to Politics, 1830-1930 (Chicago, 1970), passim. 

23 

Ibid. 

Jennie June Croley, The History of the Woman's Club 
Movement in America (New York, 1898) , p. 155. Green Cove 
Springs is designated the site of Florida's first woman's 
club. 

7 S 

Margaret Nell Price, "The Development of Leadership 

by Southern Women Through Clubs and. Organization" (M.A. 

thesis, University of North Carolina, 1945) , passim. 

Karen J. Blair, "The Clubwoman as Feminist: The 
Woman's Culture Club Movement in the United States, 18 6 3- 
1914" (Ph.D. dissertation, State University of New York 
at Buffalo, 1976) , passim. 

07 

Croley, The History of the Woman's Club Movements 

in America , p. 55 

28 

Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 129. 

29 Ibid. , p. 127. 



144 



30 

Florida Federation of Women's Clubs hereafter re- 
ferred to as the Federation or the FFWC. The General 
Federation of Women's Clubs hereafter referred to as the 
General or the GFWC. 

31 

Blackinan, The Women of Florida , I, p. 130. 

32 

List of clubs in the FFWC, 1914. See Appendix II. 

33 

List of presidents of FFWC. See Appendix III. 

34 

Location of first twenty-five FFWC conventions. 

See Appendix IV. 

35 

Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 131. 

36 Ibid . , p. 130. 

37 

Ibid. 

3 8 

Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, Some Laws of 

Interest to Florida Women (Jacksonville, 1914). 

39 

Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 153. The two 

women who introduced the resolution were Mary Barr Munroe 
(Mrs. Kirk Munroe) and Edith Gifford (Mrs. John Gifford) . 

40 Ibid . , p. 130. 

41 Ibid. , p. 132. 

42 

Ibid . , p. 133. 

I bid . 

44 

Ibid. , p. 136. 

45 

Jacksonville Sun , December 2, 1905. 

46 

Florida Magazine , I, November, 1900, p. 105. 

47 

Ladies Home Journal quoted in Florida Magazine , IV, 

March, 19 02. " " 



CHAPTER VI 
AN ENTHUSIASTIC CLUBWOMAN" 



The Jacksonville Woman's Club became one of the 
state's largest and most influential women's clubs. It had 
its beginnings on January 20, 1897, when forty women met 
at the Windsor Hotel across from Hemming Park to organize 
a club for the "mutual improvement [and] entertainment of 
its members, [and] for the cultivation of the amenities of 
social life, and to give aid to all worthy objects." Thus 
its purpose was threefold: self-improvement, entertainment, 
and good works. The women represented the city's most 
affluent and prominent families, and included Lula Paine 
Fletcher (Mrs. Duncan U.), Julia Furcghgott (Mrs. Leonard), 
Katherine Livingston Egan (Mrs. Dennis), Cordelia Durkee 
(Mrs. J.H.), Lucy Colby Wamboldt (Mrs. N.C.), and Lizzie 
Marsh Yerkees (Mrs. J.B.). Later members came from the 
Cummer, L'Engle, Barnett, Meigs, Broward, and Young families. 
By 1907 the club had 215 members. 

Soon after its establishment the Jacksonville club 
began offering a full slate of activities. Reading and 
study classes were organized; a nurse was hired to visit 
the city's poor and sick; and art and flower shows were held 
to raise money for the public schools and St. Luke's Hospi- 
tal. When the great fire of 1901 nearly destroyed 

145 



146 

Jacksonville the club supplied most of the workers for the 
Woman's Relief Corp. By 1904, the year that a clubhouse 
was constructed at 18 East Duval Street, the club had become 
an influential member of the city's social and civic estab- 
lishment. In 1927 a more spacious club home was built on 
Riverside Avenue. 

In 1906 the club supported a pure food and drug 
exposition by arranging a parade of decorated baby coaches 
and "goat carriages" on Bay Street. A woman's lounge was 
opened in the club building for downtown shoppers and female 
employees to use as a "haven of rest." In 1907 the clubwomen 
protested to city hall about the "cows roaming free" through- 
out Springfield, and they petitioned the Board of Public 
Works to provide playgrounds in the parks. The club had 
become so successful at getting things done that Claude 
L'Engle editorialized in the Jacksonville Dixie that "Wonens ' 
Clubs with the wonderfully feminine energies underlying 

them, have the levers in their possession like old Atlas 

3 
to move Mother Earth off of its pegs." 

During the Jacksonville club's first decade the women 

studied such disparate items as forestry, opera, flower 

arranging, conservation, municipal reform, Milton's Paradise 

Lost , child care, legends of Florida, bacteria, Shakespeare's 

plays, birds, Greek architecture, the legal status of women, 

and the nebula hypothesis. Two other subjects on the agenda 

were ship canals, perhaps suggested by May Jennings, and 



147 



the question, "Are We Healthier and Happier Than Our Grand- 
mothers?" To the latter the women answered in the affirma- 
tive, but the real importance of the question lay not in 
the fact that the women answered "yes," but that they had 
asked the question at all. It reflected just how far they 
had come since "the good old days." 

After joining the Jacksonville club in 1905, May 
became one of its most active members. She was popular 
with most of the women, but her energy, deep commitment to 
social progress, and her political bravura were a source of 
alarm to the club's more staid and conservative members. 
Some of the ladies felt that she was too interested in 
politics and might involve the club in controversy. Lucy 
Blackman states that the women's clubs were "the most demo- 
cratic organizations in the world" for they asked for no 

"ancient lineage, adherance to a particular political creed, 

4 
or specific religious belief." This was true, but like 

all organizations which drew its members from an elite 
clientile the women's clubs tended to be exclusive. New 
members had to be sponsored, and only a few lower-middle- 
class or Jewish women were ever invited to join. Victorian 
morality and social conservatism made some of the clubwomen 
frown on anyone who was not of the accepted class or who had 
talents or ideas which might "rock the boat." May had 
impeccable credentials, but she was different from most of 
her associates in that she was not afraid of controversy or 



148 

confrontation. In fact, she seemed to thrive on them. A 
few of the Jacksonville members never truly accepted her, 
and later they accused her of "playing politics" and of 
"grandstanding" for personal attention. Many seemed not 
to understand the importance of the work that she and other 
Florida clubwomen were undertaking. To many women the ob- 
jectives of their clubs and of the Federation were commenda- 
ble, but they resented anything that interfered with their 
own socializing or family responsibilities. To May, efforts 
expended to achieve the Federation's political objectives 
were not only serious business, but also a form of social 
and intellectual entertainment. Her sense of citizenship 
and nobless oblige gave clubwork a higher meaning than many 
of her contemporaries were able to accept. Dedication and 
commitment played a central role in her lifelong avocation 
of civic and public service. 

Many of May's rivals and harshest critics were women 
very much like herself: highly motivated, intelligent, and 
strong willed. Mrs. Minerva Jennings (Mrs. Frank E.), no 
relation, and Margaret Young (Mrs. William B.), fell into 
this category. Like May both were married to prominent men 
and they were much involved in civic work in Jacksonville. 
May was to clash with them often over club policy and tac- 
tics. The rivalry between the women occasionally threatened 
to erupt into open hostility, but usually the competition 
remained hidden and out of public sight. While never 



149 

petty, May's quick tongue and overwhelming sense of self- 
assurance sometimes made people fear her. The majority of 
women that she worked with over the years supported her and 
her ideas, even though some may have been awed by her abili- 
ties. One admirer later wrote, "Mrs. Jennings shows a 
marked degree of disregard of cliques. [She] has risen 
superior to them. In fact fairness is one of the attributes 

that has been most salient in all that she has done. She 

5 
is approachable at all times." Through the years May was 

to garner a sizable group of loyal supporters. 

May Jennings was interested and active in so many 

things during her lifetime that she might be accurately 

described as a renaissance woman. She was interested in 

art, music, and drama. Through careful organization of her 

time she was able to involve herself in many different 

types of civic, club, and political matters and projects 

at the same time. While involved in the many activities of 

the Friday Musicale she could also solicit funds for an 

orphanage, lead a petition drive, organize political tactics 

for a lobbying effort on the legislature, and also maintain 

a full entertainment and travel schedule. Her interests 

and her ability to work assiduously for disparate movements 

reveals a woman with an active mind and much physical energy. 

May Jennings could comfortably work on a host of club, civic, 

and political projects simultaneously. She retained this 

ability and her peripatetic lifestyle all of her life. 



150 

Occasionally she would narrow her vision and concentrate 
for the moment on one project, but it was usually for just 
long enough to get some favorite project begun moving, or 
terminated. The pace she set for herself was astonishing. 
Few women were able to match either the number of projects 
she promoted, the number of clubs she belonged to, the 
many people, prominent and less well known, 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 many scores of clubs and 
organizations. By 1910 she was well known by the general 
public, and four years later when she became president of 
the Florida Federation of Woman's Clubs she was the most 
prominent woman in the state. 

May Jennings hated inaction. She was a doer, and 
she saw inaction as weakness. When named to head a committee 
or assigned a responsibility she immediately began making 
plans and organizing the workers necessary to get the 
objective accomplished. She was somewhat unusual; most of 
her associates lacked either confidence in their own abili- 
ties or the experience to take on difficult tasks. The 
Jacksonville club's yearbooks for 1906 and 1907 list her 
as a member of the social purity committee, and as chairman 
of the civics committee. For the next several years she 
chaired the club's legislation committee. The earliest 
record of her leading a movement was on a project which the 



151 

Jacksonville club undertook in the summer of 1906. Charac- 
teristically, she chose to make it into a statewide crusade. 
It involved railroad depots. 

Jacksonville was known as the "gateway to Florida." 
Hundreds of thousands of tourists passed through the city 
each year; most of them traveling by train. The local depot 
was a decrepit and uncomfortable building which did not put 
either Jacksonville or Florida in the best light to visitors. 
In 1906 the Jacksonville's Woman's Club members decided that 
the old station needed a facelift. A committee, with May 
Jennings as chairman, was formed to look into the situation. 
She argued that the women should not limit their efforts to 
Jacksonville. The problem was statewide; most of Florida's 
depots were antiquated and uncomfortable. The women passed 
a resolution, the first of many such documents bearing May's 
signature, calling for a statewide campaign to repair, clean, 
and beautify every depot in the state. Local citizens in 
each community were called upon to lead the effort. May 
mailed a copy of the resolution to every town government, 
village improvement association, woman's club, newspaper, 
and railroad official in the state she could ascertain. The 
Jacksonville officials who received copies also received a 
personal "lecture" on the problem from May and her committee 
members . 

Publication of the resolution throughout Florida 
helped to rally public opinion. May and her cohorts had 



152 

put state and local authorities on notice that Florida 
clubwomen were a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, 
the results of the campaign were mixed, and many station 
masters refused to cooperate in cleaning up their depots. 
However, enough interest was stirred that R. Hudson Burr, 
state railroad commissioner, who had received a personal 
note from May, felt impelled to make an inspection tour of 
the railroads' public facilities. Newsmen noted that Burr 

was unfavorably impressed with what he found and was particu- 

7 

larly appalled by conditions at the Brooksville station. 

Despite railroad resistance and lethargy among town 
officials, May was pleased that the resolution had stirred 
up public interest and had forced state officials to take 
some action. The campaign showed that if women acted 
together they could affect the quality of public life. In 
November 1907 May attended the thirteenth annual FFWC con- 
vention in Gainesville. It was her first recorded atten- 
dance at a Federation convention. While there she reported 
that the railroad campaign, while not an overwhelming success, 
had significantly improved depots in some of the state's 
major cities, like Jacksonville, Tampa, and Tallahassee. On 
her return to Jacksonville the Metropolis described her as 
"a very important member of the Florida circle of club 
women . 

In 1907, as chairman of the civics committee, May 
began working on behalf of child welfare, a cause which was 



153 

to consume much of her energy in the next decade. She began 
her work at first with the State Reform School at Marianna. 
Clubwomen had shown an interest in the institution since 
its establishment in 1897, and many deplored the harsh and 
unsanitary conditions at the school. Facilities were inade- 
quate, and the inmates were often mistreated. The majority 
of children were black, three were girls. Medical atten- 
tion was lacking and the mortality rate was high. The 
inmates received little formal education and no religious 

or moral teachings. Boys as young as ten years were observed 

9 
working the school's farm with their feet shackled by chains. 

Efforts to establish a Florida juvenile court system, 
improve the juvenile penal system, and public education, 
and regulate child labor were loosely grouped together in 
what was termed the child welfare movement. Various organi- 
zations were involved. The movement was given a major 
impetus when the conditions at Marianna were publicized. 
In 19 07 Governor Broward called for doubling the appropria- 
tion to the school, to $10,000 per annum. May supported 
this action and made the improvement of the Marianna school 
the major objective of her committee. She read a paper to 
the club that she had written about the conditions there, 
and then called for a memorial to the legislature endorsing 
Broward's request. The women stated that they "heartily 
agreed that the institution should be made a real Reforma- 
tory School [with industrial training] and not be a 



154 

Juvenile Prison." The memorial, signed by May and 173 
Jacksonville clubwomen, was sent to the governor, the 
cabinet, and each legislator. Telegrams and letters poured 
in from the women, and the 19 07 legislature, one of the 
state's most progressive, not only heeded the governor's 

request concerning the reform school, but it also passed 

12 
Florida's first comprehensive child labor law. Mrs. C.H. 

Raynor, Federation president, was presented the pen with 

which Broward signed this bill. May was pleased for she 

had written or talked to every official that she knew in 

support of the bills. 

There was still much to be done at the state level 

to secure better conditions and rights for children. When 

the 1909 legislature convened, several other organizations 

united with the clubwomen. They included the Florida State 

Federation of Labor, and a loose confederation of private 

child welfare agencies led by Marcus Fagg, superintendent 

of the Children's Home Society of Jacksonville, Florida's 

largest orphanage. Led by May, Jacksonville clubwomen again 

13 
submitted a resolution to the legislature. This time it 

called for a $25,000 yearly appropriation to the Marianna 

institution. Albert W. Gilchrist, who was now governor, was 

visited by May and received personally a copy of the new 

14 
resolution. She also delivered a memorial from the club 

supporting another more comprehensive child labor bill which 

15 
was ready for the legislature. Unfortunately, she was 



155 

unable to remain in Tallahassee to lobby for the bills. 
Despite a full-scale letter writing campaign by clubwomen 
and personal lobbying by Marcus Fagg, the 1909 legislature 
refused to increase the reform school's appropriation or to 
enact the child labor bill. It did, however, appoint a 
committee to inspect the facility at Marianna. Undaunted, 
May and the clubwomen vowed to continue the work. The year 
1911 would be a crucial year in the struggle for child 
welfare legislation. 

Determined to help the school, the Federation's 
legislative committee devoted the years 1910-1911 to a study 
of the reformatory. The committee was now led by Susan B. 
Wight (Mrs. Henry) of Sanford, an aggressive leader. The 
school was still underfunded, and the women believed that 
the special legislative committee of 1909 had "whitewashed" 
its report on conditions at the school. One morning soon 
after the lawmakers had issued this report Mrs. Wight and 
Mrs. Willian B. Young, "put on their hats, and, uninvited 

and unannounced and unexpected and evidently unwanted, 

1 fi 
arrived at the Reformatory for a spend- the-day visit." 

The report these women issued created a sensation in Florida, 

and it gave progressives the ammunition they thought they 

needed to convince the legislature that the school was a 

disgrace. May, now chairman of the Jacksonville club's 

legislation committee, again submitted a resolution on behalf 

of the school to the 1911 legislature. She felt that by 



156 

working with labor, Marcus Fagg, and Mrs. Wight's committee, 
the needed bill would now be enacted. To help the cause 
the Federation published a small pamphlet entitled Plea for 
the Marianna Reform School , which was mailed to all legis- 
lators, women's clubs, and newspapers. Speakers traveled 
throughout the state, among them Mrs. Wight, Mrs. Young, 
Mrs. Frank Jennings, Marcus Fagg, and May Jennings to lobby 
among citizens groups on behalf of the bill. 

The women's 1911 resolution to the legislature urged 
the lawmakers to adequately fund the Marianna school, but 
it also called for enactment of a series of progressive 
laws, including compulsory education, a child labor law, 
and the prohibition of horse racing and all kinds of book- 
making and betting in the state. The women worked hard to 
get the legislation enacted. Unfortunately, for the second 
time May was unable to spend time in Tallahassee and neither 
was Mrs. Wight. The women had pinned their hopes on J.C. 
Privett of the state labor organization and Mr. Fagg, but 
halfway through the session labor withdrew its support of 
the compulsory education bill. Toward the end of the 
session Privett recommended as a substitute for the child 
labor bill, a measure which would create a bureau of labor 
and statistics. As a consequence the child labor bill was 
allowed to die in committee. Mr. Fagg notified May, and 
urged her to ask the women to contact their representatives. 
May immediately sent urgent telegrams to clubwomen around 



157 

the state. Florence Cay, wife of a Tallahassee businessman 
and former legislator, was asked to "do everything possible 
to get child labor bill reconsidered. The legislation is 
the only protection of the helpless children's best interests 
against corporate wealth, and for humanity's sake passage 

of bill should be urged. Conservation of the child is our 

17 

first duty." The women's effort was for nought; the bill did 

not pass. 

The 1911 legislative session proved to be a mixed 
blessing. The reform school's appropriation was increased 
to §17,500 per annum, and a landmark juvenile court measure, 
which revolutionized juvenile justice in Florida, was passed. 
However, the legislature refused to enact either the child 
labor bill or the compulsory education bill. May was 
pleased with the progress attained, but she had learned a 
valuable lesson; if lobbying was needed it had to be done 
personally. This was not a responsibility to be entrusted 
to third parties. She looked on Privett and his organiza- 
tion as self-serving and opportunistic, and was thereafter 
reluctant to work with them. Her association with Fagg 
continued, however. When the 1913 legislature convened May 
was in a more important position, and many legislators 
would learn before the session ended just how personally 
persuasive she could be. She was still interested in child 
welfare but in another aspect. She had become the Federa- 
tion's state chairman of education and worked with a 



158 

committee of five, one of whom was Virginia Trammell, the 
governor's wife. 

Concurrent with her activity on behalf of child 
welfare, May was involved in other causes. In 1907 she 
became connected with a movement which kept the city of 
Jacksonville in turmoil for many weeks. The temperance and 
prohibition movements were on the ascendancy throughout the 
nation, particularly the South. Prohibitionists in Duval 
County had tried unsuccessfully to use the local option 
clause in the Florida constitution and make Duval "dry." 
In 1907 several events occurred which encouraged Jackson- 
ville temperance advocates to try again. First, many 
counties in South Carolina and Georgia voted to adopt pro- 
hibition, and this led to an influx of breweries and liquor 
establishments into north Florida. Second, a neighborhood 
protective association was organized when whisky interests 
attempted to expand into the pleasant, tree-lined suburb of 
Springfield. Finally, several counties in Florida voted to 
go "dry" in 1906 and 1907. 

Disturbed by the encroachment of the liquor interests 
and cheered by successes elsewhere, local businessmen, 
including former Governor Jennings, formed the Duval County 
Prohibition League to collect signatures for a petition to 
be presented to the city council, calling for a "wet-dry" 
referendum. Opposing this effort was the Business Men's 
Association. Prohibition was a controversial and emotional 



159 

issue and as the campaign to get signatures increased, the 
county became polarized. Friends, business partners, and 
even families took opposing stands on the issue. 

Midway into the campaign women favoring the petition 
move met at the First Baptist Church and organized the 
Women's Prohibition League. May Jennings was elected 

president, and Mrs. Duncan U. Fletcher was chosen vice- 

18 
president. Within a month the organization had over 250 

members. May quickly began organizing rallies and signing 

up workers for the cause. Women were assigned to canvass 

every block in the city's wards. Late in November the 

women sponsored a public rally held in a large tent on West 

Adams Street. As the campaign heated up so did the rhetoric, 

The "drys" were accused of selling their "birthrights for 

19 
a mess of prohibition pottage." Those favoring the free 

sale of liquor were said to be in cahoots with the Devil. 
Evangelists and clergymen of every persuasion descended 
upon the city to preach at impromptu rallies and harangue 
citizens on the city's downtown streets, while local minis- 
ters used their own pulpits to exhort their congregations to 
vote the "right way." 

In early 19 08 May wrote Governor Broward an indignant 
letter concerning the many "blind tigers" (illicit liquor 
establishments) which she claimed state and local officials 
were allowing to proliferate in northeast Florida. She 
received a rather cool reply from the governor and denials 



160 

from sheriffs in the affected counties. In February of that 
year Carrie Nation, the famous "Kansas Saloon Smasher," 
visited Jacksonville as part of a statewide tour. May 
scored a triumph when she persuaded Mrs. Nation to address 
the Women's Prohibition League. Mrs. Nation, who said she 
"used her tongue now" instead of an axe to smash barrooms, 
delivered what was described as a rousing pep talk. Mrs. 
Nation's addresses always "contained a liberal sprinkling of 
quotations from scripture on the evils of alcohol mixed with 

harsh words for local politicians and saloon keepers and 

20 

their patrons." At the reception which followed her 

speech, Mrs. Nation passed out her famous red lapel pins 
which were shaped like hatchets. For the duration of the 
campaign May prominently displayed her pin on the collar of 
her dresses. 

Despite their work, the prohibitionist campaign 
failed. The city council noted technical irregularities in 
the petition, and the antis- on the council refused to vote 
to call a special election. Disappointed but not deterred, 
prohibitionists vowed to continue the struggle. In 1910 a 
state prohibition constitution amendment was defeated by 
Florida voters. In 1916 the prohibition issue played a 
major role in Sidney J. Catts ' gubernatorial campaign, and, 
of course, in 1919 the eighteenth amendment to the United 
States Constitution made prohibition the law of the land. 



161 

May Jennings' involvement in the prohibition move- 
ment reflected more than just an intellectual or moral 
approval of the issue. She had firsthand knowledge of the 
dangers inherent in liquor. Her brother was an alcoholic, 
and he had caused the family embarrassment and grief. May 
had found it necessary to provide financially for his wife 
and children. Personal sorrow also motivated her prohibi- 
tion work; her brother and his wife would both die young. 
May's prohibition sentiments were therefore deeply felt and 
remained with her all her life. She continued to support 
prohibitionists, particularly the Florida Anti-Saloon League. 
There is no record, however, that she ever belonged to the 
Women's Christian Temperance Union. 

In 1909 May became the leader of a committee of club- 
women whose work resulted in improvements in the Duval County 
penal system. In January of that year Katherine Eagan spoke 
to a group of women about the deplorable conditions existing 
at the city jail, a facility nicknamed "Raspberry Park." 
The Jacksonville Metropolis had condemned the jail in arti- 
cles and editorials, calling it a disgrace and little more 

21 
than "a hole in the wall." May's committee was supposed 

to look into the situation. Within the week she addressed 

the city council and invited its members to accompany her 

and her committee on a tour of the facility. On February 1, 

1909, she, Mrs. Waldo Cummer, Mrs. Guy Pride, and councilmen 



162 

St. Elmo Acosta, Maurice Slager, and Whitfield Walker 
visited the jail. The group was appalled; the situation 
was even worse than they had been told. 

The jail accommodations consisted of two rooms: one 
40' x 5' which housed sixty-seven black males, and the 
other 20' x 5 1 where there were seventeen white men. Neither 
cell had cots, windows, or sewerage. The stench was unbear- 
able. Inmates slept on the stone floor, winter and summer. 
They received bread and water once a day and corned beef on 
Sundays. The city's health officer had never visited the 
place. May was outraged by what she saw. The Metropolis 

reported that the "club ladies will not rest until condi- 

22 

tions are bettered at Raspberry Park." 

At the next council meeting officials listened to 
May's plans for improvements to the facility and then quick- 
ly voted to implement them; $967 was appropriated to add 
plumbing, enlarge the cells, and cut windows in the walls 
of the building. The clubwomen were still not satisfied, 
and they continued their surveillance of the facility. The 

following summer May went before the council again and 

23 
secured an additional $3 00 to improve the building further. 

Eventually the building was demolished, and a county 
penal farm was constructed past the city limits near north 
Main Street. 

May continued her work on behalf of other organiza- 
tions. In February 1910, she became an organizer and charter 



163 

member of the Katherine Livingston Chapter of the 
Daughters of the American Revolution, and, through this 
organization, over the years helped sponsor many patriotic 
events. In 1911 the chapter helped secure funds to pur- 
chase a silver service for the newly launched battleship 
Florida . When the ship was later decommissioned DAR mem- 
bers arranged for the service to be placed in the Florida 
governor's mansion. May served as a vice regent and later 
as state chairman of the organization's old trails and roads 
committee, and as head of its state library committee. For 
many years the Livingston Chapter sponsored "Flag Day" and 
"Americanism" programs in Duval County schools. During the 
first world war the chapter raised money for the Red Cross 
and for entertainment of soldiers stationed in the area. 
In the 1920s it paid for a scholarship for a veteran to 
attend the University of Florida. The Jacksonville DAR 
was also responsible for the monument at Mayport which 
commemorated the landing of Ribault and the French in the 
seventeenth century. Through the years May worked on behalf 
of the DAR chapter's goals and hosted many of its meetings 
in her home. 

May Jennings also worked on behalf of St. Luke's 
Hospital through the Jacksonville Woman's Club's health 
committee. She solicited funds for the hospital and worked 
diligently — lobbying and writing letters--to secure a 
contagious disease ward for the institution. She became 



164 



upset with hospital officials, however, when in 1914 the 
institution was moved to a new location in Springfield. 
May felt that it was an undesirable site so close to homes, 
a school, and other public buildings. It was also believed 
the hospital would lower area property values. 

In 1911 May, Mrs. Bion H. Barnett, Mrs. W.B. Young, 
and other interested ladies met to discuss the establishment 
of a Young Women's Christian Association in the city. The 
men had constructed a Y.M.C.A. several years earlier. May 

was in charge of drawing up the by-laws and securing a 

2 5 
charter for the new women's association. She was also 

appointed to help raise money for the new enterprise. During 
the fund drive she wrote to her husband, "I canvassed for 
the Y.W.C.A. yesterday and got $212 without counting yours. 
We go again tomorrow, then we are going to strike." 

The Calif ornian, a boarding house on Newnan Street, 
was leased as the Association's first home. Later, a large 
four-story building at 13 West Monroe Street was purchased. 27 
May was elected to the Association's first board of direc- 
tors, and she served until 1915. During her years on the 
board she headed the "Y's" physical department, which was 
supposed to provide the girls with the "right habits of 



life, healthful environment, and development of good 

2 8 

physique." May continued her interest in the assoi 

whether she was serving as an officer or not. 



165 

Continuing her many activities did not keep her busy 
in 1912 for that year she became president of the Spring- 
field Improvement Association, later known as the Spring- 
field Woman's Club. While serving as president, 1912-1914, 
she remained chairman of the Jacksonville Woman's Club 
legislation committee and held an office in the state Federa- 
tion. However, the Springfield and Jacksonville clubs were 
friendly rivals, and May eventually resigned her member- 
ship in the Jacksonville club and retained her Springfield 
membership. 

The Springfield club concerned itself mainly with 
Springfield matters. During May's first tenure as president 
of the club (she was reelected in 1920) , the organization 
worked to preserve the suburban integrity of the area. It 
sponsored beautif ication programs, maintained Springfield 
Park, and sponsored band concerts during the summer. As the 
self-appointed watchdog for the area, the club gained a 
reputation as an activist organization. During the 1920s 
the club became involved in one of the hottest issues ever 
to confront the area. It concerned the removal of the Main 
Street esplanade and the destruction of many of the area's 
large oak trees. May Jennings was one of the leaders in 
the battle to save the esplanade, but she was not successful. 

By 1912 May Jennings had become perhaps the best 
known woman in Florida. She had confronted almost every 
Jacksonville and Duval County official, and many on the state 



166 



level. It was generally acknowledged that she was very 
effective, and she was in demand to sponsor organizations 
or speak on behalf of special causes. Her popularity was 
abetted by the fact that through all of her civic work she 
had maintained her own aura of gentility and sense of 
decorum. The public perceived her as an honest, intelli- 
gent, but determined woman who had the best interests of 
all citizens at heart. She was also seen as a person 
who could stand up to authorities and get things done. 
The fact that she refrained from backing frivolous causes 
or participating in unseemly behavior made her appear 
sincere. 

In 1912 May spoke before several religious groups. 
At the annual Baptist State Missionary Union at Lakeland 
she described to an audience of women what true public 
service meant to her, listing the many organizations-- 
Y.W.C.A., Mother's Clubs, Women's Clubs — which needed 
workers. She urged women to work to purify and reform 
American life, and warned that if they did not, America's 
institutions might be destroyed by the influx of foreign- 
speaking immigrants that were flowing into the country in 
great numbers. She resented the fact that these immi- 
grants, at least the men who became citizens, could partic- 
ipate in national and state elections, while she and other 
women who were native born, could not. She ended with the 
exhortation, "Let us be more practical v/ith our religion, 



167 



and apply it to our own life work. There are comparatively 
few enlisted in public service. We need more recruits to 

lighten the burden of the few in this fast growing and much 

29 
needed work. " In reporting her speech the Florxda Times- 
Union noted that "Mrs. Jennings is an enthusiastic club- 
woman who sees herself and others as social workers." 

At the annual Federation convention at West Palm 
Beach in 1912, Elizabeth Hocker of Ocala was elected presi- 
dent of the organization. May became vice-president and 
chairman of the Federation's department of education, and 
thus a member of the board of directors, and part of the 
organization's inner circle. During Mrs. Hocker ' s term 
the Federation began its most vigorous decade of growth 
and political activity. She and May worked to strengthen 
the organization. They wrote letters of encouragement and 
spoke before many unaffiliated clubs urging them to join 
the Federation. The results were impressive. Susan Wight 
wrote May: "Good for you Lady, I am proud of you and our 
prospects for advances. Things are beginning to move. Our 

Federation is finally going to realize some dreams I've 

31 
dared to entertain for it." By 1913 the Federation had 

grown to include some seventy-two clubs with a combined 

membership of 3,600 women. 

The Federation was able to select its leaders from 

among the ablest women in Florida, and clubs were making an 

impact on public opinion and legislation on every level-- 



163 



local, county, and state. The Federation was no longer a 

32 
joke, even to the legislature. During the Hocker admin- 
istration women in the clubs began to feel a real sense of 
statewide camaraderie. They sensed that they belonged to 
an important movement. The officers were a close-knit band 
of women who became warm personal friends. Convening regu- 
larly for board meetings, and through correspondence, and 
visiting in each other's homes this group developed into 
a sisterhood which had special meaning to each member. Their 
letters to one another changed from formal businesslike 
communications and began to include references to insider's 
jokes and to personal family matters. Some of the women 
even took to using nicknames. One club friend referred to 
May as "Lady Bug," while another addressed her as "My Dear 

Heavenly Twin," perhaps a reference to the fact that May 

33 

was a Gemini on the astrological chart. This spirit of 

fun, of family, and camaraderie coincided with the period 
of the Federation's greatest growth and most spectacular 
successes. 

In 1912 May was the right person to head the Federa- 
tion's department of education. Her interest in public 
education went back many years. She had supported her 
husband's work during his years as president of the Hernando 
High School board of trustees and while living in Tallahassee 
she had supported the move to provide free textbooks and 
increases in funding for public education. Twice she had 



169 

accompanied her husband when he had spoken before the Flori- 
da Education Association. He had served for many years 
as a trustee of Stetson University and, after leaving 

the governor's office, he continued to speak to various 

34 
groups about the need for education legislation. in 

Jacksonville May was an active member of the Springfield 

Mother's Club and had been instrumental in organizing the 

35 

Duval County Federation of Mother's Clubs. She served 

on the committee which had entertained delegates to the 
Florida Education Association's 1912 convention. In addi- 
tion, the Jennings were personal friends of many of the 
state's most prominent educators. William N. Sheats, 
William H. Holloway, William Conradi, Lincoln Hulley, A. A. 
Murphree, and William F. Blackman had all been entertained 
at one time or another in the Jennings' Jacksonville home. 

In 1910 State Superintendent William Holloway appoint- 
ed May to the executive committee of the Florida Women's 
School Improvement Association. She served three years. 
Also on the committee was Lucy Blackman, May's close friend 
and wife of William F. Blackman. The objectives of the 
Association were to make "schools the center of gravity of 
community life and arouse in parents a greater sense of 
obligation and responsibility" to education. The Asso- 
ciation oversaw the establishment of local chapters which 
in turn were supposed to work for the establishment of 



170 



school libraries and improved school grounds. By 1911, 
150 of these groups had been organized in the state. 

Thus by the time May became head of the Federation's 
education department she had a good knowledge of the problems 
and needs of Florida's school system. She set to work 
organizing a program of action for the upcoming 1913 
legislative session, including choosing a committee to work 
with her. It included Mrs. Park Trammell of Tallahassee, 
Mrs. J.C. Huber of Tampa, Rachel Gaines of Leesburg, 
Mar i am Pasteur of Palatka, Mrs. Lee Spear of Fort Lauderdale, 
and Mrs. Charles Boneaker of Pensacola. One of the responsi- 
bilities of this committee was to raise funds for the Federa- 
tion's scholarship, established in 1906, at the Florida 
State College for Women at Tallahassee, to train kinder- 
garten teachers. 

Shortly after assuming the chairmanship of the educa- 
tion department May met Agnes Ellen Harris of the home eco- 
nomics department of the women ' s college. In 1909 Harris 
had toured the state on behalf of the Federation and given 
a series of lectures on the subject of domestic science. 
May recommended that the Federation support Miss Harris in 
another endeavor. Rural extension work, being promoted by 
the United States Department of Agriculture in conjunction 



with the landgrant colleges, was being promoted throughout 

37 
the South. One aspect of the work was to urge countxes 

to promote boys' and girls' corn and tomato clubs. There 



171 

were also potato, cotton, poultry, and hog clubs. These 
clubs were supposed to teach children, ages ten to eighteen, 
the rudiments of sowing, harvesting, canning, and marketing 

produce. Each child was to till a tenth of an acre and then 

3 8 

market the harvest. By 1912 thirteen Florida counties 

had enrolled in the project, and 622 girls had canned 18,000 

cans of tomatoes which had been sold for thirteen cents a 

39 
can. Anges Harris was the agent in charge of the girls' 

clubs and Professor J.W. Vernon of the University of Florida 
worked with the boys' organizations. 

May was impressed with Miss Harris' work and aware 
that she was getting little help from state officials. 
With approval from Mrs. Hocker May set up two Federation 
prizes, for the girl and boy who achieved the best annual 
production record. Each prize was worth $50.00 toward the 
winner's education. May persuaded officials of Cohen 
Brothers Department Store in Jacksonville to donate the sum 
for the boy's prize. She v/rote each Federation club and 
urged them to donate to the girl's prize fund. She also 
asked each club to sponsor a tomato club in their respective 
counties. She herself helped establish a club in Middle- 
burg near the Jennings' Clay County farm. The awarding 
of the prizes was a success and the prizes were continued 
until the nineteen-twenties at which time agricultural 
extension work was curtailed and the canning club program 
ended. 



172 



The Federation's education department also worked 
in other ways to improve public education. In February 
1913 May sent a letter to each Federation club outlining 
her goals. She stated that her committee would direct every 
effort toward establishing vocational education throughout 
the state. As a first step each woman's club should make 
the school building in its own locality a social center. 
They should secure a good storyteller and establish "story 
hours" for the small children. They should use the building 
for fairs and exhibits. They should assist in establishing 
tomato clubs. They should help fund the prizes and the 
kindergarten scholarship at the woman's college. She 
pledged that her committee would work with the legislation 
committee to secure an increased appropriation for the 
state reform school at Marianna, and that it would work to 
get women appointed to school boards. She urged each club 

to work for better school buildings and playgrounds, and to 

40 
endorse medical inspection and school hygiene programs. 

May's vigorous approach to the committee's work surprised 

many of the clubwomen; they were used to more lethargic 

leadership. Elizabeth Hocker wrote her, "You certainly have 

41 
revolutionized our Education department." May s enthusi- 
asm often had the desired effect and inspired her colleagues 
to take action. One such woman informed May that by herself 
she had inspected her local schools and had found "many 
faults." The writer also told May she was so interested 



173 



in the education work that she was unable to "control her 

42 

tongue" whenever she saw something that needed improvement." 

Another clubwomen wondered if the education department was 

also planning to work for women's suffrage, for she thought 

43 
it would be a "super subject" for the committee to tackle. 

On March 28, 1912, May was in Gainesville to address 

the State Conference of Superintendents, Member's of School 

Boards, and High School Principals. Of the eighty-four 

speakers at the three-day conference, she was the only woman 

44 
and the last on the agenda. She told the educators what 

the Federation was doing to aid education, called for better 
teacher training, higher salaries, longer school terms, 
smaller classes, uniform textbooks, school libraries and 
playgrounds, compulsory education, and women serving on 
school boards. She described the tomato and corn clubs and 
urged cooperation. She also urged the men to back improve- 
ments at the Marianna reform school. She was given a stand- 
ing ovation, and presented with a bouquet of flowers, and 
was escorted from the dais by William Sheats. 

When the 1913 Legislative session convened May and 
other clubwomen were ready for it. The memorial they sub- 
mitted was no timid document; it included a list of fifteen 
demands which the women wanted the legislators to act upon. 
The women called for amendments to strengthen the 1911 
juvenile court law; a $25,000 per annum appropriation for 
the reform school; creation of a state board of charities; 



174 



enactment of a comprehensive child labor bill; a prohibi- 
tion against newspapers printing gory details of murders, 
executions, and suicides; establishment of a hospital for 
the feeble-minded; a law prohibiting placement of adver- 
tising signs on trees, telephone poles, fences, and other 
structures along public highways; a bill allowing women to 
be elected to school boards; a law giving women the right 
to enter into contracts relating to their ov/n property; a 

law making wife and child desertion a felony; and one which 

45 
would establish certification of nurses. 

May and her colleagues worked closely with the Flori- 
da Child Labor Committee, a new organization which had been 
organized to promote child labor legislation. It was headed 
by John W. Stagg of Orlando, Marcus Fagg of Jacksonville, 
and Mary E. Randall of Lawtey, a Federation member and 

close friend of May's. This committee and the clubwomen 

46 
organized "parlour meetings" to promote their legislation. 

They sponsored exhibits and lantern slide shows to educated 
the public about the issues. And while the legislature 
was in session they mounted an active letter writing campaign. 
In addition, Julia Lathrop of the National Children's Bureau 
in Washington was brought to Florida for a series of lectures. 
Ion Farris and St. Elmo Acosta of the Duval delegation intro- 
duced and guided the child labor bill through the legis- 
lature. May knew both men well. Acosta had been one of 
the councilmen who had accompanied her on the publicized 



175 

inspection tour of the Jacksonville jail. Mrs. Farris was 
a clubwoman. Mrs. Frank E. Jennings, head of the Federa- 
tion's legislation committee, led the women's lobbying 
effort in Tallahassee. May, also spent time there. She 
sent copies of the Federation's memorial to the state's 
five major newspapers, and upon publication she personally 
distributed copies of the papers to each member of the legis- 
lature. Fagg and his associates also worked at the capitol. 
When the session was over many goals had been achieved. 

The 1913 legislature voted a sizeable appropriation 
of $65,000 for two years for the reform school and reor- 
ganized the facility, fired the management, and renamed 
the place the Florida Industrial School for Boys. The 
legislature also passed the most comprehensive child labor 
law that had ever been enacted in the state, a wife and 
child desertion bill, and a measure authorizing women to 
serve as county probation officers. It also enacted laws 
regulating the certification of nurses, strengthening of 
the state's pure food and drug law, creating the office of 
rural school inspector, raising the standards leading to 
teacher certification, and authorizing special taxing dis- 
tricts to issue bonds for public education. In addition to 
these progressive measures it enacted conservation laws 
which established a game and fish commission and protected 
wild birds and animals, including the robin. To May's 
personal satisfaction the lawmakers appropriated $3,000 to 



176 

aid the corn and tomato clubs. It was a very impressive 
record, but, of course, May knew that there was more work 
to do. Women were still denied full property or legal 

rights, they could still not hold elective office in the 

47 
state, and there was yet no compulsory education law. 

After the session May returned to her club and civic 
activities. With the help of Caroline Brevard of Talla- 
hassee, she secured a United Daughters of the Confederacy 
scholarship for the Woman's College, to be awarded to the 
girl who was the runner-up in the Federation's kindergarten 
scholarship selection. In June Governor Trammell appointed 
May Florida's delegate to the seventeenth Child Welfare 
Conference of the Parents' and Teacher's Association held 
in Boston. Because of family obligations she could not 
go but gave her proxy to the secretary of the Florida 
Federation of Mother's Clubs, Mrs. Mary P. Brownell, who 
reported back to the education committee. Selected a 
delegate to the National Hygiene Congress in Buffalo a month 
later, May was again unable to go and this time she gave 
her proxy to the medical inspector of the Duval County 
schools. 

On October 10, 1913, May spoke before the Duval County 
School Board at a public meeting which was called to discuss 
the creation of a taxing district and the issuance of school 
bonds. She cited figures, statistics, and laws to show that 
the money was direly needed and that the proposed tax 
district was the proper means by which to raise the funds. 



177 



Other activities transpired to make 1913 a busy 
year for May Jennings. She became a sponsor of Pi Beta 
Phi sorority at Stetson University, where her son was 
enrolled; and attended several of the sorority's functions. 
She joined a committee to promote the improvement of the 
Columbia College library in Lake City, and she worked for 
the Jacksonville Infant Welfare Society. She accompanied 
Elizabeth Hocker to Washington, D.C., to attend a General 
Federation board meeting and the convention of the National 

Council for Social Centers. She wrote an article on educa- 

48 
tion for a special woman's issue of the Miami Herald . 

She helped push a resolution through the Jacksonville 
city council regulating midwifery in the city. With the 
help of the Jacksonville Equal Franchise League, she worked 
to get a Sunday "blue law" passed by the council. A modi- 
fied law was adopted. She organized the Jacksonville 
Woman's Club "legislation day" and then in December she 
and her husband boxed and sent crates of oranges from their 
private groves to President Woodrow Wilson and all the mem- 
bers of his cabinet. 

It was also a year of trials and sorrow for the 
family. The Brooksville property demanded much of May's 
time. A large pecan orchard and strawberry patch had to be 
managed. Her brother's alcoholism worsened during the year 
and precipitated several crises, and her brother-in-law, 
Charles Jennings, took ill and died at the Jennings home 



178 



in November. Perhaps she yearned, like her friend Lena 

Shackleford, "for the good old Brooksville days when they 

49 

lived the simple life." But May never had time to look 

back; she was too busy making plans for the new year. 

The whole of 1914 was a whirlwind of activity. The 
pace May set for herself was terrific. In January she 
secured the woman's club's building for a lecture and slide 
show, which was presented by Dr. Eugene Swope, field agent 
of the Florida Audubon Society. That same month she met 
with Mrs. Frank E. Jennings and her legislation committee 
to discuss the new year. The legislature would not be in 
session, but both agreed that there was much publicity work 
and friendly preparatory lobbying which could be done. May 
Jennings and Minerva Jennings, while rivals, respected 
each other's opinions and abilities and cooperated with one 
another for the good of the Federation. 

In February May attended the third annual Conference 
of Florida Charities and Corrections in Gainesville. Marcus 
Fagg was then secretary of the organization. She also 
attended that month the first annual meeting of the Jackson- 
ville Infant Welfare Society and journeyed to Tallahassee 
for a Federation board meeting and to confer with Miss 

Harris. Later she led a discussion at the Jacksonville 

50 
VJoman's Club on practical politics. She travled to Deland 

for a Pi Phi social function. 



179 



Even with her travels, conventions, and speaking 
engagements May maintained a volumnious correspondence. She 
had become the defacto president of the Federation because 
Mrs. Hocker did not like to travel and was not as good a 
public speaker. May began to attend to the organization's 
many needs. Scores of letters arrived almost daily, seek- 
ing advice on how to form a woman's club, how to become a 
member of the Federation, how to set up an education com- 
mittee, how to present a public meeting, and so on. It 
was more than one woman could handle and she had to employ 
a stenographer to help out. She paid the woman's wages 
and the Federation furnished supplies and postage. 

May received many requests to speak and appear at 
club functions. Most of these invitations had to be 
rejected; there was just not enough time to do everything. 
While all correspondence was conscientiously answered, May 
selected her personal appearances carefully. Only the 
more important functions were attended, although she tried 
to visit as many clubs as possible as she traveled around 
the state. 

In March 1914, May spoke for the second time before 
the convention of superintendents and leading Florida 
educators. The meeting was held in Fort Myers. Mrs. Edna 
Fuller of Orlando, chairman of the Federation's civics 
department, also was on the program. May called for 
cooperation between the Federation and state educators. 



130 

She outlined the work of the Federation's education depart- 
ment, described the women's hopes for the coming years, and 
put the men on notice that it was time to "agitate force- 
fully for a compulsory education lav/. " While in Fort 
Myers she was feted by the local woman's club and toured 
Thomas Edison's winter home. 

Upon her return to Jacksonville May continued her 
busy schedule. She helped Marcus Fagg conduct the Children's 
Home Society's annual Re-Union Week, and invited Marie Ran- 
dall of Lawtey, chairman of the Federation's social condi- 
tions department, to speak before Jacksonville clubwomen. 
Later in the month she met with Jacksonville probation 
officials about the local juvenile delinquency problems and 
she presented a petition, to retain the city's school nurses, 
to the school board. The nurses were retained. Finally, 
she wrote all Federation clubs urging them to wire their 
Congressmen in support of the Smith-Lever Agricultural 
Extension bill which was mired in the Congress. 

In June, 1914, May attended her first General 
Federation convention. It was held in Chicago and she 
enjoyed it immensely, especially meeting intelligent, hard- 
working women like herself who were committed to progres- 
sive change. She heard addresses by Jane Addams, of Hull 

52 
House fame, and by Carrie Chapman Catts, the feminist. 

After the convention the Jennings took a brief holiday in 

North Carolina. Upon returning to Jacksonville May received 



181 

a telegram summoning her to Bar Harbor, Maine, where her 
father, Austin Mann, was gravely ill. He died shortly after 
her arrival. The funeral was held at the Jennings' home 
and interment was in Evergreen Cemetery. Hundreds of 
prominent people from around the state attended the services. 

May bore her loss with dignity and fortitude, but 
she missed her papa terribly, for the two had remained very 
close to the end. By the middle of October, however, she 
was again deep into clubwork. The twentieth annual Federa- 
tion convention was only a month away, and she was busy 
preparing a canning demonstration and an education exhibit 
for the delegates. The 1914 convention, which was held at 
Lakeland, was a watermark event. The Florida Federation of 
Women's Clubs was now almost twenty years old. It was a 
mature and viable organization; few officials failed to 
recognize its political strength. Scores of women's clubs 
from around the state now belonged to the organization, 
though there were still a few maverick holdouts in the 
panhandle. 

The convention convened on Tuesday, November 19, in 
the Lakeland civic auditorium. The women filled the hotels 
and overflowed into private homes. Receptions were held in 
the Kibler Hotel. Many delegates displayed the green and 
gold ribbons of the Federation. The women were reminded 
that no hats were to be worn in the auditorium so that 
everyone would have an unrestricted view of the proceedings. 



182 



After the usual welcomes and greetings by local officials, 
a piano concerto was performed by a clublady and Mrs. 
Hocker gave her farewell address. 

Official business began the following day. Reports 
from seventy-two clubs described the achievements and 
successes all over Florida. May's report on the education 
department was fourteen typewritten pages long. There were 
also talks by William Sheats, Dr. J.Y. Porter, and Judge 
William H. Baker. Election of a new slate of officers 
occurred on the third and last day of the meeting. There 
was no doubt about who would be named president. May 
Jennings was the unanimous choice. 

A cheer rose from the auditorium when it was announced 
that she had won the election. She gave a short speech and 
the delegates began immediately discussing their legisla- 
tive program. There was a call for a compulsory education 
law, establishment of a state forestry board, a state board 
of charities, and a state bureau of vital statistics. Also 
desired was a girls' industrial training school, a state 
tuberculosis sanitorium, a school for the feeble-minded, a 
law allowing women to serve on school boards, and passage 
of a prohibition amendment. A banquet was held that night 
in the hotel. The mantle was passed. May took her pledge 
to fulfill her duties faithfully and to uphold the objectives 
of the Federation. She was now forty-two years old and the 
most politically powerful woman in the state; she knew what 
to do with that power. 



183 

Notes to Chapter VI 

The Woman's Club, Jacksonville, 1897-98, Yearbook , 
n.p. For a history of the club see Noble, Woman ' s Club of 
Jacksonville, Golden Jubilee Issue: 1897-1947 (Jacksonville, 
1947) . 

2 Ibid . 

3 

Jacksonvxlle Dixie , November 8, 1912. 

4 

Blackman, The Women of Florida , I., p. 128. 

Sanford Herald , undated, quoted in biographical 
sketch of May Mann Jennings, 1919. MMJ Papers, Box 16. 

"Railroad Resolution," Jacksonville Woman's Club, 
July 19 06. MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

Jacksonville Metropolis , July 24, 1906. 

o 

Ibid . , November 23, 1907. 

9 

Janie Smith Rhyne, Our Yesterday (Marianna, Florida, 

1968) , n.p. 

Jacksonville clubwomen began work to secure a juvenile 
court system in the state in 1906. See Jacksonville Metro - 
polis , November 15, 19 06. 

"Memorial to the Legislature," April, 1907. MMJ 
Papers, Box 3. 

12 

Laws of Florida , 1907, Chapter 5686, No. 91. The 

1901 legislature had passed a child .labor bill but it was 
weak and ineffective. 

13 

"Resolution," Jacksonville Woman's Club, March 20, 

19 09. MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

14 

Gilchrist, a bachelor, and his mother were frequent 

guests in the Jennings' Jacksonville home. At his inaugural 

ball Gilchrist danced the first dance with May Jennings. It 

was noted that she wore the same gown she had worn to her 

husband's inaugural ball. Jacksonville Metropolis , January 

6, 19 09. 

15 

"Memorial on the Child Labor Lav;," Jacksonville 

Woman's Club. MMJ Papers, Box 3. 



184 

Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 139. 

17 m , 

Telegram. May Jennings to Mrs. Charles A. Cay [1911] 
MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

Jacksonville Metropolis , November 22, 1907. 

19 

Ibid . , November 27, 1907. 

20 

Ibid., February 10, 1908. Also see Paul S. George, 
"A Cyclone Hits Miami: Carrie Nation's Visit to the Kicked 
City," Florida Historical Quarterly , LVIII, October, 1979, 
PP. 150-159. 

21 

Jacksonville Metropolis , December 19, 1908. 

22 

Ibid . , January 27, 1909. 

23 

"Report of Jail Committee," May 22, 1911. MMJ 
Papers, Box 3. 

24 

Jacksonville PAR (n.d.), n.p. 

25 

Charter , Jacksonville Y.W.C.A., February 11, 1911. 
MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

26 

May Jennings to W.S. Jennings, February 19, 1911. 
MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

27 

Letty M. Fifield, History of Jacksonville Y.W.C.A. 
(Jacksonville, 1950) , p. l77~ ' ~ 

28 

Young Women's Christian Association, 1912-13 , Year- 
book (Jacksonville, n.d.); for short histories of the Jack- 
sonville YWCA see Jacksonville Flo rida Times-Union, February 
12, 1950, March 25, 1951. 

29 

Speech, "Personal Service." MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

30 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , December 13, 1912. 

31 

Susan Wight to May Jennings [1913]. MMJ Papers, 
Box 3. 

32 

Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 141. 

33 

Edna Fuller to May Jennings [1913] . MMJ Papers, 
Box 3; Lucretia Mote to May Jennings, May 15, 1913. MMJ 
Papers, Box 3. 

34 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, March 1, 1913. 



185 

35 

Mother's Clubs, organized during the first decade 

of the twentieth-century, were the forerunners of Parent- 
Teacher Associations. 

Florida School Exponent , XVII, June, 1910, p. 12. 

37 

The 1914 Smith-Lever Act made rural extension work 

one of the nation's domestic priorities. 

3 8 

"Education Committee Report," F.F.W.C., February, 

1913. MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

39 

Agnes E. Harris to May Jennings, February 15, 1913. 

MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

40 

"Education Committee Report," F.F.W.C. February, 

1913. MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

41 

Elizabeth Hocker to May Jennings, August 27, 1913. 

MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

Mary Brownell to May Jennings, October 19, 1913. 
MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

Katherine Boyles to May Jennings, December 6, 1913. 
MMJ Papers , Box 3 . 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , March 30, 1913. 

"Memorial," Jacksonville Woman's Club, April, 1913. 
MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

46 

Emily Howard Atkins, "The 1913 Campaign for Child 

Labor in Florida," Florida Historical Quarterly XXXVI, 

January, 1957. 

"Legislation Committee Report," Jacksonville Women's 
Club, May, 1913. MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

48 

Miami Herald , August 7, 1913. 

49 

Lena Shackleford to May Jennings, October 20, 1913. 

MMJ Papers, Box 3. 

50 Speech, "Practical Politics," February 12, 1914. 
MMJ Papers, Box 4. 

51 

Speech before Florida Education Association annual 

convention, March 12, 1914. MMJ Papers, Box 4. 

52 

Program, GFWC, Biennial Convention, Chicago, 1914. 

MMJ Papers, Box 4. 



CHAPTER VII 
MADAM PRESIDENT AND THE OLD-GIRL NETWORK 



Under May Jennings' guidance the Florida Federation 
of Women's Clubs increased in numbers and in political 
strength. During her three year tenure fifty-nine new clubs 
joined the Federation, and its membership rose from 5,24 6 
to 9,16 3. The Federation became one of the state's largest 
organizations. Its goals during May's first year as presi- 
dent were those that had been determined at the Lakeland 
convention. To this list was quietly added one other, which 
had been on the Federation's books since 1905. It was the 
conservation resolution which called for the preservation 
of a Royal Palm hammock on Paradise Key, an Everglades islet 
twelve miles southwest of Homestead in Dade County. As soon 
as May's election as president was confirmed, clubwomen 
from South Florida, who were attending the convention, ap- 
proached her to urge her to revive the resolution and join 
them in an effort to save the endangered hammock. These 
women were led by Mary Barr Munroe , wife of the distinguished 
author Xirk Munroe, and by Edith Gifford, wife of John 
Gifford, former professor from Cornell University and a 
forestry expert who now lived in Coconut Grove. 

The women spoke to May about the long forgotten and 
moribund Federation resolution to preserve the key. They 

186 



187 

described the magnificent stand of Royal Palms and lush 
tropical vegetation which grew on the key, and told her 
about past efforts to preserve the hammock which had been 
undertaken by their husbands and other naturalists and 
scientists including H.P. Rolfs, forestry professor at the 
University of Florida; N.L. Britton, director of the New 
York Botanical Garden; Charles Simpson, operator of a 
private botanical garden in Dade County; Edward Simmonds, 
chief botanist for the agriculture department in Dade 
County; David Fairchild, who headed the United States 
Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction in Coconut 
Grove; and James K. Small, curator of the New York Botani- 
cal Garden. Over the years each of these men had visited 
Paradise Key to admire and study its palms and vegetation, 
and since 1893 they had been trying to get the national 
government to preserve the hammock. Now in 1914 it was 
more imperative than ever that something be done, for the 
hammock was in danger of being destroyed. Surveyors and 
road crews were at that very moment mapping the area for 
future development. Flagler's Key West extension lay only 
a few miles east of the key, and a road from Homestead to 
Flamingo was in the planning stages. 

May was captivated by what she heard from the women 
and was moved by their pleas for help. She had never visited 
the key, but she had always liked South Florida and was her- 
self at that time drawing up plans for the construction of 



188 



a vacation home on the Jennings' property in Miami. She 
knew from her earlier travels with her husband to inspect 
the dredges and drainage canals that the area was beginning 
to be affected by the encroachment of modern society. She 
realized that the construction of roads into the interior 
would probably mean that much of the wild and serenely 
beautiful Everglades would be lost forever. Then and there, 
only hours after her election as president of the Federation, 
she decided to make the preservation of Paradise Key one 
of the main goals of her administration. Her decision was 
to have historic and far-reaching consequences for Florida 
and was to cause her to dedicate much of her life to the 
effort of saving the key and the surrounding Everglades. 
The decision launched her upon a political, economic, and 
public relations struggle which was to span thirty-three 
years. But, in 1914 the future lay far away, and May was 
confident that the Federation could save the key. She had 
no illusions, however, that the job would be easy. 

Before May's tenure as Federation president reached 
an end, many of the organization's major goals would be 
achieved, for under her guidance the Federation would wield 
even greater effective political power. May Jennings was 
the type of bold, politically adroit leader that the 
organization needed. She was to make use of one of the 
Federation's most interesting and important characteristics, 
its unique old-girl network, a framev/ork of statewide 



189 

friendships among the clubwomen, many of whom were related 
to the state's most powerful male business, political, and 
civic leaders. This network, which had been building in 
the Federation for nearly two decades, was used very effec- 
tively during May's administration. While it had always 
been present to some extent, it had not been used very much 
by past presidents. May could not ignore the Federation's 
most important and only real political weapon — its family 
and friendship connections. To outside observers the 
Federation was a seemingly weak organization composed of 
tea drinking, non-voting citizens who could not even hold 
public office or exercise much political leverage. But 
during May's tenure the Federation was to use the old-girl 
network to good advantage to gain access into the state's 
highest circles of power. 

All that an aggressive and perceptive Federation 
president needed to make contact with a particular official 
or business leader was to call upon the Federation network. 
Through it one could gain entre into the governor's mansion, 
the legislature, the courts, state boards and commissions, 
county commissions, and town and village councils. Of 
course this entrance was achieved in an unorthodox and 
roundabout way, but it was effective, for no Federation 
tactic ever proved more potent than the one that reached 
the state's leaders through their families. Arguments and 
persuasions which came from female relatives--mothers , wives, 



190 

and daughters — often proved irresistible. Understandably 
the men might be more receptive to the urgings of their own 
women folk than to demands coming from nameless numbers of 
clubwomen. The personal approach inherent in the old-girl 
network proved critical to the Federation's success. If 
the men could not believe and respect the opinions and 
desires of their own wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters, 
who were Federation members, then who could they believe? 
At times, even the southern "cult of womanhood" worked in 
the Federation's favor, for because of it the men were 
disposed to give the women respectful, if gruding, audiences. 
But, it was the old-girl network that really aided the 
Federation and which May relied upon the most often to 
gain "the ear" of Florida officials and politicians. 

Of course, not every male in government said yes to 
the women in his family, whether or not they happened to be 
Federation members. Most remained stolid and unsympathetic 
to the women's goals, but enough of them were softened by 
the approaches of their female relatives to make a real 
difference. On many occasions it was these first family 
contacts which smoothed the way for May ahd her officers 
and allowed them to present the Federation's case or do its 
lobbying work. The use of the network was not a rigid or 
elaborate scheme used by the women to trick the men into 
acquiescing. There was nothing sinister about it. It was 
the natural, logical, and undevious use of a political tool 



191 



which was obvious for the women. The charge of using "woman- 
ly wiles" on such a grand scale to gain support for Federa- 
tion goals cannot be sustained, but the accusation that 
the women used all of their family connections to reach the 
right people and further their cause is true. Men had 
always used an old-boy network; indeed, politics sometimes 
seemed to be no more than a system based entirely upon 
friendships, contacts, and loyalties. Thus, the women were 
using something which had finally become available to them 
as it had been for so long to the men. 

The well-placed family connections that the old-girl 
network brought to the Federation were impressive and could 
not be denied. During her three year tenure as Federation 
president May called upon the services of perhaps 100 of the 
organization's most prominent members, each of whom was 
wife, mother, or daughter of a governor, legislator, supreme 
court justice, congressman, state official, judge, journalist, 
university president, businessman, pioneer developer, or 
local official. For instance, those who served on the 
Federation's all-important legislation committee during May's 
administration included Mary Wright Drane (Lakeland) , wife 
of Herbert J. Drane, former member of the state House and 
a state Senator during the 1913 and 1915 sessions; Allie 
Farris (Jacksonville), wife of Ion L. Farris, ex-speaker of 
the House and member of the Senate during the 1915 and 1917 
sessions; Ella Burford (Ocala) , wife of Robert A. Burford, 



192 

former member of the House and a Marion County official; 
Dycie Sweger (Live Oak) , wife of Roy L. Sweger, who edited 
the Gadsen County Times and later served in both the Florida 
House and the Senate; Lena Shackleford, wife of Thomas Shackle- 
ford, who served on the supreme court from 1902 until 1917; 
Ruby Whitfield (Tallahassee) , wife of C. Talbot Whitfield, 
private secretary to Governors Gilchrist and Trammel 1; Minerva 
Jennings (Jacksonville), wife of Frank E. Jennings, member of 
the State Board of Control and later a member of the House; 
Margaret Young (Jacksonville) , wife of William B. Young, the 
state's judge advocate general and later a House member; Jessie 
Hilburn (Palatka) , wife of Samuel Hilburn who served in the 
190 8 House and the 1911 Senate; Bell Rood (New Smyrna) , wife 
of Henry Rood, owner of the New Smyrna News; Rose Wilson 
(Sarasota) , wife of C. V. Wilson, former member of the 1903, 
1905, and 1907 House and owner of the Sarasota Times ; Maggie 
Davis (Perry), wife of William B. Davis, Taylor County judge; 
Ida Dunn (Tallahassee), wife of Royal C. Dunn, state railroad 
commissioner; Lina L'Engle Barnett (Jacksonville), wife of 
Bion H. Barnett, founder of the Barnett banking empire; 
Catherine Phillips (Jacksonville), wife of Henry B. Phillips, 
circuit judge of Duval County; Eugenia Roberts (Key West), 
wife of E. 0. Roberts, ex-House member and Monroe County 
state attorney; Ninah Cummer (Jacksonville) , wife of Arthur 
G. Cummer, co-owner of the state's largest lumber mill and 
naval stores company; Frances Anderson (Jacksonville), activist, 



193 

and daughter of prominent attorney Herbert L. Anderson; 
and Antoinette Frederick (Miami), widow of that city's first 
civil engineer, attorney, and land developer, John S. 
Frederick. 

During May's tenure nearly all of the Federation's 
committees had members whose family connections were promi- 
nent. Her major officers and board of directors included: 
Mary Gorenson Moore (Miami) , wife of T. Vivian Moore, devel- 
oper, ex-legislator, and South Florida's "pineapple king"; 
Florence Cay (Tallahassee) , wife of Charles A. Cay, Leon 
County legislator and civic leader ("Flo" Cay, a confidant 
of May's, ran a boarding house favored by legislators and 
was therefore able to keep abreast of the public and not 
so public happenings at the Capitol) ; Ora Minium (Jackson- 
ville) , wife of Harry B. Minium, member of the State Board 
of Control; Kate V. Jackson (Tampa) , daughter of John Jack- 
son , one of the founders of that city; Elizabeth Hocker 
(Ocala) , daughter-in-law of William Hocker, state supreme 
court justice from 1903 to 1915; Ella Brown (Green Cove 
Springs) , wife of T.J. Brown, ex-legislator and civic 
leader; and Lucy Wamboldt (Jacksonville) , wife of Nelson C. 
Wamboldt, city councilman. 

Dollie Hendley (Dade City) , wife of Jefferson A. 
Hendley, Pasco County pioneer and former legislator, served 
on the Federation's civics committee, as did Mrs. John E. 
Avery (Pensacola) , who v/as married to a member of the 



194 



House. The Federation press, i.e. publicity, committee 
was equally well-staffed. It included Nelle Worthington 

(Tampa), who was married to Justin E. Worthington, editor 
of the Tampa Times ; and Majory Stoneman Douglas (Miami) , 
whose father was editor and co-owner of the Miami Herald . 

Conservation was one of the Federation's largest 
and most active committees, and it was concerned with bird 
protection, forestry, waterways, good roads, and Seminole 
Indians. The well-connected women who served on this 
committee included Julia Hanson (Fort Myers) , wife of a 
pioneer doctor and mother of a state bird warden and Seminole 
Indian agent; Mrs. James Paul (High Springs), whose husband 
served in the 1915 House; Edith Gifford (Coconut Grove) , 
wife of John Gifford, author and forestry expert; Maria 
Ingraham (St. Augustine) , wife of James E. Ingraham, presi- 
dent of Flager's Model Land Company; Mary Barr Munroe 

(Coconut Grove) , authoress and wife of Kirk Munroe; Eliza- 
beth McDonald (Stuart) , wife of Jackson McDonald, mayor of 
his town; Ethelyn Overstreet (Orlando) , wife of Moses 
Over street, banker and future state senator; Mrs. W.J. 
Tweedell (Homestead) , wife of a Dade County Commissioner; 
Ivy Stranahan (Fort Lauderdale), whose husband, Frank 
Stranahan, was a pioneer developer and Seminole Indian trader, 
Minnie Moore Willson (Kissimmee) , whose husband James Will- 
son, was president of the Florida Waterway Association and 
a co-founder, along with her, of the Friends of Florida 



195 

Seminoles organization; Ella Dimick (Palm Beach) , who was 
married to Captain Elisha N. Dimick, former House and Senate 
member and a pioneer banker and developer; Eugenia Davis 
(Tallahassee), whose husband, George I. Davis, had played 
a prominent role at the 1885 Constitution Convention and 
was Leon County's postmaster; and, finally, Jane Fisher 
(Miami) , wife of Carl G. Fisher, entrepreneur and developer 
of Miami Beach. 

The Federation's education committee was composed of 
Sudie B. Wright (Lakeland) , whose husband, George Wright, 
had founded Wright Coffee Importing Company; Mrs. T.J. 
McBeath (Jasper) , whose husband was past editor of the 
Florida School Exponent ; Allison Locke (Jacksonville) , 
daughter of Judge James W. Locke, of the Fifth Circuit 
Court of Appeals; Mrs. Walter Corbett (Jacksonville) , whose 
husband headed Prudential Insurance Company; and Virginia 
Darby Trammell (Lakeland-Tallahassee) , wife of Park Trammell, 
the governor of Florida. 

Iva Sproule-Baker (Miami) , who with her husband 
owned a prominent music academy, served on the Federation's 
music committee, along with Lucretia Mote (Leesburg) , a 
graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, and wife 
of E.H. Mote, ex-legislator and central Florida citrus 
tycoon. The public health committee contained three female 
medical doctors, Dr. Ellen Lowell Stevens (Jacksonville) , 
Dr. Grace Whitford (Ozona) , and Dr. Sarah E. Wheeler 



196 

(Lakeland) , and one woman dentist, Dr. Emma Dickinson 
(Orange City). The Federation's home economics committee 
was served by Pattie Monroe (Miami) , wife of A. Leight 
Monroe, prominent doctor and civic leader; Mrs. V7.T. Gary 
(Ocala) , whose husband served in the state Senate; Agnes 
Ellen Harris (Tallahassee) dean of the home economics 
department at Florida State College for Women; and by Mrs. 
A.W. Young (Vero) , whose husband had served in both the 
state House and Senate. 

May also felt free to call upon Lucy Blackman (Winter 
Park) , wife of William F. Blackman, president of Rollins 
College; Katherine B. Tippetts (St. Petersburg) , owner of 
the Belmont Hotel and a well-known authoress; Annie Broward 
(Jacksonville) , wife of former governor Napoleon Bonaparte 
Broward and now head of a large tugboat company; Soledad 
Safford (Tarpon Springs) , widow of the former governor of 
Arizona; Dorothy Conradi (Tallahassee) , wife of Edward 
Conradi, president of the Florida State College for V7omen; 
Lula Paine Fletcher (Jacksonville) , wife of United States 
Senator Duncan U. Fletcher; Eloise Hulley (Deland) , wife of 
Lincoln Hulley) , president of Stetson University; Elizabeth 
Skinner (Dunedin) , daughter of Lee Skinner, west coast 
pioneer and owner of the state's largest citrus grove; Edna 
Fuller (Orlando), who was to become Florida's first female 
legislator; and Halle Uarlow (Orlando) , wife of Picton 
Warlow, judge of the Orange County criminal court. 



197 



The old-girl network presented a formidable and 
powerful pressure group. In addition to the core of the 
network there were hundreds of Federation rank and file 
members who were related to local businessmen, bankers, 
political leaders, and city and county officials. Thus if 
one examines the network as just outlined one can better 
understand its potency for among the women's families are 
one sitting governor, three ex-governors, one United States 
Senator, nineteen state legislators, six prominent jour- 
nalists, two state supreme court justices, one state rail- 
road commissioner, two members of the state Board of Control, 
three state judges, a private secretary to two governors, 
three college presidents, and a host of prominent business- 
men, bankers, and civic leaders. The network was indeed a 
part of Florida's establishment. It is easy to see why the 
Federation could get many things accomplished. 

As soon as May returned to Jacksonville from the 
Lakeland meeting that had elected her president of the 
Federation she began her work. Her first use of the 
Federation's old-girl network was on behalf of Paradise 
Key. The women from South Florida had notified her that 
Flagler's widow Mary Kenan Flagler, had offered to donate 
960 acres of Paradise Key and surrounding land to help 
preserve the hammock. News of this offer had been relayed 
by James Ingraham to Kirk Munroe, and hence to Mary Munroe , 
an avid conservationist and bird lover. May immediately 



198 



recognized the significance of this offer and developed a 
plan for the Federation to save the hammock. She felt that 
with the Flagler gift the state might also be willing to 
donate the remaining land for a park provided it would not 
have to assume maintenance of it. Could the Federation 
maintain and operate a public park? It was a bold idea. 

In early December, 1914, May wrote a letter to 
Federation officers describing the hammock, setting forth 
her plan to develop it as a park, and asking for opinions. 
If they approved she wanted them to accompany her to Talla- 
hassee to speak to Governor Trammell and other state 
officials. She knew she would need the support of the 
Federation's officers. Many agreed that preservation of 
the hammock would be a fine civic gesture, but several of 
the women questioned the feasibility of the Federation alone 
assuming such a financial burden. This kind of opposition 
was to crop up several years hence and seriously jeopardize 
the project. Fortunately, the doubters were in the 
minority, and May proceeded with her plans, including a 
request for a $1,000 annual state appropriation for the 
park. When no one volunteered to accompany her to Talla- 
hassee, she went alone. The old-girl network smoothed 
her way, however. Florence Cay telephoned Virginia Trammell 

to, as Mrs. Cay described it, "touch upon the subject of 

2 

the hammock." Mrs. Trammell was cautious but encouraging 

and said she would speak to the governor. This was just 



199 



the first of many instances v/here May would make use of 
the Federation's network to assess attitudes and contact 
important people. 

May proceeded with her visit to Tallahassee. She 
also scheduled a trip to South Florida to see the hammock 
for herself. As Rose Lewis, of Fort Pierce and a Federa- 
tion vice-president, remarked, the new president "did set 

3 
a terrific pace. " During the second week in December May 

journeyed by train to Tallahassee v/here she apparently 

stayed with the Trammells in the governor's residence. A 

Tallahassee paper reported: "Mrs. William S. Jennings, the 

brilliant wife of former Governor Jennings ... is making 

a brief visit to the Capitol city, and is being charmingly 

entertained at the Governor's Mansion by Mrs. Park Tram- 

4 
mell." While in the city May also met with Agnes Harris 

at the Women's College to discuss home economics and the 
extension work the Federation was sponsoring. Few, however, 
knew of the real purpose for the visit. Florence Cay accom- 
panied May when she met with the various cabinet members 
who were all trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund. 
Trammell must have been won over, for he promised to present 
the Federation's request at the next meeting of the trustees. 
On December 23, the trustees approved a letter addressed to 
the Dade County commission, authorizing it to take action 
to prevent trespassing on the hammock land owned by the state. 



200 



Mr. W.J. Tweedell, one of the Commissioners, had a wife 
who was a prominent clubwoman in Homestead and a friend of 
May ' s - 

The following day, the trustees voted to grant tenta- 
tively the Federation park request, subject to legislative 
approval. The trustees planned to visit South Florida in 
January, and May, who was apprised of their action, was 
asked not to reveal the news to the public until after that 
time. Elated over the officials' action, she celebrated a 
joyous Christmas. In fact, the trustees did not need 
legislative approval to grant and convey the land, but per- 
haps the unusual nature of the Federation's request made 
them more cautious than usual. Endorsement by the governor 
or the trustees was no guarantee that the lawmakers would 
give their approval. Only intense lobbying efforts would 
ensure success. 

The day after Christmas the Jennings family traveled 
to Miami for a round of official Federation visits. Much 
time was taken up with routine club business, but on Monday, 
December 28, accompanied by her husband and son and Mrs. 
T.V. Moore, Mrs. A. Leight Monroe, and Mary Barr Munroe, 
May journeyed to Paradise Key to see for herself the much 
talked-about Royal Palm hammock. The trip must have been 
a "bone- jarring" one, since the road out to the key was un- 
paved and little more than a boggy cow path, barely passa- 
ble by auto during the wet season. Pictures of the region 



201 

during that period often show a stranded Model-T hub-high 
in mud with the occupants digging and pushing to get it 
unstuck. In a letter to Elizabeth Hocker , May referred to 
the trip: "The Hammock is entirely surrounded by water, the 
palms tower much above the other growth. . . . The women 

down in that part of the country are very enthusiastic 

5 
over the Park subject." 

After the trustees visited the key they notified May 
that they approved of the resolution granting the property 
to the Federation, and then the news was released to the 
public. It was an important event in the history of 
Florida conservation because with this action state govern- 
ment was changing, quietly but dramatically, its policy. 
No matter that the trustees grudgingly approved, or that 
they were reluctant to assume any of the care of the pro- 
posed park, or that, as some said, the only reason they 
concurred was because the land was unfit for anything else. 
The decision was ultimately to benefit all of the people, 
and the hammock would become Florida's first state park, 
albeit privately owned. The park would be an important 
step in the establishment of the Everglades National Park 
many years hence. 

After May received notification of the approval of 
the trustees she began mobilizing the Federation. Her 
husband drafted a bill to be presented to the legislature, 
calling for the state to deed to the Federation 960 acres 



202 



to match the 960-acre Flagler grant. It would also provide 
$1,000 for maintenance of the park. May and her cohorts 
knew that there was much to be done. The public had to be 
rallied in support of the project; legislators needed to be 
contacted; pamphlets and other material about the proposed 
park would have to be printed; speeches had to be given, and 
press releases written. There was little available time 
as the legislature convened in only two months. 

In addition to the park projects May had many other 
Federation business matters to attend to. The volume of 
her correspondence continued to grow; she was the leader 
of an organization with twenty departments, ninety-one clubs, 
and 6,000 members. She employed a second parttime steno- 
grapher to help not only with her Federation correspondence 
but also that relating to her duties as president of the 
Springfield Improvement Association, and of the DAR and the 
YWCA. She had also been appointed state chairman of the 
Belgium Relief Commission with the responsibility of raising 
money and goods for war-stricken European refugees. May 
labored tirelessly to promote the club movement and to bring 
even more women into civic work. She wanted the women of 
Florida to become better educated in practical politics and 
civic service. She wrote a paper about the Federation and 
its work and her views and feelings about women's clubs and 
mailed a copy to each unaffiliated club in the state. 



203 

During this period she also supervised a statewide 
campaign to register births which the Federation had 
instituted to alert the public to the need for a bureau of 
vital statistics. The actual work was done under the auspice: 
of Julia Lathrop, director of the Children's Bureau of the 
United States Department of Labor. May also corresponded 
with V7illiam Sheats, state superintendent of public instruc- 
tion, about education bills to be submitted to the upcoming 
legislature. Sheats favored a county-option compulsory 
education bill, while May wanted a stronger law that would 
compel attendance. She was also working with a Federation 
committee on plans to present to state officials on the 
rebuilding of the Industrial School for Boys at Marianna, 
which had just suffered a major fire. The women favored 
construction of a new facility based on the family-style 
cottage plan. In addition to all of these matters, May 
was working with Agnes Harris, home economist, to prevent 
state officials from usurping all the funds that the state 
was receiving from the federal Smith-Lever Act. In one 
nearby state the local land-grant college had already 
announced that only twenty-four per cent of the money would 
be allotted to female educational needs, despite the fact 
that fifty per cent was designated by lav; for extension 
work among rural farm women. Florida women had received 
only $2,000 of a $10,000 federal grant. As a prominent and 
able speaker May received many requests to lecture before 



204 

clubs and organization. She did not have time to accept 
all these invitations, but she planned several tours through- 
out the state which would enable her to visit many clubs. 

May Jennings thrived on work and activity. She 
enjoyed what she was doing, and took pride in knowing that 
her work was vital to the welfare of her state. She received 
encouraging support from hundreds of her sister clubwomen 
and this strengthened her determination to achieve her goals. 
Humor also helped to alleviate her burdens; she never lost 
the ability to laugh at herself or with her club friends. 
One lady, upon being appointed to the newly-established 
Federation good roads committee, wrote May, "I want to con- 
gratulate you on your brilliant choice. As a Good Roads 
builder I feel that I shall be an unqualified success. If 
I am not it won't be for lack of practice for I am just now 
engaged in corduroying the road in front of my place as my 
sleeping and waking dreams are disturbed by the racing of 
motors trying to pull out of the deep mud holes. I can see 

where the County commissioners of my area will have a bad 

7 
fifteen minutes if they meet up with me." That was the 

kind of dedication and determination May liked to hear. 

May was called upon often to solve domestic problems 

since many of her colleagues were still not able to pursue 

club work without opposition from their families. When one 

woman wrote May that her husband was demanding that she 

stop her club work, she was told, "I do not think a man has 



205 

any right to ask a woman to stay home and do everything for 
him. It takes a great deal of conceit to imagine he is so 
complete that he can satisfy anybody all in himself. . . . 
I am not going to give you up without a struggle, husband 

g 

or no. ... I am very belligerent just now. " 

As soon as news of the proposed Royal Palm Park was 
released to the public May began to enlist support for the 
project. She tried to get Washington to declare the hammock 
a national bird and wildlife sanctuary, but was unsuccess- 
ful in her effort. As the time for the legislative session 
approached, she and her officers worked diligently to 
finalize the Federation's 1915 legislative program. She 
was confident and optimistic about successfully getting the 
entire program enacted. She wrote a friend, "I am very 
hopeful that we shall succeed in getting many things through 
the Legislature for there are a great many clubwomen who 

are wives of legislators, who will be on the ground in 

9 
Tallahassee to keep in close touch with our bills." The 

new chairman of the legislation committee, Jessie McGriff 

(Mrs. John McGriff of Jacksonville) , planned to spend the 

first weeks of the session in Tallahassee directing the 

Federation's lobbying efforts. May, who had a Federation 

speking tour planned was to go to the Capitol only after 

Mrs. McGriff returned home. Hindsight would show that her 

time would have been better spent if she had cancelled the 

tour and gone directly to Tallahassee. 



206 

When the Federation legislative resolution was ap- 
proved copies were sent to the governor, the cabinet, and 
all members of the legislature, including Cary Hardee, 
speaker of the House (whose wife was a clubwoman), and A.E. 
Davis, president of the Senate. The Federation resolution 
called for the land grant to establish the park, enactment 
of a compulsory education bill, creation of a girls' indus- 
trial school, rebuilding of the boys' school at Marianna, 
erection of a state tuberculosis hospital, establishment of 
a forestry board, a bureau of vital statistics, and a board 
of charities, land for the Seminoles, development of roads, 
and a law allowing women to serve on school boards. It 
was a formidable shopping list. 

Assured that all was proceeding without problems, May 
departed on her speaking tour. The Federation board of 
directors held a meeting at Dade City during that time. At 
the meeting the women were invited to St. Leo Abbey and 
College where they were entertained by Abbot Charles Mohr . 
One amusing bit of correspondence preceded this meeting. 
May was informed that only the Abbot could get the women 
into the college's buildings. "Who," May asked in jest, 
"could get them out?" The reply came, "that after the 
women saw the Abbot none would want out." The handsome 
Abbot proved to be a charming host and served luncheon to 
the clubwomen, then he personally conducted the ladies 
"through the buildings where they had the privilege of 



207 



viewing the beautiful vestments and symbols and received 
special prayers in the chapel." May, who shared her St. 
Joseph school days adventures with Abbot Mohr, corresponded 
with him for many years. 

Unfortunately, all was not going well at Tallahassee. 
Jessie McGriff, who was inexperienced at legislative work, 
edited the Federation's resolution, and deleted the request 
for a $1,000 annual park appropriation. The sum for the 
girls' industrial school was also reduced, and a new demand 
for free textbooks was inserted. In addition, Minnie Moore 
Willson, a long-time champion of the Seminoles, arrived at 
the Capitol to lobby for the Indian land grant. Outspoken 
and abrasive, she generated resentment among the legisla- 
tors by threatening reprisals if the bill was not enacted 
and thereby did much damage to the Federation's cause. 
May was furious when she was apprised of these actions. Mrs. 
McGriff, who was lukewarm to the park project, seemed unaware 
of the trouble that had been created, but the lawmakers 
were already balking at granting the park land, or the 
Seminole grant. Many felt that the Paradise Key acreage 
was not good for anything, especially a park. 

May wrote chairman McGriff, "If the park tract is so 

dense and useless, I do not see why the men are so anxious 

12 

to keep it if we are anxious to have it." A letter from 

Lena Shackleford written about the woes of lobbying reached 
May at Dade City and added to her alarm. Mrs. Shackleford 



208 

wrote, "I will be glad to see you back over here, perhaps 
you can do something . . . they [the legislators] all look 

so kind and promising when we talk to them and then turn 

13 
away and forget that we were ever there." With no alter- 
native May had to go to Tallahassee. Fences had to be 
mended and the credibility of the Federation reestablished. 

May's trip to the Capitol appeared successful for 
the $1,000 for the park was put back into the bill. She 
lobbied Senator Glen Terrell and others on behalf of the 
boys' and girls' schools , and she pushed the education, Indian, 
and vital statistics bills before the appropriate legislative 
committees. She was assured that the measures would pass 
without further trouble, but, unfortunately, this was not 
so. As soon as she departed Tallahassee the park bill 
again ran into trouble. Several of the other bills were 
killed outright in committee. May would not give up, 
however. She felt personally responsible for the park 
proposal. During the last days of the session, when the 
outcome seemed dismal, Governor Jennings and son Bryan, who 
had just graduated from Stetson University, traveled to 
Tallahassee to lobby for the bill. Not only was it a race 
against the close of the session, but because of the publicity, 
vandals and road crews were digging up many of the palms 
and other exotic plants. 

The legislature was scheduled to recess June 4, 1915; 
it would not meet again for two years. Time was crucial. 



209 

May had planned to be in the Capitol up to the last moment 
working for the bill, but illness, brought on by severe 
exhaustion, kept her at home in Jacksonville. As she 
anxiously awaited the outcome, her husband and son remained 
at the Capitol to push the measure. Finally on June 2nd 
she received a telegram from Bryan: "House passed Park Bill." 

The next day her husband wired: "Park Bill passed Senate 

14 
midnight." The bill had literally been enacted at the 

very last minute, but no matter, for Royal Palm Park was 
now more than just a vision. 

May was overjoyed; the Federation owned the hammock. 
Unfortunately, she soon learned that the appropriation had 
been cut out of the bill by its opponents. Without main- 
tenance, for all practical purposes, the park was doomed. 
How was the Federation to develop a state park for public 
purposes with no funding? May, both grateful yet frustrated, 
sent letters of appreciation to Herbert Drane and Harry 
Goldstein, sponsors of the bill, and to all the others who 
had voted for the park as well as other Federation legisla- 
tion. Trying to boost everyone's morale, May notified 
Federation officers that the paths, lodge, and pavilions 
envisioned for the park could still be built. The Federa- 
tion would just have to secure the funds somewhere else. 
In truth, May had no idea where the money would come from, 
but the importance of the project and her inherent optimism 
sustained her. 



210 



Despite the disappointments, it had been a success- 
ful legislative session for the Federation. The boys' indus- 
trial school had received adequate funding and a new 
cottage plan was adopted for its campus. A girls' indus- 
trial school had been created, though it was not well funded 
and there was talk of locating it at an old Marion County 
prison farm. A county option compulsory education bill was 
passed. Several laws promoting good roads were enacted 
including one which created the state's first road depart- 
ment. A state bureau of vital statistics was established, 
and detention homes for delinquent children were mandated 
for each county. However, there were failures also. There 
was still no forestry board, state tuberculosis hospital, 
lands for Seminoles, or a law allowing females to serve on 
school boards. But, in general, May was satisfied with the 
outcome of the session. 

By 1915 the drive for equal suffrage for women was 
beginning to develop in Florida, although the state was 
never to play a major role in the national suffragette 
movement. In 1915 there were several women's rights organi- 
zations operating in the state. The first had been organized 
in Jacksonville in 1912 by friends of May's, many of whom 
were Federation members. This organization, known as the 
Florida Equal Franchise League, affiliated itself with the 
National American V7oman ' s Suffrage Association. Other 



211 



groups soon organized and eventually most of the Florida 

15 

leagues united into the Florida Equal Suffrage Association. 

Prior to 1918 membership in the various suffrage 
leagues in Florida read like a who's who of the Federation 
rolls. Dr. Mary Jewett, Mary Bryan (Mrs. William Jennings 
Bryan), Annie Broward, and Ivy Stranahan, all took turns 
guiding the Florida Equal Suffrage Association. Membership 
between the various town and city suffrage leagues and the 
Federation became so entwined that in most cases they were 
one and the same. On more than one occasion the Federation 
and the Florida Equal Suffrage Association shared the place 
and date of their yearly conventions, so that the state's 
clubwomen could conveniently attend both meetings without 
economic hardship. 

May was especially sympathetic to the goals of the 
suffragists, although as president of the Federation she 
felt she could make no public endorsement of something which 
had not been officially approved by the membership. On 
several occasions she was urged to "go public" and support 
the movement. Edith Stoner, officer of the Southern States' 
Woman's Suffrage Conference, wrote, "You are the one woman 
in Florida who can carry your state for suffrage." Mary 
Jewett, Federation member from Orlando and friend of Dr. 
Anna Shaw, national leader of the National American Woman's 
Suffrage Association, also urged May to take a stand. May 
did escort Dr. Shaw around Jacksonville when the leader 



212 

arrived in the city for a public lecture, but she felt tied 
by the views of the rank and file of the Federation who were 
opposed to becoming involved in such a controversial sub- 
ject as equal suffrage. However, she determined that it 
was time to change those views and she believed the Federa- 
tion should endorse suffrage. She began to work to those 
ends. After the 1915 legislative session adjourned work 
on the Federation's other objectives continued. South Flori- 
da women managed to get the Dade County Commissioners to 
name the new highway to Flamingo in honor of J.E. Ingraham, 
who had helped to secure the park land from the legislature 
and the Flagler estate. The Federation's civics department 
sponsored a statewide cleanup campaign to urge cities to 
beautify their parks, public facilities, and roadways. 
Beautif ication programs had a long and popular history with- 
in the Federation, and it was a logical step for the women 
to take an interest in highway beautif ication, especially 
since the state was in the beginnings of a "good roads" 
boom. A special Federation committee began making plans 
to beaufity the Dixie Highway which was being built from 
Chicago to Miami. Its route in Florida went from Thomas- 
ville, Georgia, to Tallahassee, then to Jacksonville, and 
from there down the east coast to Maimi. The Federation 
took on the responsibility for the last seventy-eight miles 
of the road that ran from Miami, through the park. Gover- 
nor Jennings, a member of the Dixie Highway Commission, 



213 

and Carl Fisher, whose wife, Jane, was a Federation member, 
were the highway's chief promoters. The Federation later 
sponsored statewide anti-litter and anti-billboard campaigns. 
The Federation sponsored other projects during 1915, includ- 
ing the funding of a bed for an indigent patient at Dr. 
Hiram Byrd ' s private tuberculosis sanitorium in South 
Florida, and the travels and lectures of a home economics 
demonstration agent from Stetson University. 

Most of May's time was occupied with the park pro- 
ject. Besides money, she needed public support. To secure 
funds she wrote every newspaper, organization, and indivi- 
dual that might be interested in helping the Federation. 
Philanthropists such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, 
and Charles Deering were solicited. Thomas A. Edison, a 
winter resident of Fort Myers, who May had met, sent $50.00. 
Gradually, small amounts of money began to trickle into 
the park fund, but it was never enough. Mrs. Flagler's 
96 0-acre endowment was secured, and some of the land was 
rented out to area farmers. This earned several hundred 
dollars. 

During 1915 May took no vacation. In July she 
spoke before the State Board of Control on behalf of the 
Smith-Lever funds and the girls' industrial school. In August 
she held a Federation board meeting at Fort Lauderdale. By 
September she was back on the club circuit. One friend 
wrote her, "Your energy is colossal, surpassed only by your 



214 



ability. " To lighten her burdens Governor Jennings 
surprised her in September with a new Welch automobile that 
he purchased while on a business trip to New York City. 
May was thrilled and wrote to a friend, "The president is 

going to ride in style from now on, if she has sense enough 

18 

to run the machine." Alas, there was never time to learn 

to drive the new automobile even though her son tried to 
give her lessons each time he was home from lav; school. It 
was many years before May Jennings learned to drive. Her 
immediate transportation dilemma was solved 'when, Benny, 
the Jennings' houseman and gardener, learned to drive and 
became May's chauffeur. On long trips she continued to 
travel by train. 

The twenty-first annual Federation convention was 
held at Deland in November 1915. It marked May's first 
year as president of the organization. Over 100 clubwomen 
attended. Among those on the program were J.L. Boone, 
superintendent of the Boys' Industrial School, Dr. II. W. Cox, 
professor of psychology at the University of Florida who 
spoke about industrial education, and L.C. Spencer, United 
States Indian Agent to the Seminole Indians. May's address 
to the convention traced the history of womens ' struggles. 

It was filled with platitudes like "Divine Plan," "great 

19 
scheme of life," and "Eternal Ideal." It was not one 

of her better speeches, but she received a standing ovation 

from an appreciative audience. Her official report noted 



215 

that during the year she had visited each of the state's 
five club sections, held five board of directors meetings, 
talked before 101 clubs, had written 1,869 letters, and had 
traveled 5,164 miles on club business. 

During the meeting a motion supporting equal suffrage 
for women and making it an official subject for Federation 
study was brought before the convention. After a brief 
discussion, at which only token opposition emerged, the 
motion was passed. The Federation also voted into member- 
ship the Orlando Suffrage League, the state's most active 
suffrage organization. Other leagues soon joined making the 
Federation Florida's largest organization supporting 
suffrage. Now May could speak upon the subject, and she 
began to urge all clubs within the Federation to study the 
subject of equal suffrage. She knew that it was imperative 
that the women be educated to their responsibilities once 
they achieved the vote. She also believed that education 
would tend to weaken the arguments of those women who opposed 
equal suffrage. 

During 1916 May continued to promote suffrage, the 
park, lands for the Seminoles, and public health. The 
financial plight of the park remained desperate. She tried 
to get a United States weather station assigned to the key, 
but, there was one nearby in Dade County. A statewide "mile- 
of -dimes" campaign was launched, in which cardboard folders, 
one foot in length and having slots for twelve dimes, were 



216 



distributed. The hope was that the folders laid end-to-end 
for one mile would bring in over $6,000. The campaign was 
not successful; less than $1,000 was collected. The 
Federation secured the services of Charles Mosier as park 
caretaker and he began making improvements. He had worked 
at "Vizcaya," James Deerings ' Miami estate, and was knowl- 
edgeable about the hammock region, having explored it with 
Dr. Small and Dr. Fairchild. In March the Mosier family 
moved to the park and set up housekeeping in a tent. His 
letters to May were filled with accounts of bouts with 
mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, torrential rains, scorching 
heat, and grassfires. Only a hearty soul who liked what 
he was doing could have endured such trials. 

Despite the lack of money, work on a lodge at the 
park was begun. Mosier also cut paths, constructed picnic 
tables, and guided sightseers who drove out to the park to 

see what all the fuss was about. May, who referred to the 

2 D 

park as her "great hobby," continued her search for money. 

She wrote to E.A. Mcllhenny, tabasco sauce tycoon from 
Avery, Louisiana, about raising and selling tropical birds. 
She even explored the possibility of President Woodrow Wilson 
making the park a national monument, but to no avail. Work 
at the park was delayed by slowness in the paving of the 
Flamingo highway. Some women thought that amusement rides 
at the park would bring in visitors and money, but May 
quickly vetoed this idea. She wrote, "If they want a 



217 

merry-go-round and shoot-the- shoot let them go to the 

21 
beach." When funds were critically low, the old-girl 

network was pressed into service. Local clubwomen succeeded 

in securing from the Dade County Commissioners a one-year 

$1,200 appropriation. Several of the women were married to 

commissioners. With this $1,200 and money borrowed from 

Federation funds designated for other purposes the lodge 

and other improvements were eventually completed. 

May spent much time also supervising the Federation's 
public health committee, headed by Dr. Grace Whitford of 
Ozona. During the year the committee sponsored the sale 
of Red Cross seals, a statewide "Baby Week," medical inspec- 
tion of schools, the dissemination of information on 
communicable diseases, and health exhibits which toured 
on a state "health train." It also aided in the hiring 
of nurses in fifteen of the State's health districts. Two 
members of the committee served on a state commission which 
investigated the need for a state institution for the 
feeble-minded and the retarded. 

Another matter that consumed much of May's time in 
1916 was the development of plans to help the Seminole 
Indians. Ivy Stranahan, of Fort Lauderdale, was chairman 
of the Federation's Indian committee. She and May kept in 
close touch and worked to further the passage of the Sears 
bill in Congress which Senator Fletcher and Congressman 
Sears were backing. It provided for a government grant of 



218 



nearly 100,000 acres to the Indians. Factions developed 
over what lands to award and how they should be used. 
Minnie Moore Willson and others felt that only unspoiled 
Everglades acreage, good for hunting, should be granted to 
the Seminoles. May and Mrs. Stranahan, as well as the 
Bureau of Indian Affairs, argued that the Indians should 
receive drained lands that could be used for farming and 
grazing cattle. They also favored erection of an industrial 
training school for the Indians on the land. Mrs. Willson 's 
contentiousness and threats finally alienated many people, 
and May broke off Federation cooperation with her. 

During 1916 May continued her tours of Florida. 
While speaking before clubs and other groups she always 
talked about the park, her favorite project. As she once 
told Mosier, the park was special, for she "was more fond 
of plants and plant growth than anything in the world." 22 
She began to make plans for a grand celebration at the park 
to take place during the convention the following year, 
which was scheduled to be held at Miami. Would there be 
anything to celebrate? The park was still woefully short 
of funds. 

May's hectic pace continued unabated for the rest 
of 1916. She urged the presidents of Stetson University 
and the two state universities to make Spanish a requirement 
for graduation. She sponsored Charlotte Dye of Birmingham, 
Alabama, as matron of the new girls' industrial school, 



219 

before the governor and cabinet. She authored a paper en- 
titled "Beautif ication of Florida Highways" which was read 
at the annual Florida Good Roads Association convention 
held in St. Augustine. She secured the Federation's 
endorsement of the Keating-Owens child labor bill which was 
pending in Congress. And, she attended the General Federa- 
tion's biennial convention in New York City in June, 1916, 
and saw her resolution calling for beautif ication of the 
Dixie Highway passed by the group. Always an ardent gardener 
she was pleased when Dr. Henry Nehrling, a South Florida 
horticulturist honored her by naming a beautiful new hybrid 
amaryllis the "May M. Jennings." 

The major event of the Federation's twenty-second 
annual convention in Miami in 1916 was the formal dedication 
of Royal Palm Park. On November 23 a motorcade of 168 cars, 

"Fords, Cadillacs, Maxwells, Overlands, and ever other 

23 
kind," left Miami's Halcyon Hotel for the park. Over 

1,000 persons attended. May presided. After introductions 

and a dedication prayer, the Federation's park committee's 

official report was read. Then James Ingraham, guest of 

honor, spoke. As reported by the Miami Herald he "made a 

most delightful speech, telling in intimate conversational 

terms first of his early discovery of Paradise Key, of his 

talk with both Mr. and Mrs. Flagler on the subject, of the 

title claim made by the railroad and then most whimsically 

of Mrs. Jennings' attempts to have a bill put through the 



220 



legislature. . . . The difficulties in this line were 
depicted, the promises of legislators, the consultation 
with the wise old lawyer [Governor Jennings] and the last 

indefatigable efforts which resulted in the land being 

24 

given, but not the money." 

The keynote address was given by Mrs. John D. Sher- 
man of Chicago, General Federation Conservation chairman. 
She was followed by Dr. Charles T. Simpson who had identi- 
fied and tagged the trees. He described the botanical 
nature of the park. Then May rose and dedicated the park 
with the simple words, "With the power in me vested as 
president of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs I 

hereby dedicate this Royal Palm Park to the people of 

25 

Florida and their children forever. " 

Even though the lodge was not yet completed a picnic 
luncheon with turkey, ham, salad, and a cola called "Pina- 
pola," was served on the grounds. It was a happy crowd that 
walked the newly-cut paths that day. Every prominent state 
official including the governor had been invited, but none 
attended. Present, however, were loyalists who had supported 
the park from the beginning. They included Mary and Kirk 
Munroe, Mr. and Mrs. W.J. Tweedell, Mr. and Mrs. Bion H. 
Barnett, Ivy Stranahan, Lucy Blackman, Annie Broward, Dr. 
P.H. Rolfs, Florence Cay, Sudie B. Wright, Dollie Hendley, 
Iva Sproule-Baker , Mary B. Jewett, Grace Whitford, Mrs. 
Harry Minium, Minerva Jennings, Mrs. E.C. Loveland, and 
Governor Jennings and Bryan. 



221 

After the dedication the women returned to their 
Miami convention and took up the matter of suffrage. After 
Mary Bryan addressed the women on the subject, an equal 
suffrage plank was endorsed and added to the legislation 
program. Other speakers at the meeting were Dr. E. M. 
Nighbert, who gave a talk on eradication of the cattle 
fever tick, and Bradford Knapp, state agriculture agent who 
talked about rural extension work. An endowment fund was 
established for the Federation and Stephen Foster's "Suwan- 
nee River" was recommended as the state song. In the 
president's report, May noted that since the last conven- 
tion she had delivered forty-eight speeches, handled 5,364 
pieces of mail, and traveled over 10,000 miles on club 
business . 

The proposed 1917 legislation resolution which the 
women adopted contained some twenty-five items. It called 
for an annual state appropriation of $5,000 for the park, 
lands for the Seminole Indians, creation of the position 
of state forester and formation of special forest fire tax 
districts, legislative endorsement of state amendments on 
prohibition and equal suffrage, an act allowing women to 
serve on school boards, a special appropriation to the home 
economics department at the Florida State College for Women 
in Tallahassee, equal division of the state's Smith-Lever 
Funds, health examination for teachers, free textbooks for 
all school children, appropriations for the boys' and girls' 



222 

industrial schools and women members on their boards of 
managers, strengthening of child labor laws, a minimum 
wage and hour bill for female employees, a state tubercu- 
losis sanatorium, regulation of medical advertisements, a 
bill outlawing public executions, one prohibiting signs and 
billboards on public highways, and one setting aside Alli- 
gator Bay rookery as a bird reservation. Many of these 
demands supported measures already advocated by the General 
Federation or were pending before Congress. Florida women 
and the Federation had come a long way from that first year 
in 1895 when one modest proposal of less than forty words 
had been submitted to the legislature. Now, even though 
the women could still not vote or hold office, they were a 
constituency to be reckoned with, and the legislature was 
aware of their political influence. 

The Jennings spent Christmas, 1916, at their new 
home in Miami. Within a few months the country would be 
drawn into the great European war, which was to change 
life for everyone and add greatly to May's already over- 
full schedule. Characteristically, she would take on war 
work and give herself even more responsibilities. But for 
now she enjoyed her family and friends and worked on plans 
for the legislature in March. The Jennings would spend 
more and more time in Miami. Their cousins, William and 
Mary Bryan had a home, "Villa Serena," next to their own 
Brickell Avenue house; the two couples often entertained 



223 

together. Both Bryans were outspoken supporters of pro- 
hibition and equal suffrage and stumped the state on 
behalf of these issues. Mrs. Bryan was chairman of the 
Florida Equal Suffrage Association's legislation committee 
and a member of the Federation. The Bryan's sometime held 
open houses and teas at their villa to raise money for 
their cause. At one such event on behalf of women's suf- 
frage, "a plate was discretely left by the door into which 
the thoughtful made contributions . . . Sixty-six dollars 

was raised and when the amount was announced, Governor 

„26 

Jennings promptly announced he would double the amount. 

The year following, 1917, began with the inaugura- 
tion of Sidney J. Catts as governor and this signalled a 
move to the political right in Florida. While progressives 
remained active and did not completely relinquish their 
hold on state government, conservatives were gaining the 
initiative. Catts played both to the progressives and con- 
servatives. Progressive reforms, which had been underway 
for some time, retained their momentum, but many were in- 
stituted only after strong resistance from conservative 
legislators. Catts' racial, moral, and religious views 
cast a pall over the state and created divisions which tended 
to polarize the people. Governor Jennings had supported 
James V. Knott, Catts' opponent, and both he and May were 
alarmed when Catts was elected. May felt uneasy about the 
outcome of the 1917 legislative session after Catts assumed 



224 



office, but she quickly struck up a friendship with the 
new governor, and tried to maintain an open mind about his 
administration. In turn, Catts was impressed with her 
when they met and wrote, "We all like you very much indeed 
and I am also charmed with your son whom I met." 27 

Just as supporters of equal suffrage were to be 
found in large numbers in the Federation, there were also 
prohibitionists. Many women were members of both the Fed- 
eration and the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Pro- 
hibition sentiment mounted in Florida, in part as a result 
of Catts' tirades against "blind tigers" and sinners. May 
favored prohibition but she never belonged to the W.C.T.U. 
At the 1914 Federation convention clubwomen went on record 
favoring prohibition. Two years later, a stronger prohi- 
bition plank was endorsed when women who favored the subject 
sang a W.C.T.U. rally song; those who did not favor prohi- 
bition objected. The song, however, was very popular at 
the time: 

Florida, Florida 
Dryi Dry! Dry.' 
Hear us tell it. 
Everybody yell it. 

1917 is the day. 
You help, i help. 
That's the way. 

We will do it. 
See us try. 
Line up, Florida. 
Dry.' Dry J Dry .'2 8 



225 



The state prohibitionists' organization was the only- 
organized group that from the beginning of the women's 
struggle supported them in their call for equal suffrage. 

Before the 1917 legislative session, May made 
several trips. She organized the Duval County Federation 
of Women's Clubs in February and then she traveled to 
Macon, Georgia, to address the Conference of Industry and 
Education of Southern Women. In New Orleans she attended 
a General Federation council meeting, and there delivered 
an address on the subject of cooperation, which she saw as 
a necessity if Americans were to do their part for the war 
effort, which began against Germany in April. May then 
went to Tallahassee to attend to the Federation's legis- 
lative program. She spent four weeks in the Capital. 

She worked hard for the Federation's program, but 
the lawmakers of the 1917 session seemed more intransigent 
and opposed to the women than ever. The issues of prohi- 
bition and equal suffrage were major matters for debate. 
Despite strong pressure from the old-girl network and 
telegrams and letters from the Federation's rank and file, 
the legislators refused to fund the park, create a state 
forester position, or enact a law allowing women to serve 
on school boards. They did, however, set aside nearly 
100,000 acres of Monroe County for the Seminoles, only five 
percent of which was arrable, create a State School Book 
Commission, permit the building of county-option tuberculosis 



226 

hospitals, and create a livestock sanitary board. They 
also passed a resolution endorsing national prohibition. 

May, who stayed at the Leon Hotel, spent much time 
talking to legislators and appearing before committees. 
On weekends she traveled to Jacksonville to attend to her 
voluminous correspondence. She wrote, "You cannot realize 
what an exacting task master legislative work is ... It 
is genuine hard work . . . I am worn completely out, have 

been before two committees on appropriation and before the 

29 

Forestry committee. I am simply snowed under with work." 

The fight for equal suffrage was the most heated and 
prolonged battle of the session. May worked tirelessly 
along with Mary Bryan, Ivy Stranahan, and Annie Broward, 
all of whom were officers of the Florida Equal Suffrage 
Association. Mrs. Bryan addressed a joint session of the 
legislature on behalf of suffrage. May, Ivy Stranahan, 
Florence Cay, Mary Jewett, and Lena Shackleford, along with 
scores more of enthusiastic suffrage supporters, filled the 
gallery to overflowing. Mrs. Bryan was introduced by Cary 
Hardee, speaker of the House and no friend of suffrage. 
She spoke for over one hour, and at the end she received a 
standing ovation. It is doubtful, however, if she had been 
able to change the minds of many of the lawmakers, despite 
the fact that suffrage had won the support of several of the 
legislature's most respected members, including Ion Farris 
and Doyle Carlton, other prominent Floridians, and many of 
the state's largest newspapers. 



227 

"The suffragists brought two bills to Tallahassee 
with them. One was an equal suffrage primary bill which if 
adopted would permit women to vote in all primary elections 
and hold certain offices. The second was a resolution pro- 
viding for a constitutional amendment granting equal suffrage 
to be submitted to the voters for ratification. Governor 
Jennings wrote both measures. ... In the House, W. H. 
Marshall of Broward introduced the two measures. . . . 

Companion bills were introduced in the Senate by W. L. 

30 

Hughlett of Cocoa." 

The legislature balked at passing the primary suf- 
frage bill, but the state constitutional amendment resolu- 
tion was reported out of committee. On April 20, debate 
on the bill began in the Senate. It was long and at times 
heated. Senators Hughlett, W. A. McWilliams of St. Augus- 
tine, James E. Alexander of DeLand , Carlton of Tampa, 
Farris of Jacksonville, A. S. Wells of Tallahassee, John L. 

Moore of DeFuniak Springs, and H. L. Oliver of Appalachicola 

31 
supported the resolution. John B. Johnson, president of 

the Senate, led the opposition. Opponents argued that if 
women had the right to vote, blacks would also want to vote 
in the Democratic primaries. Others feared that equal suf- 
frage would destroy "home and American motherhood." Adopting 
both prohibition and equal suffrage in one year was just 
too much for some legislators. The bill was defeated by a 
vote of eighteen to eight. Three days later, however, the 



228 

resolution was brought up for reconsideration at a time 

when some of the measure's opponents were absent. The 

32 

resolution passed by a vote of twenty-three to seven. 

Supporters were jubilant. Women who had kept an around- 
the-clock vigil and who were seated in the gallery cheered 
wildly when the results were announced. The battle then 
shifted to the House of Representatives. 

House debate was likewise vigorous. The very vocal 
minority was led by Hardee. After two days of debate, the 
measure was defeated by a margin of five votes. The fol- 
lowing day the resolution was reconsidered but it again 
lost. The primary suffrage bill failed even to clear 
committee, and May asked to have it withdrawn. A bill 
favoring presidential suffrage was not even introduced. 
Interestingly, while these battles were going on, the leg- 
islature was passing a municipal suffrage bill which gave 
women the right to vote in local elections. Governor Catts 
signed it into law on May 7, 1917. 

May was disappointed but gratified that at least the 
women, against great odds, had come within five votes of 
securing approval of a state constitutional amendment which 
would have granted them the franchise. For her there was 
victory even in defeat. She saw the effort as an event 
which provided Florida women with a political education and 
which showed them what they had to fight against. However, 
many suffragists, especially those in South Florida, were 



229 

not satisfied with the actions of the lawmakers or with 
May Jennings' leadership. Several clubs threatened to 
withdraw from the Federation. They blamed May for what 
they believed was poor judgment and of buckling under to 
the men by allowing the primary suffrage bill to be with- 
drawn. May was also attacked by the Miami Metropolis . 
Always the pragmatist, May explained that she had faced 
reality when she had withdrawn the bill; she had realized 
that defeat of the bill was inevitable and she had decided 
to cut her losses. She felt it was better to leave the 
legislators thinking well of the women and the Federation 
than to force a long drawn out, no win, confrontation. 

She wrote a friend, "I am rather disgusted that all 
of my efforts put forth in behalf of suffrage should have 
been so misinterpreted. ... I have worked very hard for 
the bills but felt it would be better to have all than only 
halfway measures. ... It would give the men a loop hole to 
say they had given us something. It would make it harder 
for us to secure full suffrage in time to come. ... It is 
much better to push and work for a better campaign for the 
next two years, and stir up interest in the constitutional 
amendment. I am frank to say there will have to be a great 
deal of work done among the women of Florida, and be sure 
there will be no representatives returned to the legislature 
who will not support the suffrage amendment. This means a 
great deal of work, if we thoroughly organize the 



230 



state, and begin at once, there is no reason why we should 

33 
not succeed . " 

Considering the atmosphere surrounding the 1917 
legislative session — the country at war, a controversial 
new governor, and two major emotional issues — the results 
of the session were probably as good as could have been 
expected, but May was nevertheless disappointed. She was 
especially distressed at the failure to get the park appro- 
priation. She wrote, "I am brokenhearted, after all our 
work and the promises made us . . . the House refused to 
let the park bill come up. I know now more than ever that 
women must have the vote is they are to accomplish anything. 
The legislature gave away thousands to themselves but the 
only thing asked by the women they never intended from the 
first to grant. ... I am worn out with our so called 
wonderful lawmakers and I am beginning to think that women 
are fools to work as they do for the good of the world . . , 

the men make promises one minute and vote the other way the 

34 
next." In spite of the failure, May planned to resubmit 

her park bill to the 1919 legislature. She informed one 

club officer that the park committee was also thinking of 

submitting a bill to create still another state park on 

the Suwannee River, "which would of course include a great 

deal of the river bank . " 

At the conclusion of the legislative session, May 

began immediately to make plans for another state tour. 



231 



Now, besides her responsibilities for the Federation, she 
had accepted new duties connected with the war. She was 
serving on the General Federation's war emergency committee. 
Herbert Hoover, head of the United States Food Administra- 
tion, had appointed her to Florida's State Food Commission, 
an agency which was charged with publicizing the need to 
produce and conserve food. Governor Catts had appointed 
her to the Florida chapter of the Council for National 
Defense, to the state commission on sanitation of army and 
navy camps, and to the state's Library War Council, which 
was supposed to raise a portion of a national goal of 
$1,000,000. May was also in charge of organizing Red Cross 
volunteers from among the state's women's clubs, and she 
was appointed chairman of the state's Liberty Loan Drive. 

Florida women engaged in all types of war work. 
Thousands signed pledge cards to conserve food, volunteered 
for Red Cross work, saved books and magazines for the armed 
forces camps , staffed canteens and hospitality houses for 
the soldiers, and sewed sweaters, muffs, and caps for the 
troops. They collected hundreds of pounds of string and 
tin foil, a practice which caused Governor Jennings much 
consternation and inconvenience as the stuff was stored in 
the Jennings ' home until it could be bundled and shipped to 
Washington, D. C. Some Florida women objected to any German 
music being played at club functions. At the 1917 conven- 
tion, many protested over the music committee's plans to 



232 

play selections from Beethoven, Mendelsohn, and Wagner. 
President Wilson himself was wired and asked for an opinion, 
he replied that "he did not regard the use of good music as 
unpatriotic." One clubwoman informed May that she "went 

out and pulled up all of the German iris plants in her 

37 
garden after war had been declared. " 

Clubwomen were also worried about the questions of 
the "moral purity" and unsanitary atmosphere that surrounded 
the new army camps in Florida. The rise in liquor consump- 
tion and in prostitution alarmed many citizens. Camp 
Johnston near Jacksonville received most of the attention. 
May, an avowed prohibitionist and member of the state's 
sanitation commission, led the drive to make the area 
around the camp "dry." This task was eventually accomplished 
when the federal government declared that all camps in the 
nation were to be surrounded by zones which would preserve 
their "moral purity." May's war work soon overwhelmed her 

Federation duties and she wrote a colleague, "This war busi- 

3 8 
ness has just about put me in bed." By autumn she had four 

stenographers and six volunteers helping her with her paper 
work . 

Of course, her regular Federation responsibilities 
continued; she just worked longer and harder than ever be- 
fore. Planning for the new girls' industrial school in Marion 
County consumed a lot of her time. The Federation had sub- 
mitted plans to the governor and to the state board of 



233 

control regarding the establishment of a family-style 
cottage system of housing like the one adopted for the 
boys' school. The officials ignored this concept, even 
though the legislature had recommended the cottage plan, 
and decided that a barracks-style campus would be erected. 
May wrote to Florence Cay: "We are in a stew about the 
Girl's School because the board is planning a large build- 
ing with a flat roof for the school instead of the cottage 
plan which has been adopted. The Ocala women are up in 

arms. We have to see what we can do about it right away. 

39 
I shall write the Governor at once." After an exchange 

of telegrams and letters with Catts and the board members, 
May was informed that plans would go forward for construc- 
tion of the barrack-style dormitory. Angry and frustrated, 
May wrote Elizabeth Hocker , an Ocala resident, "I never saw 
anything like this board. They seem to think they know it 
all, and that the fact that they are officially elected 

gives them unusual ability and knowledge without ever 

40 

having to study a question." So it was that the boys' 

got family cottages; and the girls ' barracks . 

During the summer of 1917, May outfitted the park's 
new lodge. She purchased linens, kitchen appliances, and 
furniture for the living quarters, and twelve large hickory 
rockers, at a cost of $2.25 each, for the screenporch. The 
Homestead clubwomen made braided rugs for the lodge's 
floors, and other clubs sent bedspreads and curtains. The 



234 

Federation had small handbills distributed throughout the 
state extolling the virtues of the park and the facility 
was now receiving visitors on a regular basis. May super- 
vised the landscaping around the lodge, and instructed 
Mosier to plant roses and brilliant red bouganvilleas near 
the front door. Both he and May worried about grassfires 
which continually threatened the park and about a disease 
that was attacking South Florida's royal palms. This fungus 
eventually destroyed many of the park's palms. During 
September, May held a Federation board of directors meeting 
at the park. While there the women decorated the lodge and 
had their picture taken. 

Other Federation committees were supervised but they 
did not require as much attention. Lena Hawkins, who was 
on the board of governnors of the Florida Good Roads As- 
sociation as well as a member of the Federation's good 
roads committee, continued to keep the busy president amused. 
She wrote May, "I got a deep breath into the port ear of 
the chairman of our county commissioners the other night 
and told him that unless he got that portion of the road 
between here [Brooksville] and Aripeka put in shape, I 
would set the whole Federation on him . . . now you know he 
will, or I'll camp on his trail until he does." The good 
roads committee remained one of the Federation's most 
aggressive groups. 



235 

Suffrage continued to be a subject of concern for 
many of the Federation's officers. May continued to stay 
in touch with Mary Jewett, and together they developed 
plans to make the suffrage issues a subject of formal study 
within every club of the Federation. May also corresponded 
with Ivy Stranahan, the new president of the Florida Equal 
Suffrage Association, and helped her make arrangements for 
that organization's convention to be held the same week in 
Tampa as the upcoming Federation convention. 

The Florida Federation of Women's Clubs convened 
its twenty-third annual meeting in November of 1917. Con- 
vention business was primarily devoted to mobilizing the 
women for the war effort, electing new officers, and pro- 
moting suffrage, good roads, and public health. Rose Lewis 
(Mrs. Edgar Lewis), of Fort Pierce was elected president to 
succeed May, whose name was submitted to the General Federa- 
tion as a Florida director. May was also appointed chair- 
man of the Federation's conservation committee, a position 
she accepted because of her attachment to the park. 

In her final address as president of the Federation, 
May thanked the members for their help during her three- 
year administration, and she listed all that had been 
achieved during that period. She was particularly proud of 
the creation of Royal Palm Park, and the construction of 
its facilities. She was also pleased with the endorsement 
of equal suffrage at two Federation conventions and its near 



236 

acceptance by the 1917 legislature, passage of a prohibi- 
tion resolution, establishment of the Federation's endow- 
ment fund, creation of the girls' industrial school near 
Ocala, the anti-tuberculosis work which was begun in 
every Florida community, adoption of Red Cross work within 
the Federation, promotion of rural extension work, and the 
growth in Federation membership, now numbering more than 
10,000 women. She reported that in three years she had 

handled 15,132 pieces of mail, had made innumerable speeches, 

42 
and had traveled 26,543 miles on club business. May, one 

of the Federation's most popular presidents ever, was given 

the Federation's large wooden gavel as a permanent token 

of esteem and appreciation. But May Jennings' service to 

the Federation and the state were hardly finished. New 

challenges lay ahead. 



237 



Notes to Chapter VII 

Kate V. Jackson to May Jennings,- December 10, 1914. 
MMJ Papers, Box 4. 

2 
Florence (Cay) to May Jennings, December 4, 1914. 

MMJ Papers, Box 4. 

3 

Rose A. Lewis to May Jennings, December 8, 1914. 

MMJ Papers, Box 4. 

"Tallahassee Weekly True Democrat , December 11, 1914. 

May Jennings to Mrs. William Hocker, January 8, 1915 
MMJ Papers, Box 5. 

"Florida Federation of Women's Clubs,'' 1915. MMJ 
Papers , Box 5 . 

7 
Lena Hawkins to May Jennings, n.d. MMJ Papers, 

Box 5. 

p 
May Jennings to Mary Coogler, February 9, 1915. 

MMJ Papers, Box 5. 

May Jennings to Elizabeth Kocker , April 5, 1915. 
MMJ Papers, Eox 5. 

Lucy Lock to May Jennings, April 9, 1915. MMJ 
Papers, Box 5. 

"J. A. Hendley, History of Pasco County,- Florida 
[1941], p. 15. 

12 

May Jennings to Mrs. John McGriff, April 30, 19 lo. 

MMJ Papers, Box 5. 

Lena Shackleford to May Jennings [May, 1915] . 
MMJ Papers, Box 5. 

14 

Telegrams. Bryan Jennings to May Jennings, June 

2, 1915; William S. Jennings to May Jennings, June 3, 1915. 
MMJ Papers. Box 6. 

Kenneth R. Johnson, "The Woman Suffrage Movement in 
Florida" (Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State University, 
1966) , passim. Johnson lists twenty-eight leagues in 
Florida between June, 1912, and November, 1930, p. 55. 



238 



Edith Stoner to May Jennings, July 11, 1915. 
MMJ Papers , Box 6 . 

L.B.E. [Mrs. R.A. Ellis] to May Jennings, August 
28, 1915. MMJ Papers, Box 6. 

18 May Jennings to Mrs. T.V. Moore, September 8, 1915. 
MMJ Papers, Box 6. 

Speech, "Woman's Opportunity," FFWC Yearbook, 
1915-16 , pp. 26-31. 

20 May Jennings to Charles Moiser, February 23, 1916. 
MMJ Papers, Box 8. 

21 - 

May Jennings to Mary Munroe , n.d. MMJ Papers, 

Box 9 . 

May Jennings to Charles Moiser, April 3, 1916. 
MMJ Papers, Box 8. 

Miami Herald , November 24, 1916. 

Ibid . 

Ibid . 

26 Womans Journal , XVIII, April, 1917. Quoted in 
Johnson, "Woman's Suffrage, " p. 87. 

2 'Sidney J. Catts to May Jennings, May 8, 1917. 
MMJ Papers, Box 10. 

2 "WCTU rally song." MMJ Papers, Box 10. 

29 May Jennings to Mrs. E.C. Loveland, May 3, 1917. 
MMJ Papers, Box 10. 

30 Johnson, "Woman's Suffrage," p. 210 

31 Ibid . , p. 212. 

32 Ibid . , p. 214. 

May Jennings to Mrs. T.V. Moore, May 15, 1917. 
MMJ Papers , Box 10 . 

3 'May Jennings to Marie Randall, May 30, 1917; May 
Jennings to Florence Cay, May 29, 1917. MMJ Papers, Box 10 



239 



-5 r^ 

May Jennings to Mrs. John D. Sherman, May 21, 1917 
MMJ Papers, Box 10. 

36 Woodrow Wilson to FFWC, November 21, 1917. MMJ 
Papers, Box 11. 

37 Carrie McCollum to May Jennings, November 27, 1917 
MMJ Papers, Box 11. 

38 May Jennings to Mrs. M.L. Stanley, July 20, 1917. 
MMJ Papers, Box 10. 

39 May Jennings to Florence Cay, May 26, 1917. MMJ 
Papers, Box 10. 

40 May Jennings to Mrs. William Kocker, June 5, 1917. 
MMJ Papers, Box 10. 

41 Lena Hawkins to May Jennings, June 4, 1917. MMJ 
Papers, Box 10. 

42 "Report of President of FFWC," November, 1917. 



MMJ Papers, Box 11 



CHAPTER VIII 
A DEDICATED LIFE 



The years following her tenure as president of the 
Federation were May Jennings' busiest and most successful. 
During the war she served on numerous state mobilization 
boards and committees, including the State Food Commission, 
National Defense Council, Library War Council, War Savings 
Council, Belgian Relief Committee, and the Armenian-Syrian 
Relief Committee. Her most diligent efforts were expended 
on behalf of Liberty Loan work. Prior to the end of her 
presidential term she had been appointed state chairman of 
Florida's Woman's Liberty Loan Committee and had the re- 
sponsibility of organizing the women and setting up ma- 
chinery for the five loan drives. 

Americans viewed the war idealistically , with fervor 
and patriotic zeal. The conflict was perceived as the 
battle to "make the world safe for democracy." Scores of 
mobilization committees urged citizens to buy war bonds, 
grow victory gardens, join the Red Cross, volunteer their 
services to hospitals and hospitality houses, save food, 
cloth, paper, and other commodities, and to join the armed 
forces. The public was exhorted to "Give Until it Hurts," 
and to "Beat Back the Hun." Housewives were urged to "Can 
vegetables, fruit, and the Kaiser, too," and to make "Every 
Garden a Munitions Plant 



„2 



240 



241 

Anti-German feelings ran high and included the boy- 
cotting of German music and food. Dachunds were renamed 
"liberty pups,'- frankfurters became "liberty sausages," and 

sauerkraut, "liberty cabbage." The populace endured "wheat- 

3 
less," "meatless," "heatless," and "lightless days. 

Families with members serving in the armed forces hung a 
red and white service flag in a window of their home, with 
a blue star on it for each person in uniform. If service- 
men died in the war, a gold star was sewn over the blue. 
One thousand and forty-six Floridians perished in the con- 
flict. The Jennings family did their part in the war effort 
and doubled the production of vegetables, beef, and poultry 
on their Kiddleburg farm. Bryan Jennings, a recent graduate 
of law school, joined the navy and became an intelligence 
officer. He was stationed first at Washington, D. C. , and 
then at Key West. During the conflict he married his child- 
hood friend, Dorothy Isabel Brown. 

Jacksonville, as well as Pensacola, Tampa, Miami, 
and Key West, was especially affected by the war. It be- 
came a ship building center of some importance, and the 
development of Camp Johnston, near Orange Park, brought 
thousands of soldiers and their families into the area. 
Housing shortages, economic inflation, and increases in 
crime troubled the community. Jacksonville became known 
as the "booze oasis" of north Florida. May and other 
prominent prohibitionists worked hard to quarantine the 



242 



military facility and to place it in a dry zone. After a 

bitter struggle May wrote a friend, "We had an awful fight 

4 
here for the wet and dry election, but won out." The "moral 

sanitation" surrounding Camp Johnston was attacked, too, 
and became an important issue among clubwomen, who under 
May's leadership, sent President Wilson and other government 
officials a resolution regarding the moral climate near the 
camp. During the effort to establish a zone of moral 
purity, May obtained for distribution pamphlets from the 
American Social Hygiene Association. One such pamphlet 
was entitled "Prostitution in its Relation to the Army on 
the Mexican Border. " 

Hundreds of Jacksonville women participated in the 
war effort. Many volunteered to sell bonds and stamps. 
Others joined the Red Cross and served on its first aid, 
nursing, relief, and hospitality committees. Leaders of 
the local Red Cross branch included Louise Meigs, Annie 
Broward, Minerva Jennings, Ninah Cummer, Lina Barnett, and 
May, who was responsible for the acquisition and distribu- 
tion of supplies, food, and clothing to area families ad- 
versly affected by the war. During the conflict Red Cross 
volunteers in Duval County made, packaged, and shipped 
over one million surgical items. In addition to her Red 
Cross duties, May also served on the Jacksonville Commis- 
sion on Training Camp Activities which coordinated invita- 
tions to convelescing soldiers, inviting them to partake of 
meals and social entertainment in private homes. 



243 

May Jennings was an excellent person to head the 
state's Woman's Liberty Loan Committee for she knew how to 

organize Florida women. She wrote at that time, "I prob- 

ii 7 
ably know more women in the state than any other woman.. 

She and her staff sent out letters to clubwomen throughout 
Florida enlisting their support in the program. Non-club- 
women were solicited as well, but clubwomen proved the 
most ready to help and furnished the bulk of the workers. 
The first need was for chairmen in each of the state's 
fifty-four counties. In turn these chairmen had to secure 
assistants and scores of general volunteers. Hundreds of 

letters and printed pamphlets were mailed before enough 

p 
chairmen could be secured to begin the work. No city or 

hamlet was ignored. One volunteer, Etta Silverf riend, was 
even recruited from the Koreshan Unity community in Lee 
County. Most women agreed to help, but few were willing to 
assume supervisory tasks or take on the responsibilities of 
a county chairmanship. The old-girl network came to the 
rescue, however, and many of the Federation's state and 
local officers assumed county chairmanships. 

Occasionally May would have difficulty organizing a 
county and her usual patience would run out. Then she would 
angrily write to those local women who had refused to par- 
ticipate in the loan work. To one recalcitrant group she 
wrote, "I must confess that it is quite a surprise to me 
that none of you Fernandina women seem to realize the great 



244 

importance of financing the war . . . When women are giving 
their sons to the trenches, it does not seem possible to me 
that anyone should feel they have a right to refuse a request 
from their government as long as they have strength to hold 
out. Will you kindly say to the women whom you have consulted 
about this work that I more often than not work until two 
o'clock at night. . . . The soldiers have in a way sacrificed 

their lives uselessly, while some women have stood idly by, 

9 
unwilling to assist." Many chairwomen wrote May of their 

difficulties in enlisting enough volunteers. To these ladies 

May would send cheery but humbling letters. To one she wrote, 

"you must not get discouraged. ... If you had 54 counties 

to furnish with chairmen, you'd have something to complain of, 

so be thankful you have only one county to look after." 

May worked tirelessly throughout the war. The loan 

campaigns were administered out of Washington through 

regional headquarters. During the course of the conflict 

she made frequent trips to the nation's capital and to 

Atlanta to attend high level loan meetings. With her other 

club duties, in addition to her war committee work, she 

never seemed to have time to relax. During this period, 

she wrote a friend, "This war business has just about put 

• U A - 11 
me in bed . 

May also had the responsibility of arranging tours 
and schedules of the national personalities who came into 
Florida speaking on behalf of bond sales and food conserva- 
tion. During the war she accompanied several speakers on 



245 



tours, including Jane Addams, of Chicago, who was a 
Jennings house guest. At another time she accompanied Mrs. 
Antoinette Funk, national vice-president of the liberty 
loan committee, on a swing down the Florida east coast. 
They visited over twenty towns. At Daytona they spoke to 
some 800 people, and in Miami they addressed a crowd esti- 
mated at over 3,000 in number. Everywhere they exhorted 
their listeners, most of whom were women, to buy bonds and 
to volunteer as sales persons. On another drive May accom- 
panied Sargeant-Major Edward Lowery, a decorated English 

soldier, on a tour of the state. At other times she alone 

12 
was the featured speaker at community rallies. 

Selling bonds was not without its hazards. The 
women, who wore identifying arm bands and buttons, canvassed 
every community in the state. It was tiring work, a nation- 
wide influenza epidemic nearly cancelled the fourth loan 
drive, and May often had to travel to many unfamiliar out- 
of-the-way places. Soliciting in some parts of Florida 
offered its own unique perils. One county chairman wrote 
May, "I have just returned from Crystal River and the in- 
sects nearly ate me up. A whole regiment of German mosqui- 
toes attacked me. Casualty list: 5 seriously wounded. 

The enemy were driven back with heavy losses, but I lost 

13 
some mighty good American blood . " 

Liberty Loan and food conservation work put May in 

contact with many black women throughout the state, and 



246 

encouraged cooperation between clubwomen of both races. 
She had previously corresponded with Mary McLeod Bethune, 
president of the Florida Colored Women's Federation, re- 
garding public health matters. During the war she wrote 
her, "I am exceedingly interested in the war work among the 
negro women of Florida, and I have had a great deal of 
pleasure in cooperating with Eartha M. M. White, president 
of the City Federation of Jacksonville. She is an exceed- 
ingly bright and energetic women, and seems never to be 
weary in well doing. The colored people of Jacksonville 
owe her a great deal more than they realize. . . . The pro- 
duction and conservation of food and the elimination of waste 

is being pushed thoroughly and successfully among the 

14 

colored women. " Unfortunately, racism still pervaded the 

South and after repeated attempts by national leaders to 
bring black women into the liberty loan program the idea 
was dropped. Cooperation between the women of the two races 
continued elsewhere in the nation, and May continued to 
correspond and work with Mrs. Bethune and Miss White and 
to help them organize war work among blacks. She later 
publically acknowledged that the black women of Florida had 
done much to promote the conservation of food and the buying 
of bonds and stamps. 

Each lib3rty loan drive was accompanied by public 
rallies, parades, bonfires, band concerts, military demon- 
strations, and other publicity gimmicks, which the loan 



247 

people referred to as "stunts." These activities were 
designed to arouse the people's patriotic spirit. During 
the fifth and last loan drive, April 1919, May and other 
city leaders arranged to have the Carlstrom Flying Circus 
perform over Jacksonville. One contemporary remembered 
that the aerial team "dived, looped, rolled, and roared to 

simulate aerial combat as crowds took to their rooftops to 

15 
get a better view, and watch open mouthed with awe." In 

addition to the air circus, an army tank on tour was en- 
gaged to demolish an abandoned building located downtown. 
These two events brought one of the largest Florida crowds 
ever to assemble during the war. At the conclusion of the 
conflict May turned in her final loan report to the Wash- 
ington authorities. She could be proud of the record 
Florida women had achieved. To their credit they had sold 
over $17,000,000 in savings bonds, certificates, and stamps 
This was in addition to the amount which had been sold by 
Florida men. 

During the war May's interest in other activities 
continued unabated. On January 24, 1917, she organized 
the Duval County Federation of Women's Clubs, an amalga- 
mation of twenty-four separate organizations which over 
the years was to lend its united support to a number of 
important social and civic issues. She served as an 
officer of this organization for many years. From 1917 
to 1919 she was director of the Florida Anti-Tuberculosis 



248 

Association, and made numerous speeches throughout the 
state. The association sought not only to reduce the spread 
of the disease by improving public sanitation, but urged 
the establishment of a state sanatorium. In June 1917, 
the Jennings family attended one ceremony in Middleburg 
which marked the opening of the "Bryan Jennings" bridge 
over Black Creek, replacing the ferry which had operated 
there for many years. May and Governor Jennings, who were 
Middleburg 's most prominent citizens, supported their son 
in his efforts to get the bridge and its opening was an 
important event in the history of the isolated little 
community. 

During December 1917, May was called upon to help 
female telephone operators in Jacksonville who had gone on 
strike. She wrote Mrs. Raymond Robbins of the National 
Woman's Trade Union League in Chicago, and urged her to 
come to Jacksonville, to guide the women in their demands. 
She also wrote J. C. Privett, state labor inspector, and 

asked him for a list of industries in Florida which employed 

17 
women. With statistics from Privett she organized a 

campaign to publicize the women's plight and to get a more 
liberal hours and wages bill passed by the Florida legis- 
lature. Unfortunately she was not successful in her legis- 
lative effort, but she did bring the operators' working 
conditions to the attention of the appropriate Jacksonville 
officials. The telephone strike proved shortlived, but it 



249 

served to ease conditions under which the women worked. 
Real relief for working women would not come until federal 
laws were passed later by congress. 

May's work on behalf of women's suffrage continued 
unabated. During 1918 and 1919 she and other suffragists 
kept pressure on Florida's congressional delegations and 
especially the state's two Senators, Park Trammell and 
Duncan Fletcher, to vote for the Anthony Amendment, the 
suffrage bill which was pending in Congress. Both senators 
adamately refused to change their antagonistic views about 
women's rights despite the fact that May and her colleagues 
launched a campaign to swamp them with, what the women 
called, "hot stuff" letters. After Fletcher coolly re- 
plied to one of May's "hot stuff" letters, in which she 
had enclosed a list of all the Florida newspapers which were 
supporting equal suffrage, she wrote Dr. Mary Jewett, an 
ardent suffragist, "the stubborness of these men makes me 

sick. I do not care if either is defeated. I am going to 

1 8 

support the man who supports suffrage." Dr. Jewett re- 
plied, "It will be a great day when we no longer have to 

have suffrage societies and political equality committees 

19 
and when we are recognized as 'real folks'." 

When Dr. Anna Shaw, the nationally known suffragist, 

visited Florida on a speaking tour, May introduced her to 

a Jacksonville audience. May later received from Dr. Shaw 

a card with a picture of Susan B. Anthony. It also 



250 



contained the Anthony quote which May repeated whenever 
she gave a speech: "To desire liberty for one's self is 
a natural instinct . . . but to be willing to accord 

liberty to another is the result of education, of self 

20 
discipline, and the practice of the golden rule." 

During the Florida primary in June 1918, the suffragists 

worked openly for candidates who had supported suffrage in 

the past or who promised to do so in the future. May wrote 

of one of the candidates, "he opposed everything women asked 

for during the last legislature and I am anxious to see him 

2 1 
left at home this time." But not only was this candidate, 

George Wilder, reelected, but he served as speaker of the 

1919 House. 

As the controversy over the Anthony Amendment became 

more active both May and Governor Jennings stepped up their 

efforts on its behalf. During the summer of 1918 they wrote 

an open letter which was reprinted by the Florida Equal 

Suffrage Association. Copies were sent to the state's 
major newspapers, many of whom gave it prominent play in 
their pages. In November, May addressed both the FESA and 

the FFWC conventions on the importance of each woman doing 

22 
her part to further the cause of suffrage. Florida women 

were split between those who favored federal suffrage only 

and those who favored both state and national suffrage. 

Unity was essential, and it proved to be the missing quality 

which kept Florida suffragists from achieving more success. 

In December 1918, May issued a "white" paper written to 



251 



refute the argument espoused by Trammell and Fletcher 
which claimed that a vote for equal suffrage was an abdi- 
cation of the principle of state rights. May denounced 
this view and argued that the state rights argument was a 
"red herring," just an excuse to oppose suffrage for women. 
She asked the Senators, since President Wilson and the 
national Democratic party had endorsed equal suffrage, 
did this mean that they were no longer Democrats? How 
could they call the United States democratic if one-half 
of the "nation was still without a voice?" 

January 1919, May, Dr. Jewett, Ivy Stranahan, and 
other suffragists met in Orlando to discuss the upcoming 
legislative session. At the meeting May delivered a speech, 
"The Two Roads to Victory," in which she again argued that 
women needed both the federal equal suffrage amendment and 
a state primary bill. When the Florida legislature convened 
a few months later, she and the other women were ready to 
submit their primary bill. During the session they lob- 
bied tirelessly, with May working simultaneously for suf- 
frage as well as for bills effecting conservation, park 
matters, and compulsory education. The lawmakers paid 
little attention to the desires of the suffragists. The 
primary measure failed even to reach the floor of either 
chamber. Disheartened and discouraged the women vowed to 
continue to work for passage of the federal amendment. 
Their disappointment, however, soon changed for during that 
summer Congress approved the long desired nineteenth 



252 



amendment, and it was quickly ratified and made law. 
Neither Florida senator voted for the amendment. The 
Florida legislature did not endorse the historic amend- 
ment until 1966. 

With the passage of the nineteenth amendment the 
women's movement underwent a fundamental change. Numerous 
new organizations whose aims were to represent women's 
views emerged in the new political arena. The Florida 
Federation of Women's Clubs, long the standard bearer, 
was no longer the only organization to speak for the state's 
women. Indeed, the Federation underwent a gradual retrench- 
ment, and by 1930 it no longer stood as the progressive 
voice of the women's movement. The Florida League of Women 

Voters took its place. The League was organized in Palm 

25 
Beach County in August 1920. As a non-partisan organiza- 
tion, its aim was the political education of women and the 
exercise of pressure to achieve progressive goals. The 
August 1920, birth of the League coincided with the date set 
for the first voter driver aimed at registering American 
women. May took the lead in Duval County, made speeches to 
publicize the registration drive, and worked hard organizing 
women to canvass neighborhoods. While, only white women 
were invited to partake of the new democracy, nevertheless, 

7,309 Negro women, in addition to 8,702 white females, 

27 
registered in the county. May's friend, Helen Hunt West, 

a member of the radical National Woman's Party, which May 



253 



eshewed, was the first Duval County woman to register to 

. 28 
vote. 

That year May was appointed associate chairman of 
the National Democratic Committee for Florida. Because of 
her longtime party connections she was also asked to or- 
ganize a local Democratic Women's Club. This she did, and 

29 

after an unsteady start, it eventually was incorporated. 

This small but powerful group of women was recognized by 
all local leaders as an organization to be reckoned with. 
May served as the group's president for over nineteen 
years. It was readily acknowledged by those who held power 
and those who aspired to it that the endorsement of May 
Jennings was a blessing one could ill afford to ignore. 
May never held any political office herself, but on 
several occasions was offered a postmistress position which 
she declined. During the late 1920s many Floridians urged 
her to run for governor, an act which would certainly have 
marked her as the leading woman in the state and one far 
ahead of her time, despite the fact that Florida was soon 
to elect female legislators. Ruth Bryan Owen, daughter of 

William Jennings Bryan, and May's relative by marriage was 

30 
one such female politician. At that time May wrote a 

friend, "I am still having pressure brought to bear to run 

for Governor. It is quite flattering and complimentary 

but I can keep so busy without this... I think I will just 

„31 

pursue the even tenor of my way. 



254 



In 1921 the League of Women Voters began publishing 
The Florida Voter , its own inhouse organ. The following 
year the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs established 
its own publication, The Bulletin , later known as the 
Florida Clubwoman . The League organized its own committees 
on child welfare, education, the legal status of women, 
legislation, living costs, social hygiene, women in indus- 
try, political information, and international cooperation. 
But, the League was different from the Federation, for it 
was neither as large or as pervasive as the Federation. 
For many years the League had chapters only in Florida's 
largest cities, and it never owned any clubhouses. In 
addition, the women of the League were interested almost 
exclusively in political matters. Local, social and phi- 
lanthropic projects received limited attention, and not 
until many years later did the League concern itself with 
those kinds of matters. 

The League also included more northern women who 
were relatively new to Florida, and more from minority 
groups. From its inception many Jewish women were members 
of the League. Some of the Old Federation members --May , 
Ivy Stranahan, May Jewett, and Lucy Blackman — joined the 
League but not as many as had been hoped. Some saw the 
League as a competitor of the Federation and opposed its 
aggressive stance. Just as their organization had been 
disapprovingly viewed by conservatives in earlier years, 



255 
so they now viewed the new League as being radical. The 
League lacked the air of gentility and tradition that had 
made the Federation so popular with southern women. May, 
however, did not care that the League did not meet certain 
social or philanthropic standards, she saw it as a viable 
organization with a useful future, and she became a charter 
member. Indeed her political experience was quickly recog- 
nized by the officers of the organization, and from its 
inception until 1926 she served as its chairman of legis- 
lation. She also conducted the League's citizenship school 
which it held during its annual convention. 

As chairman of the League's legislation committee, 
May organized the Florida Legislative Council. It was a 
creature of her own imagination, an idea she believed , 
whose time had come. With the proliferation of organiza- 
tions, old and new, all striving to satisfy their own 
legislative aims, May saw that much duplication of effort 
could be avoided if these groups could work together. She 
wrote, "The plan is for each organization to submit its 
legislative program to the council which will decide on 
the measures to be presented and who and how many bills 
to be pushed during one session. . . . The elimination of 
divided interests and wasted effort, the concentration of 

the entire force of the woman power of the state upon any 

H 3 2 
measures will practically insure its enactment as a law. 

Thus the Legislative Council, with her as president from 



256 

1921 to 1934, became a clearing house for more than ten 
state organizations. At its peak the Council spoke for 
more than 25,000 Floridians. 

Represented by the Council were such disparate 
groups as the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, Florida 
League of Women Voters, Federation of Business and Profes- 
sional Women's Clubs, Florida Mother's Clubs (PTAs) , 
Florida Education Association, Florida Forestry Associa- 
tion, state Women's Christian Temperance Union, and the 
Florida Audubon Society. Eventually, the Council was to 
break apart because of the strains of the Depression era 
and because of the desire of many of these organizations 
to control their own legislative calendars. But, for more 
than a decade the Council, with May at its helm, lobbied 
in Tallahassee for a common legislative program. This 
program always tried to include something for everyone. 
The 1925 program called for stricter controls over the 
state board of education, an act requiring the reading of 
the Bible in public schools, women as jurors, repression 
of prostitution, establishment of an industrial school for 
delinquent Negro girls, licensing of carnivals and travel- 
ing shows, a board of forestry, a state game and fresh 
water fish commission, and for local option stock laws. 
The 1927 legislative shopping list included twenty-three 
items. 



257 

In addition to these issues, the League of Women 
Voters and the Legislative Council worked to promote state 
participation in the national Sheppard-Towner maternity- 
infancy program. They also urged a survey of conditions 
of Florida working women, the removal of common law dis- 
abilities on married women, and the elimination of the 
state's poll tax. The Legislative Council served the state 
well, and May Jennings became a more than ever familiar 
figure in the halls of government in Tallahassee. 

After women received the vote May continued to 
promote women's rights. While she was not a member of 
the National Woman's Party, she nevertheless favored that 
organization's Lucretia Mott bill (equal rights amendment) 
which was rejected by the increasingly conservative Florida 
Federation of Women's Clubs. May continued to urge Florida 
women to become involved in local and state political 
matters. In April 1922, she wrote an article, "Women's 
Work in Florida," for Florida Magazine , in which she out- 
lined the achievements of fourteen of the state's women's 
organizations. She described the new Legislative Council 
and the hopes for the future; she urged all Florida women 
to join in the political process. 

In 1925 she was appointed chairman of the women's 

35 
editorial advisory committee of Tropical America magazine. 

The magazine lasted only two years, but during that period 

she managed to have printed articles pertaining to Royal 



258 

Palm Park, home demonstration work, conservation of the 
state's natural resources, and Florida's new park system. 
She wrote the editor, "What I bring to the magazine in 
prestige, position, standing in the state, is a matter 
of long years attainment, and I am not unmindful of the 
fact that, being as conversant with state affairs as I 
am . . . has its great value. At least it helps me to the 
accomplishment of things that otherwise would be impos- 
sible. . . . The articles, I dare say, have not possibly, 
as much literary merit as many others could bring, but I do 
feel that my information as to state affairs is possibly as 
far reaching as that of anyone else." 

May continued to work for prohibition. The 1917 
legislature passed a statewide prohibition bill which was 
ratified by the voters the following year. The eighteenth 
amendment was enacted in 1919, but, it soon became apparent 
that prohibition was going to have a precarious future. 
Florida, near the "wet" Bahamas, quickly became one of the 
major smuggling routes for rumrunners and others who sought 
to import illicit liquor. Citizens in Florida's coastal 
cities witnessed a series of battles between smugglers and 
state and federal enforcement officials. Late in 1919 the 
National Anti-Saloon League organized groups in each state 
to counteract the growing breakdown in respect for lav; and 
order. The Florida Educational and Temperance Campaign was 
established, the objectives of which were to educate the 



259 

public about prohibition, support police officials, and 
raise money to oppose the liquor interests, who were work- 
ing to get the new amendment repealed. 

The organization was supported by many women who 

were also members of the Federation and the Florida Equal 

37 
Suffrage Association. May Jennings was selected chairman 

of the woman's division, and was expected to call upon her 
vast talents and her network of friendships to find county 
chairwomen as she had done so often before for other or- 
ganizations. However, it was not taken into account that 
the mood in the state and nation had changed. The war, 
the bond campaigns, and the struggles over suffrage and 
prohibition had left the American public exhausted and 
somewhat cynical. Americans were no longer interested in 
great moral causes. For two decades reformism had been the 
catch-word of society, now Americans were interested in 
other things. A conservative, pro-business mood permeated 
the country. Increased mobility, and greater economic 
freedom had created a public which no longer supported 
progressivism. Many Americans resented prohibition, which 
they viewed as a prudish law which sought to regulate their 
personal behavior. 

May found it difficult to secure the people needed 
for the temperance education work. Previously cooperative 
clubwomen were not willing to help. One of May's steno- 
graphers wrote during the search for workers, "It seems to 



260 



me like this Education Temperance work is about the worst 
we have ever tackled. I never saw the way the women are 

afraid to accept chairmanships .... We will never get the 

3 8 
state organized at the rate we are going." In addition, 

officials at the organization's state and regional head- 
quarters bickered among themselves over jurisdiction and 
expense monies. The decision to eliminate the women's 
division proved to be one of May Jennings' few failures. 
She would return later to prohibition and law enforcement 
matters however. 

For nearly a year Governor Jennings had complained 
of chest pains and fatigue. As the weeks wore on his con- 
dition continued to deteriorate. During the autumn of 
1919 he had an acute attack that at the time was diagnosed 
as severe indigestion, but apparently he had suffered a 
heart attack. With her husband gravely ill and bedridden, 
May was forced to hire around-the-clock nurses to care for 
him. By Christmas the prognosis was serious, and May, 
accompanied by friends, Dr. and Mrs. M. 0. Terry, the former 
surgeon general of the state of New York, took the Governor 
to the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach where it was thought 
that the warm weather would facilitate his recovery. He 
did improve, and in February 1920, was transferred from 
Palm Beach to the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine. 
February 27, it was decided that he was well enough to be 
taken back to the Jennings home in Jacksonville. As he was 



261 

being prepared for the trip, he suffered another massive 
attack and died within minutes. He was fifty-six. 

Governor Jennings' funeral was held in the Main 
Street Baptist Church in Springfield with Governor Catts, 
former Governor Gilchrist, and scores of other state of- 
ficials in attendance. All offices in Tallahassee were 
closed, and flags across the state were flown at half- 
mast. Jennings was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, not far 

39 

from his and May's home. 

May had never felt such grief. Even the death of 
her mother years before had not affected her so deeply. 
She had spent twenty-nine years working along side of her 
husband, and had shared his many dreams and aspirations 
for Florida and its people. Now she would have to go on 
alone. For several months after her husband's death she 
remained at her home in Jacksonville, closing out his 
affairs and using the time for quiet reflection. She was 
forty-seven years old, energetic, and too young to retire 
from public life. She knew that she would continue her 
work; there were too many things yet to be done. She 
wrote, "I expect to dedicate the rest of my life to the 
development of our beloved state to which my dear husband 
devoted so much of his time and thought, and I hope in a 

measure to be instrumental in bringing to realization some 

40 
of the great things he started and dreamed for Florida. 



262 



Soon after Governor Jennings' death, May as presi- 
dent of the Springfield Improvement Association, was asked 
to lead a fight which concerned something important to her. 
It seems that in 1919 the city commission had quietly 
passed an ordinance which called for the paving of Main 
Street and the destruction of its palm-lined esplanade. 
When local citizens became aware of this action the battle 
began. Those favoring the paving included the commission 
and businessmen (realtors and local car dealers) who or- 
ganized themselves as the Main Street Improvement Associa- 
tion. May and other area residents, including Ion L. 
Farris, led the fight to retain the parkway. They managed 
to get the city council to oppose the commission, but this 
stand proved more symbolic than practical for real power 
lay with the commissioners. Mayor John W. Martin opposed 
the paving plan but, he too, was unable to do anything to 
save the esplanade. 

May, Farris, and other longtime residents did every- 
thing they could to get the ordinance rescinded or delayed, 
but to no avail. The Springfield Improvement Association 
even held a non-binding referendum on the issue. During 
the most critical period of the struggle May urged that 
the city if need be remove the sidewalks but leave the 
scenic esplanade intact. She argued that Main Street was 
still a residential street and that, "back of all the agi- 
tation was a real estate scheme perpetrated by those who 



263 

had moved to palatial homes in Riverside. .. the people of 
Springfield not being willing to have Main Street's beauty 
destroyed in the interest of a few gentlemen who want to 
make money in real estate." 

Unfortunately, despite a battle which was carried 
into the courts, Springfield lost; the picturesque, palm- 
lined esplanade was dug up as were many of the roadway's 
large oak trees. Main Street became one of the city's 
busiest commercial thoroughfares, and next to the Jennings 
house there was soon a grocery store and across the street 
a saloon. The loss of the esplanade in front of her home 
proved to be one of May Jennings' sadest and bitterest 
defeats. Its loss spurred her to fight that much harder, 
however, for the preservation of other beauty spots in and 
around the city and state. 

May's work on behalf of the national organization, 
the General Federation of Women's Clubs, continued, and 
in 1920 she was elected vice-president. Her campaign bro- 
chure for the position stated that she was a woman "born to 
an inheritance of big thinking and right acting who had 
fearlessly chosen what she believed right." It also stated 
that she was "a pioneer in every progressive movement in 
[Florida]." it was a true statement. Since 1918 she had 
served as Florida Director to the General; now she was to 
assume a higher and more powerful office. After her elec- 
tion as vice-president she was placed in charge of the 



264 



General's national home economics demonstration extension 
work which operated in cooperation with the United States 
Department of Agriculture. She was a familiar figure to 
officials of that agency because of her work with the 
Smith-Lever and corn club programs years before. She was 
a good choice to coordinate the vast program, and for two 
years she devoted time and energy to the project. By late 
1922 she could report that thirty-nine states and 2,500 
counties in the nation had established rural extension 
programs . 

During her four years as vice-president she served 
the General in many ways, including membership on the 
committee which located, purchased, and raised over 
$150,000 to renovate a headquarters building in Washington, 
D. C. During those years she attended many important 
meetings in the Capital. On two occasions she and her 
colleagues were entertained at the White House. She also 
served as chairman of the General's medical loan scholar- 
ship fund, raising money to support young women who were 
interested in becoming doctors. In addition she served on 
a committee which urged Congress to create a federal de- 
partment of education, with a woman as its head who would 
hold cabinet rank. 

In 1923 May became vice-chairman of the General's 
Woman's National Committee for Lav/ Enforcement, and was 
placed in charge of the nine southeastern states. This 



265 



appointment allowed May to continue her support for national 
prohibition. The position was the result of her earlier 
work for the defunct Florida Educational and Temperance 
Campaign and of her presidency of a new organization, the 
Duval County Law Enforcement Committee, which was formed 
in late 1920. 43 

Because of all of her many services to the General 

her name was put in nomination for president at its 1924 

44 
biennial convention. She did not attain the post but was 

made an honorary life-time vice-president of the organiza- 
tion. During her years working for the General she managed 
to travel extensively throughout the country and spent 
much time in Washington. Her energy during these years 
was remarkable for she continued to maintain her regular 
schedule of city, county, and state activities. 

Some of these responsibilities included helping to 
organize the Springfield Garden Club and a movement to 
clean up Springfield, beautify Hogan ' s Creek, and to land- 
scape the Long Branch Creek near Evergreen Cemetery. In 
March 1924, May became a charter member of the Jacksonville 
chapter of the National Aeronautics Association which 

sought to further the growth of aviation in northeast 

45 
Florida. The group was instrumental in helping Florida 

Airways to inaugurate mail flights in 1926. In 1927 May 

attended a banquet honoring Charles Lindbergh. Despite 



266 

her interest in aviation May Jennings never flew in an 
airplane. 

In 1925 May worked to secure passage of the bill 
which created the Florida State Library at Tallahassee. 
As a past member of the War Library Council and a former 
president of the Federation she was familiar with the 
library needs of the state. When the new library was es- 
tablished the Federation, at her urging, donated its 
ancient but large traveling library which had criss- 
crossed the state for so many years. These books formed 
the nucleus of the state's collection. May also helped 
to secure for the new state library the private collection 
of books which belonged to William Jennings Bryan. 

Finally, during the early 1920s, May served as 
chairman of the endowment fund for the new tubercular and 
crippled children's hospital which was built in Jackson- 
ville at Panama Park on Trout Creek. She also remained 
active on the board of Daniel Orphanage and she helped her 
old friend Marcus Fagg raise money for the Children's Home 
Society. May's was truly a dedicated life, and yet she 
found much that remained to be done. 



267 

Notes to Chapter VIII 

Ernest Ludlow Bogart, War Costs and Their Finan - 
cing (New York, 1921) , passim. The European war began 
November , 1914. The United States entered the conflict 
April, 1917. An armistice was signed by all parties 
November, 1918. The five Liberty Loan drives occurred 
May-June, 1917; October, 1917; April-May, 1918; September- 
October, 1918; May, 1919. 

2 

Steve Jantzen, Hooray for Peace: Hurrah for War. 

The United States During World War I (New York, 1971) , 
passim. 

3 

T. Frederick Davis, A History of Jacksonville, 
Florida, and Vicinity, 1513-1924 (St. Augustine, 19 25) , 
p. 270. 

May Jennings to Kate Jackson, May 25, 1918. MMJ 
Papers, Box 13. 

5 Pamphlet, "Prostitution in its Relation to the Army 
on the Mexican Border," July, 1917. MMJ Papers, Box 10. 

Edith Gray, The History of the Jacksonville Chapter 
of the American Red Cross. World War I Period: March 20, 
1914 (Jacksonville, n.d.), p. 30. 

May Jennings to Mrs. George Bass. February 1, 
1918. MMJ Papers, Box 12. 

Q 

Pamphlet, "National Woman's Liberty Loan Committee 
Recommendations to County Chairmen." MMJ Papers, Box 12. 

'May Jennings to Fannie D. Williams, February 11, 
1918. MMJ Papers, Box 12. 

May Jennings to Mrs. D.E. Austin, February 1, 1918. 
MMJ Papers, Box 12. 

May Jennings to Mrs. M.L. Stanley, July 20, 1917. 
MMJ Papers, Box 10. 

12 Pamphlet, "A Primer of the National Women's Liberty 
Loan Committee for the Use of Women Speakers." MMJ Papers, 
Box 12. 

"I -3 

Sarah E. Sweat to May Jennings, September 21, 
1918. MMJ Papers, Box 13. 



268 

14 

May Jennings to Mary McLeod Bethune, July 20, 

1917. MMJ Papers, Box 10. 

John P. Ingle, Jr., Aviation's Earliest Years in 
Jacksonville, 1878-1935 (Jacksonville, 1977), p. 14. 

The Duval County Federation of Women's Clubs was 
disbanded May 14, 1965. See Jacksonville Florida. Times- 
Union , May 15, 1965. 

17 

J.D. Privett to May Jennings, April 5, 1918. MMJ 

Papers, Box 12. 

18 

May Jennings to Mary Jewett, April 15, 1918. MMJ 

Papers, Box 12. 

19 

Mary Jewett to May Jennings, April 11, 1918. MMJ 

Papers, Box 12. 

20 

Postcard, Anna H. Shaw to May Jennings, October 

1918. MMJ Papers, Box 14. 

21 

May Jennings to Elizabeth Skinner, May 24, 1918. 

MMJ Papers, Box 13. 

22 

Speech, "What It Would Mean to the Cause If Each 

Suffragist Did Her Part," November, 1918. MMJ Papers, 
Box 13. 

23 

May Jennings, "State's Rights," December, 1918. 

MMJ Papers, Box 13. 

24 

Speech, "The Two Roads to Victory," 1919. MMJ 

Papers, Box 14. 

25 

Blackman, The Women of Florida , I, p. 152. 

Pamphlet, "The National League of Women Voters: 
What It Is, How It Works" [1921]. MMJ Papers, Box 17. 

27 

Davis, A History of Jacksonville , p. 277. 

28 

James R. McGovern, "Helen Hunt West: Florida's Pioneer 

for ERA," Florida Historical Quarterly, LVII (July, 1978), pp. 39-53. 

29 

Alma Taylor, Secretary of DCDW, Inc., to author, 

December 9, 1976. DCDW, Inc., was established in 1919 
and received an incorporating charter, June 29, 19 35. 



269 



In 1928 Edna Fuller (Mrs. John Fuller) of Orange 
County became Florida's first female state representative. 
Lena Hawkins (Mrs. C.E. Hawkins) became mayor of Brooksville 
in 1928. Ruth Bryan Owen became Florida's first congress- 
woman and served the 4th District (Miami) from 1928 to 1932. 

May Jennings to General M.O. Terry, February 16, 



May Jennings, "Woman's Work In Florida," Florida 
"The Florida Legislative Council Endorses Measures, 



19 26. MMJ Papers, Box 18 

3 2 

May Jennings, Wo 

Magazine , April, 1922, p. 14 

33 

"The Florida Legisla 

The Florida Voter , I, April, 19 25, p. 11. 

34 Jennings, "Woman's Work In Florida, 1 ' Florida Maga - 
zine , April, 1922, pp. 13-18. 

The Hollywood Magazine , published by the Florida 
Society of America, first appeared in November, 1924. In 
1925 it changed its name to Tropical America and in 1926 
became South magazine. May Jennings joined the magazine, 
December, 19 25. 

3o May Jennings to O.E. Behymer, February 6, 19 26. 
MMJ Papers, Box 17. 

"For an explanation of the symbiotic relationship 
which existed between prohibition and women's rights move- 
ments see James H. Timberlake, Prohibition and the Progres - 
sive Movement, 1900-1920 (Cambridge, 1963). 

•J o 

Mrs. [] Woods to May Jennings, January 30, 1920. 
MMJ Papers, Box 16. 

At the time of Jennings' death he was general 
counsel for the Everglades Sugar and Land Company, presi- 
dent of the Jennings Artesian Farm Land Company, Dade 
Muck Land Company, Furst-Clark Construction Company, Ever- 
glades Contractors, Bowers Southern Dredging Company, vice- 
president and general counsel for the Florida State 
Drainage Land Company, chairman of the ways and means 
committee of the Naval Stores Association of Florida, 
president of the Leesburg State Bank, Depositors Trust 
Company, director of Barnes and Jessup Company, and a pro- 
prietor of extensive real estate holdings in Jacksonville, 
Brooksville, and Miami. 

"Florida Director's Reports to the General Federa- 
tion of Women's Clubs," March, 19 20. MMJ Papers, Box 16. 



270 



41 

"Arguments in defense of Main Street esplanade." 

MMJ Papers,. Box 16. 

42 

Pamphlet, Florida Presents a Candidate for First 

Vice-President," June, 1920. MMJ Papers, Box 16. 

<*3 

The Duval County Lav/ Enforcement Committee was 

established December, 1920. Scores of prominent Jackson- 

villians were members including Reverend VI. A. Kobson, 

Mrs. J.D. Alderman, Annie Broward, Charles E. Jones, 

Marcus Fagg, W.F. Coachman, and Mrs. J. A. Corbet. This 

organization promoted the enforcement of prohibition and 

other types of moralistic legislation. The organization 

disbanded in 1923. 

d& . „ . 

Campaign song, May Mann Jennings. See Appendix 

V. 45 

Ingle, Aviation, p. 16. 



CHAPTER IX 
DOCTOR MAY 



Through the years May never lost her abiding inter- 
est in conservation. After she relinquished the presi- 
dency of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs she was 
appointed chairman of the organization's conservation 
department, serving from 1917 until 1938. Thus for nine- 
teen years she was in charge of the club's Royal Palm Park, 
waterways, good roads, Seminole Indians, and bird protec- 
tion programs. There were few conservation issues in 
Florida during this long period with which she was not in 
some way involved. She organized everything from a drive 
to get a riparian rights bill passed to protect the 
state's rivers and estuaries, to campaigns making the 
Mockingbird and the Sabel palm symbols of the state. She 
was also instrumental in having February 14 declared "Bird 
Day" in Florida. 

Royal Palm Park continued to demand much of her 
time because it was always in need of money, particularly 
during its early years. The site became a popular tourist 
spot, and thousands of visitors visited there annually. 
It also became a place where scientists could carry on 
their biological and scientific studies. Improvements at 
the park continued to be made, a well was dug and a water 

271 



272 



tower built. A deer pen was constructed on the premises, 
and several key deer were kept to entertain the sight- 
seers. In 1918 T. L. Mead of Oviedo willed his entire 
collection of several thousand hybrid orchids to the park. 
Private monetary gifts, secured with the aid of Charles 
Simpson and David Fairchild, helped the park to stay sol- 
vent. The rental of some of the endowment acreage to 
tomato farmers also provided income, but, by late 1918 
funds were so low that drastic steps had to be taken. The 
warden was dismissed and a part-time caretaker hired. The 
old "mile-of-dimes " cardboard strips were reissued to 
Federation members, and clubs were urged to hold bake 
sales and bazaars to raise money for the park. Some 
Federation members irritated by the perennial financial 
crisis at the park, began to criticize May and argue that 
the park should be gotten rid of. 

The 1919 legislature was again asked for an ap- 
propriation. Prior to the session's opening May wrote an 
article about the park which appeared in Mr. Foster's 
Travel Magazine , a national monthly. This article, which 
included pictures of the hammock was reprinted, and a copy 
was presented to each legislator. Despite intense personal 
lobbying by May and her committee, which was supplemented 
by a park display the women set up in the Capitol corridors, 
the legislature failed to vote funds. May was very dis- 
appointed; many of the legislators who were personal friends 
had assured her that the appropriation bill would pass. 



273 

Frustrated and angry, she wrote Comptroller Ernest Amos 
and demanded the $4.00 the state owed the park. It seems 
that in the original 1915 bill granting the park lands to 
the women the lawmakers had provided a token $1.00 a year 
state appropriation. During the intervening years May had 
never asked for the small sum, but now angry at the legis- 
lators, who she felt had betrayed her, she demanded the 
money. It was sent. At that time she wrote a friend, 

"the work [conservation in Florida] is up hill and one gets 

2 

dreadfully discouraged at times. 

May refused to accept defeat and continued to work 
for the park and for other conservation projects. In 1920 
she wrote the Rockfeller Foundation and tried to secure 
funds for the purchase of 10,000 acres adjacent to the park 
which she wanted to make a bird sanctuary. She was fearful 
that the land would be sold by the state to an industrial 
conglomerate interested in land speculation just as it had 
with the Alligator Bay rookery land the year before. At 
that time May had tried to prevent the sale but she had 
failed. She was also unsuccessful in her endeavor to 
secure funds to acquire the additional park acreage, but 
she did not give up her search for money. 

In 1920 and 1921 she distributed copies of the 
articles "Natural History of Paradise Key and Nearby 
Everglades of Florida" and "Birds of Royal Palm Hammock," 
to prominent individuals and legislators who might aid the 



274 

3 

park. In 192 some money was raised when she rented the 

Arcade movie theatre in Jacksonville and showed slides 
of Royal Palm. She continued to write letters of protest 
to state and federal officials about the lack of enforce- 
ment of existing bird and wildlife laws. Governor Sidney 
J. Catts was particularly recalcitrant and opposed any 
type of conservation measures. This did not deter May, 
and she continued to campaign for nev/er and more stringent 
laws. When Governor Cary Hardee took office in 1921 May 
sent him a long letter detailing what conservation mea- 
sures she felt the state needed. She also urged him to 
endorse a state natural resources department. During these 
years she and her cohorts worked closely with the Florida 
Wildlife League and the Florida Audubon Society. She 
counted as friends many nationally known naturalists and 
conservation officials. 

During the years of World War I, May had become 
embroiled in one conservation controversy which made head- 
lines for months. Because of the emphasis during that 
period on the preservation of food some official in Wash- 
ington suggested that sea birds be prevented from eating 
fish. Florida shellfish commissioner J. A. Williams then 
ruled that since pelicans were thought to eat perhaps a 
million dollars of fish a day in Florida the birds should 
be controlled by robbing their rookeries of eggs. Older 
birds were to be killed outright. The Florida Audubon 



275 



Society severely criticized Williams and other state offi- 
cials who favored the plan. Naturalists were appalled by 
the idea that the state's pelicans should be destroyed. 
Feelings on both sides of the issue ran high. Stanley 
Hanson, a Fort Myers Indian agent and federal migratory 
bird inspector, wrote May, "all this talk about the pelican 

being responsible for the disappearance of the food fish 

4 
is a lot of rot . " May and her conservation committee cir- 
culated petitions opposing the bird slaughter, and the 
National Audubon Society began to exert pressure on the 
United States Food Administration, which was supporting the 
shellfish commissioner. 

May wrote her friend E. W. Nelson, chief of the 
Bureau of Biological Survey, in Washington for help. He 
and employees of the bureau visited Florida to study the 
situation. They prepared and sent to May an official re- 
port, "The Truth About the Pelicans," which defended the 
habits of the beleagured birds. May gave this paper to 
William F. Blackman, president of the Florida Audubon 

Society, and he had it retitled, reprinted, and distributed 

5 
throughout the state. At the time May wrote the president 

of the Federation, "It seems we are in for a fight to save 

our birds." And so they were. 

Coastal newspapers such as the St. Petersburg 

Independent condoned the destruction of the birds. May's 

views on behalf of the birds, however, carried a great deal 



276 

of v/eight around the state, for not only was she chairman 
of the Federation's conservation committee, but she was 
an officer of the Florida Audubon Society and a member of 
the State Food Commission, organizations on both sides of 
the issue. Her views were so well publicized and she her- 
self so well respected by the general public that at a 
meeting of the State Food Commission, which was charged with 
promoting food conservation, she was able to get a resolu- 
tion passed protesting the killing of Florida's pelicans. 
Soon the plans to exterminate the birds were dropped. 
In 1921 May wrote her friend, E. W. Nelson, in 
Washington, to get the new caretaker at Royal Palm Park, 
Gordon T. Doe, appointed a deputy game warden. In the 
letter she acknowledged for the first time that her hard, 
and at times discouraging work was beginning to pay divi- 
dends, even if it was still too soom to celebrate a total 
victory. She wrote, "About the middle of last month I 
visited the Royal Palm Park and on the bridge where we go 
over the lilly pond we stopped our car between 5 and 6 in 
the evening and saw to the north on a little island be- 
longing to our property between two and three thousand 
water fowl go to roost. I am beginning to feel that our 
bird conservation work is well started. But you can 
readily realize how very carefully the warden has to guard 

this spot. He virutally has to put the birds to bed every 

7 
night to keep the hunters from shooting into them." 



277 

1921 proved to be pivotal in the history of the park. 
For many years just May and a few staunch supporters had 
continued to work for the park; their efforts had aided in 
helping the park stay open to the public. The 1921 legis- 
lature was again presented an appropriation bill by May, 
who feared that the lawmakers would once again reject her 
appeal. Whether it was because of her reputation, or 
Governor Jennings' death the year before, or the fact that 
the park had become popular, or becuase of sheer exaspera- 
tion, the legislature approved a $2,500 annual appropria- 
tion. May's dream had become a reality; the park's future 
was assured. The Federation retained ownership and mana- 
gerial responsibilities of the site, but the state took 
over the financial burden. An overjoyed May Jennings 
wrote letters of thanks to each legislator who had voted 
for the appropriation bill. 

Through the years she continued to oversee the opera- 
tion of the park. Its popularity increased and during the 
Florida real estate boom in the 1920s thousands of tourists 
treked over its vine-covered, palm shadowed pathways. The 
hurricane of 1926 and several grass fires the next year 
caused severe damage and forced the legislature to appro- 
priate $10,000 for restoration. Before the decade was out 
additional acreage was acquired, increasing the park's size 
to nearly 12,000 acres. In 1929, acting on behalf of the 
Federation, May offered Royal Palm Park to the proposed 



278 



National Everglades Park if it should be created. This 
was a fortuitous gesture, and in itself helped to promote 
the national park. 

May continued to work with Ivy Stranahan on behalf 
of the Seminole Indians. After the 1917 legislature set 
aside 98,000 acres of state land in Monroe County for an 
Indian reservation the women began to agitate for this land 
to be transferred to the federal government, for it was 
learned that Washington would make no improvements on the 
reservation as long as it did not hold title to it . A 
memorial to this effect was presented to the 1919 legisla- 
ture. In it May wrote, "if this land was under Government 
control steps would be taken to drain portions of the 
tract that could then be made available to the Indians. 
The only Government Indian Reservation contains about 23,000 
acres in Big Cypress Swamp, Lee County, with only 5% of the 

land available. ... We appeal to you to give the Indians 

p 
a permanent home and settle this question for all time." 

During maneuvers to secure the land transfer May again 
clashed with the acerbic Minnie Moore Willson over the phi- 
losophical question of whether hunting or farming lands 
were more beneficial to the Indians. May favored the ac- 
quisition of dry, arable land for the Indians. She wrote 

of Mrs. Willson, "I think she is more anxious for acres 
„9 



than for quality. 



279 

It was becoming obvious that the Indians were find- 
ing it increasingly difficult to sustain themselves in the 
white man's world. "Because of white hunters and the 
development of canals, drainage operations, and highways, 
the supply of wildlife had been reduced to a point where 
deer, bear, and turkey were rarely found. Some food and 
virtually all other articles had to be purchased at the 
trading posts. Cash income came from the sale of furs, hides, 
dolls, baskets, and from occasional farm labor, and part- 
time work as hunting guides." The Indians ' s traditional 
way of life was being destroyed. 

The 1919 legislature was unresponsive to the request 
to cede the state lands to the federal government, but the 
women refused to give up the cause. For nearly twenty 
more years May, Ivy Stranahan, and other friends of the 
Seminoles lobbied to improve their conditions of life. In 
1931 the Dania (Hollywood) Federal Reservation was estab- 
lished, and in 1936 additional lands in Broward County were 
secured for the Indians. During these years the women 
worked to secure not only lands, but medical care, jobs, and 
educational benefits for the Indians. 

Other conservation issues which occupied May Jennings 
during these years concerned reforestation, forest fire 
control, cattle tick eradication, and fencing. Since its 
early years the Federation had been interested in forestry 
matters. This was because of the clubwomen's concern with 



280 

conservation in general and because some prominent women, 
especially in south Florida, were married to naturalists 
who were interested in forestry matters. Governor Jennings, 
in 1901, had called for a state forest conservation and 
reforestation program. After the creation of Royal Palm 
Park May's and the Federation's interest in these issues 
escalated. Bills were submitted to the legislature calling 
for the creation of a state forestry board, and the posi- 
tion of state forester. When the park was repeatedly 
threatened by forest fires, the conservation committee 
began an active program to get a forest fire control bill 
through the legislature. Eventually a bill was passed, 
but it provided only for weak and ineffective county option 
control. May led the effort to get a tougher law enacted. 

Because of the Jennings' large timber holdings, 
Bryan Jennings was also interested in forestry matters 
and worked with his mother. In January 1919, May addressed 
the Conference of Southern Foresters in Jacksonville on 
the need for the creation of a state department of natural 
resources which would oversee a forestry board and coordi- 
nate other conservation programs. She also outlined the 
Federation struggles to get conservation laws enacted. As 
a result of this appearance she was appointed to a committee 
charged with organizing a state forestry organization, but 
it was decided that there was not enough time prior to the 
convening of the 1919 legislature to organize formally. 



281 

However, those who were interested in forestry matters 
decided to lobby for the establishment of a state forestry 
board and for stronger fire control measures. Unfortunately, 
the 1919 legislature, which passed some progressive measures 
failed to respond to the forestry group's requests. Shortly 
after the end of the session the Florida Forestry Associa- 
tion was formally established. B. F. Williamson of Gaines- 
ville was chosen president, Bryan Jennings vice president, 
and May was appointed special consultant on legislation. 
Williamson later remembered that "Mrs. W. S. Jennings was 
a public spirited woman and realized the loss occurring 
the way forests were being handled. She at that time. . . 
conceived the idea of getting together a group to develop 

it into the forest service and she really sparked the flame 

12 

that developed into the F.F.A." 

The new association dedicated itself to preserving 
the forests of Florida, the wildlife, and to the elimina- 
tion of wildfires. The by-laws stated that the organiza- 
tion intended "to represent the interest of all people, the 

sportsmen, and the wood-using, naval stores, agricultural 

13 
and horticultural industries." The by-laws purposely in- 
cluded these sugments of the population because without 
their support the Association would have had a difficult, 
if not impossible, task achieving its goals. Chief among 
the organization's opponents was the cattle industry. 



282 



Cowmen had long believed that the periodic burning 
of range grass and undergrowth was useful in retarding 
scrub vegetation and rejuvenating the soil, and producing 
tenderer, lusher grasses. According to B. F. Williamson, 
"The cattle man knew when the cattle were hungry that he 
could drop a match and have them lucious green food in a 
couple of weeks." Another contemporary stated that, 
"The first people who started fire protection and tree 
planting had an awful uphill fight because in Florida wide- 
spread burning of the woods was an accepted thing. It 
was felt that the woods ought to be burned in order to 
kill the boll weevil, get rid of snakes, take care of 
cattle ticks and almost anything else. The woods were 
burned in order to clear the land and to keep the pasture 

growth from getting too high. It was an easy thing to do, 

15 
and there was no regard for the other fellow's property. 

Range burning to produce new vegetation was opposed 

by most foresters in the 1920s. Later it was more readily 

accepted. For years the cowmen and the foresters clashed 

in the halls of government and argued the question of 

whether "to burn or not to burn." May, who was appalled 

by the indiscriminate burning practices of the cattlemen, 

argued this question frequently before various groups 

throughout Florida. During her talks she always advocated 

the proposed state department of natural resources and a 

forestry board. She urged cooperation with the federal 



283 

government in establishing national forest reserves in 
Florida and in wildfire prevention programs. State coopera- 
tion came slowly, but eventually several large preserves 
were established, and Florida began participating in some 
fire prevention programs. These efforts as May regarded 
them, were meager. 

In 1921 May and her cohorts pushed a bill through 
the legislature which created fire districts in the Ever- 
glades. The following year Bryan Jennings declared for 
the legislature and ran on a platform calling for the 
establishment of a forestry board and a tick eradication 
program. Although defeated in the primary, he continued 
to work for the Forestry Association. In 1925 the group 
secured passage of a bill which supplemented the 1921 wild- 
fire measure, but both were county option laws and there- 
fore not strong enough to bring the problem under control. 
In 1925 the Forestry Association tried again, but without 
success, to secure authority to establish a state forestry 
board. Conservationists did achieve some victories that 
year, however. A bill protecting dogwoods, hollys, and 
mountain laurels was passed, and a bill creating a state 
park system under the auspices of the trustees of the 
Internal Improvement Fund was enacted. It would be several 
years, however, before any parks, other than the privately- 
owned Royal Palm Park, would be created. 

In October, 1925 May published an article, "Con- 
servation in Florida," in the Christian Science Monitor. 



284 

In it she described the successes—game and fresh water 
fish department, park system, protection of the flowering 
trees--of conservationists in the state. In addition that 
year May helped Lillian Taliaferro Conway, a federal for- 
estry expert hired by the Association, to arrange a 
speaking tour among Florida's women's organizations, to 
publicize the need for forestry laws. 

From its inception the Florida Forestry Association 
worked to establish local forest fire protective associa- 
tions in each of Florida's counties. These associations 
were non-governmental groups of land owners who banded 
together to protect their areas from wildfires and to fight 
such fires should they arise. The Association also lob- 
bied in favor of the Clarke-McNary Act, enacted by Congress, 
in 1924, which set up a system of national and state co- 
operation in fire prevention, reforestation, stream flow 
maintenance, and forestry tax laws. The Association in 
1925 published a pamphlet entitled "Common Forest Trees of 
Florida," and the following year, "Forest Fires in Florida." 
Statistics compiled by the Association showed that fires in 
Florida were a major problem: "In 1927, 15,646 fires were 

recorded, of which 15,437 occurred in unprotected areas. . 

1 8 

. . The total number of acres burned rose to 13,260,820." 

In 1927 the Forestry Association returned to the 
legislature with a comprehensive bill which called for 
establishment of a state forestry board. In later years, 



285 

Clinton H. Coulter recalled, "that several of them 
[Association Members] camped over at the legislature and 
pressed the legislators by personal contact, and got the 
bill introduced . . . That early group beat the drums and 

did the spade work and lobbied up in Tallahassee to get 

19 
over the bill." Mr. Williamson remembered that, "We 

realized the cattleman was not interested in our bill and we 
thought it dangerous to draw one law, so we drew two laws 
to cover forestry protection and another to cover fire 
protection. The matter was presented to the legislature. 
This required an appropriation so a committee was appointed 
to the House. The authorities that appointed this com- 
mittee were not favorable to forestry. I was able to go 
to Tallahassee and see what could be done and from every 
important point to study forestry and see the main man on 
the committee on forestry in the Legislature. This man 
happened to be an old lawyer and when he got through mis- 
representing the situation before the committee, the bill 
was killed in the committee. Then the sparks began to fly. 
Mrs. W. S. Jennings got busy. George Pratt, President of 
the American Forestry Association had been down here and 
while he had no financial interests in the state, he did in 
forestry. ... He gave us a truck and a moving picture to 
go all over the state and show people, so that the bill that 
the committee had turned down had to be accepted and was 
voted on by 2/3 of the Representatives of the Legislature . , 



286 

. . 20 
the Department of Forestry was brought into being." 

At the time of the passage of the bill May wrote, 

"I handled the Forestry law entirely myself except for 

several days work done at different times during the 

session by my son, who is the author of the law. We are 

, ., „21 
very proud of this big step in conservation for Florida. 

Because of her leadership and lobbying and publicity work 
during the fight, May Jennings was often called the "Mother 
of Florida Forestry." She received from the American 
Forestry Association a bronze medallion in recognition of 
her activities. One friend wrote to her: "Bully for you 
in regard to the forestry laws. This is only one of many 
things you have done. I wish Florida had a half dozen of 
you." 22 May's friend, Governor John W. Martin, appointed 
Byran Jennings to the newly created board of forestry. He 
served for ten years (1927-1937), during which time the 
board established a reforestation program, worked to pre- 
vent forest fires and enforce wildfire legislation, orga- 
nized the Florida Forest Service, worked with civic groups 
to publicize the work of foresters, and eventually helped 
establish a system of state parks. The creation of the 
Florida Board of Forestry was one of May's most signifi- 
cant accomplishments. 

In addition to forestry matters, the Federation had 
always evinced an interest in the cattle industry and its 
problems. The Federation's first legislative resolution, 



287 



in 1895, had concerned itself with free-roaming livestock. 
Around 19 00 the national and state governments began a 
public program to control the Texas cattle fever tick, 
which had invaded southeastern ranges. Florida's first 
tick eradication control bill, passed in 1899, gave all 
authority to the counties. In 1913 the State Board of 
Health v/as authorized to lead the eradication program, but 
once again real power was left in the hands of county 
commissions, many of whom refused to participate in the 
program. In 1915 the State Livestock Sanitary Board 
assumed the responsibility for the eradication program, 
but it too made little headway. As a result of the fail- 
ure to eliminate the tick, the problem threatened to be- 
come a major political issue. At their 1916 Federation 
convention, clubwomen, aware of the impending crisis, 
voted to endorse a strong cattle tick eradication program. 
The tick affected not only the quality of Florida beef, 
but it was also attacking the state's dairy herds and 
affecting the amount and quality of the milk produced by 
cows. The slogan among these clubwomen became "Protect Our 
Babies' Milk." 

By 1917 the tick problem had become so severe that 
most of the state was under quarantine with cattle pro- 
hibited from being shipped out. it was estimated that the 
range industry was losing $10,000,000 anually. Not all 
cowmen believed that the tick should or could be eliminated. 



283 

The Florida Livestock Association, dominated by William F. 
Blackman and Mrs. Potter Palmer, of Sarasota, favored a 
strong eradication program, while the Florida Cattlemen's 
Association, which was controlled by F. A. Hendry, opposed 
eradication. In 1918 Blackman, who was also president of 
the Florida Cattle Tick Eradication Committee, wrote May 
requesting her help in the battle. The November 1918 
election was approaching and those in favor of tick control 
had managed to get a local-option dipping measure on all of 
the counties' ballots. Blackman ' s wife, Lucy, knew that 
the Federation was well organized, and he turned to her 
fellow clubwomen for help to promote the tick eradication 
program. 

Cattle tick eradication was viewed by cowmen as a 
major economic issue; many felt dipping would drive them 
out of business. Jow Ackerman, in his history of the in- 
dustry, says, "time involved in the actual dipping forced 
part-time cattlemen and farmers with sizable herds to 
become fulltime cattlemen or get out of the business alto- 
gether. One could no longer turn his head loose on the 
open range and forget about them until round-up time. . . . 
It was a constant cycle of hunting cattle, driving them 

to the vats and dipping them twice a month. And, of course, 

23 

the cattle were not the only carriers of the tick . " 

As the critical 1918 election day approached, May 
hurried to organize the clubwomen and help Blackman 's 



289 



cause. Two other issues on the ballot at that time, a 
statewide prohibition amendment and a ten mill amendment 
designed to promote good roads, were also favored by the 
women. On election day clubwomen across the state took 
up posts outside the polling places to urge support for 
the three measures. Prohibition and the millage measures 
won handily, compulsory cattle dipping was adopted by 
twenty-eight of Florida's fifty-four counties. 

As a result of the election progress was made 
against the tick, but it was apparent that without a state- 
wide compulsory dipping law Florida would never be free, 
once and for all, of the vexatious problem. Proponents of 
tick eradication continued to work toward that end. To 
many citizens it appeared that a successful tick program 
also depended upon the fencing of the ranges, for movement 
of infected, as well as dipped, cattle had to be controlled. 
Fencing was anathema to cattlemen; open ranges had always 
been regarded as a sacred right. As one historian writes, 
"Florida was the last cattle state still to have large range 
areas unfenced. Fences had been around a long time, but 
traditionally they had been used in Florida to keep cattle 
out rather than to keep cattle in . . . . Cattleman J. B. 
Starkey remembered fondly of riding for nearly three weeks 
in the spring of 1914 without seeing a fence. 'There were 
no roads then between Alva and Sebring and the area we rode 
over was still for pioneers. Like all Florida cowmen, we 



290 

rode by the sun, traveling over 325 miles. It was wild 
country with plenty of room for a man who wanted to raise 
stock' . " 24 

When the 1919 legislative session began the forces 
favoring tick eradication were prepared. Once again 
William Blackman solicited May's help. He wrote an open 
letter to each woman ' s club in the state, in which he said, 
"I am writing you after consultation with Mrs. W. S. 
Jennings, chairman of the conservation committee of the 
Florida Federation of Women's Clubs, asking that a com- 
mittee be appointed immediately in every club in the state, 
whose duty it shall be to urge this matter [statewide com- 
pulsory dipping of cattle] upon the attention of the mem- 
bers of the Senate and House, in personal interviews if 

possible, or by letter. May we not count on you to see 

„25 
that this is done without delay? 

In addition to Blackman 's faction and the clubwomen, 
other groups who worked for tick eradication were the 
Florida Development Board and an organization with the 
confusing name of the Florida No-Fence League, whose 
primary aim was to see that all free-range or no-fence laws 
were rescinded and replaced by compulsory fence laws. Sev- 
eral Federation clubwomen were officers in this League; May 
was listed as an advisory member. She also at this time 
became a member of the Florida Development Board (forerunner 
of the Florida Chamber of Commerce) , an association which 



291 



she maintained for the next forty years. However, May op- 
posed linking tick eradication with fencing for she felt 
that to do so would add to the already abundant confusion 
in the public's mind and thereby jeopardize the passage of 
a compulsory dipping bill. 

Despite continued heavy lobbying by the eradication 
proponents, the 1919 and 1921 legislatures refused to pass 
a compulsory lav/. This merely set the stage for an all-out 
confrontation between the cattlemen and their opponents at 
the 1923 session. After weeks of frantic lobbying and 
"horsetrading" between the two factions, the 1923 legis- 
lature passed Florida's first compulsory statewide dipping 
bill. It authorized the state to pay one-half of each cow- 
man's dipping expenses, and placed the dipping program under 
a reorganized Livestock Sanitary Board. The matter did not 
rest there, however, for when dipping actually began in 
some places violent skirmishes broke out between officials 
and some irate, intractable cattlemen. Several individuals 
were killed, and numerous dipping vats around the state 
were destroyed. During the early years of the dipping pro- 
gram over 70,000 head of cattle were sold to avoid the 
dipping process. Eventually, dipping became commonplace, 
and the tick was finally eliminated, but not before the 
state had expended millions of dollars, suffered several 
more quarantine periods, and the Seminole Indians had 
threatened to go on the warpath to save their tick-carrying 



292 

reservation deer. During this long struggle, May and the 
women of the Federation strongly supported the authorities, 
although there was some wavering during the Seminole Indian 
crisis. 

The no-fence proponents were not so successful. 
Despite their success at getting a bill to prevent loose 
livestock on the 1922 ballot, they were unable to rescind 
a single lav/ allowing open ranges, and Florida had no 
statewide compulsory fence law until 1947. Some local 
muncipalities did not get around to adopting fence laws 
until the 1960s, and this despite the fact that the lack 
of fences became a real nuisance and safety hazard as the 
state expanded its road system and more and more cars took 
to its highways. Throughout her life May Jennings favored 
the passage of a compulsory fence law. 

In 1922 May became associated with John B. Stetson, 
Jr. , and the newly organized Florida State Historical So- 
ciety, which had been established October 8, 1921. As a 
member of the Florida Historical Pageant Association, pro- 
ducers of a 1922 open-air Jacksonville extravaganza, which 
depicted the Ribault-Menendez de Avila conflict in drama, 

song, and dance, May wrote Stetson for some pictures which 

27 
the pageant could publish in its program. Stetson com- 
plied with the request, and in a long letter to May out- 
lined his plans for his new society which he urged her to 
join. She liked the objectives of the society--"to 



293 

further interest in the history of the state of Florida, to 
form a library devoted to Florida history, to acquire and 
preserve historical documents and memorabilia and collec- 
tions of any sort referring to Florida, to foster research 
in early records, to publish results of such research, to 
render accessible scarce historical materials by facsimile 

of reprint , "--May became an enthusiastic booster of the 

2 8 
society. She wrote some forty-two letters to prominent 

friends, asking them to join also. Many accepted her in- 
vitation. Early members included Lincoln Hulley, Senator 
D. U. Fletcher, Peter 0. Knight, Kirk Munroe , Dr. Prentice 
Carson, Dr. James A. Robertson, Cary Hardee, and A. A. 
Murphree. When the society's first publication appeared 
in late 1922, May's name and that of many of her friends 

appeared on the back flyleaf of the book as sustaining mem- 

29 

bers of the organization. 

During this period May also became a friend of 
Jeanette Thurber Connor (Mrs. Washington E. Connor) who 
had been a co-founder of the Florida State Historical 

Society, and who was a resident of New York City but spent 

30 
her winters in New Smyrna. During one of her Florida 

sojourns, Mrs. Connor became interested in the ruins of an 
old sugar mill in Volusia County. She incorrectly identi- 
fied the ruins as the remains of the Spanish mission, San 

Joseph de Jororo , erected 1696, and thus one of Florida's 

31 • • H 

oldest surviving relics. Mrs. Connor bought the mission 

and began to restore it. 



294 



Jeanette Connor and May Jennings became close friends 
and visited in each other's homes on many occasions. In May 
1923, when May, as chairman of the state DAR's old roads and 
trails committee, acted as toastmistress at a banquet which 
celebrated the dedication of the newly erected DAR Ribault 
monument at Mayport, Mrs. Connor was present. The so-called 
"mission" of Mrs. Connor's was dedicated at elaborate cere- 
monies February 1926, with May, DAR and Historical Society 

32 

members, and other prominent Floridians in attendance. 

By 1927 May had become a vice-president of the his- 
torical society. At the society's annual meeting held at 
DeLand, February 1927, she was given the responsibility of 
raising the money to save Turtle Mound, an ancient Indian 
midden located on the Indian River near Titusville. The 
mound, referred to by Mrs. Connor as a "monument to the 

ancient and popular institution of the picnic," was nearly 

33 
100 yards long and over 80 feet high. ' It was being de- 
stroyed by sightseers, roadbuilders seeking shell, and 
fishermen, who were depleting the oyster beds which lay at 
the foot of the mound. Mrs. Connor had been trying to save 
the site since 1921 but without success. In 1924 when she 
urged May to help, she was told, "All this about Turtle 
Mound is most interesting and as soon as I can get my breath 
I will see what can be done." 34 By 1927 May began the cam- 
paign to save the mound. For over a year she helped raise 
money to buy the site. In 1928 the mound was purchased 
and placed under the protective custody of the 



295 

historical society. During the 1930s May made frequent 
visits to the site, which had been fenced off, to monitor 
the situation and she sought help from state authorities 
who had agreed to save the mound's oyster beds. Eventually 
the mound was deeded to the state, and it became a part of 
the Florida park system. 

In 1929 an event occurred which caused May Jennings 
and others to look back on the preceding decade and her 
remarkable career. It had been an active ten years which 
had produced failure--the demise of the temperance and law 
enforcement organization, and the destruction of the Main 
Street parkway — and success — the $17,000,000 raised for 
Liberty Loan, the state appropriation for Royal Palm Park, 
establishment of a statewide cattle dipping program, pas- 
sage of the bill creating the state board of forestry, and 
the preservation of Turtle Mound. There had been other 
victories too. Scores of conservation laws, a state com- 
pulsory education law, a new state library, a state ma- 
ternity-infancy program, and Indian protection laws were 
all on the statute books. May, who had played a major 
role in the passage of each of these measures was now 
recognized as "the most widely known" and respected woman 

• m :/. 35 
in Florida. 

On March 17, 1929, Stetson University conferred 

upon May Austin Elizabeth Mann Jennings, an honorary 

Doctor of Laws degree, the L.L.D. Others honored that 

day by the university were Florida Governor Doyle E. Carlton, 



296 

and John B. Stetson, Jr. , who was at that time, United 
States Minister to Poland. At the ceremonies presenting 
the degrees, President Lincoln Hulley, of Stetson, said, 
when awarding May her honor, that he was conferring "the 
degree for distinguished service to Florida upon one who 
had doctored more laws than anyone else in the state." 
It was an apt statement. Since 1906 she had been sub- 
mitting memorials and bills to the legislature and "doc- 
toring" laws. No other person, past or present, could 
claim such a long list of accomplishments or to have left 
such a personal imprint upon the history of the state. It 
was a glorious moment in May's long career. 



297 



Motes to Chanter IX 



1 [May Jennings], "Royal Palm State Park," Mr . 
Foster's Travel Magazine , XI, January, 1919, n.p. 

2 May Jennings to E.W. Nelson, September 15, 1919. 
MMJ Papers, Box 15. 

3 W.E. Safford, "Natural History of Paradise Key 
and Nearby Everglades of Florida," Smithsonian Journal 
1917, pp. 337-434; Arthur T. Howell, "Birds of Royal Palm 
Hammock," The Auk , April, 1921, pp. 5-10. 

W. Stanley Hansen to May Jennings, April 22, 1918. 
MMJ Papers, Box 12. 

5 Pamphlet, Florida Audubon Society, "A Defense of 
the Pelican/' 1918. MMJ Papers, Box 12. 

6 May Jennings to Rose Lewis, March 9, 1918. MMJ 
Papers, Box 12. 

7 May Jennings to E.W. Nelson, February 18, 1921. 
MMJ Papers, Box 17. 

8 Memorial, FFWC, "To the Honorable Members of the 
Florida Legislature, Session, 1919." MMJ Papers, Box 13. 

9 May Jennings to Ivy Stranahan, February 9, 1918. 
MMJ Papers, Box 12. 

10 James Covington, "Trail Indians of Florida," 
Florida Historical Quarterly , LVIII, July, 1979, p. 40. 

11 Williamson / who was a botanist and graduate of 
North Carolina State University, later served as vice- 
oresident of the United States Forestry Association. After 
long service to the cause of Florida forestry he is remem- 
bered as the "father of the Florida tung oil industry." _ 
For a sketch of Williamson's life see Jacksonville Florida 
Times-Union , August 10, 1952. 

12 B.F. Williamson, "Sketch and Reminiscenses , " 
unpublished MS., P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History, 
p. 6. 

13 Pamphlet, Florida Forestry Association, "Forest 
Fires in Florida," December, 1926, n.p. 



293 



14 



Williamson, "Sketch," p. 6. 

15 Forest History Society, "Oral Interview with Clinton 
H. Coulter, State Forester, Florida Forest Service," 
February 6, 1958, Tallahassee, p. 6. 

16 George Dacy, Four Centuries of Florida Ranching 
(St. Louis, 1940), p. 149. 

Mrs. W.S. Jennings, "Conservation in Florida," 
Christian Science Monitor , October 18, 1925. 

18 Stuart Camubell, "Timber Conservation Studies in 
Forestry Resources' in Florida," Bureau of Economics and 
Business Research , I, May, 1932, p. 57. 

19 Forest History Society, "Oral Interview with 
Clinton H. Coulter," p. 5. 

20 Williamson, "Sketch," p. 6. 

21 May Jennings to Paul G. Redington, July 21, 19 27. 
MMJ Papers, Box 18. 

22 J.A. Robertson to May Jennings, July 30, 1927. 
MMJ Papers, Box 18. 

23 Joe Ackerman, Jr., Florida Cowman; A History of 
Florida Cattle Raising (Madison, Florida, 1976), p. 237. 

24 Ibid. , pp. 227-229. 

25 William Blackman to "To The Presidents of Women's 
Clubs of Florida," March 22, 1919. MMJ Papers, Box 15. 

26 For an explanation of why Stetson organized a new 
historical society and did not join the Florida Historical 
Society see Watt Marchman, "The Florida Historical Society, 
1856-1930," Florida Historical Quarterly , XIX, July, 1940. 
p. 28. 

27 Program. Community Pageant Association, Florida 
Historical Pagent, April 20-22, 1922 . 

28 Florida State Historical Society, Charter and 
By-Laws of the Florida State Historical Society (Deland, 
1922) , n. p. 

29 Ales Hrdlicka, The Anthropology of Florida (Deland, 
1922) , p. flyleaf. 



299 



30 

Jean Little, "The Life and Work of Jeanette T. 

Connor" (M.A. thesis, Stetson University, 1933). 

31 

In 1941 Charles H. Coe in Debunking the So-Called 

Spanish Mission Near Nev; Smyrna Beach established conclu- 
sively that the "mission" was a sugar mill built about 183 
by the New York firm of Cruger and DePeyster. He attri- 
buted Miss Connor's error to "an honest mistake" in 
judgement. 

32 . • 

New Smyrna News , February 20, 1926. In addition 

to speeches and prayers by notables the Glee Club of 
Stetson University sang patriotic songs. 

33 

Little, "Jeanette T. Connor," p. 26. 

34 

May Jennings to Jeanette Connor, March 21, 1927. 

MMJ Papers, Box 18. 

35 

Jacksonville Florida Tines-Union , March 17, 1929. 

Blackman, The Women of Florida, II, p. 92. 



CHAPTER X 
"LOVER OF BEAUTY" 



The last three decades of May Jennings' life were 
devoted primarily to conservation and beautif ication work, 
although she continued as president of the Legislative 
Council and of the Duval County Democratic Women, Inc. 
In 1931 the Legislative Council and the League of Women 
Voters worked hard for passage of a state hours and sani- 
tation bill which they submitted after a survey conducted 
by the Federal Bureau of Women found that Florida women 
suffered from some of the lowest salaries and poorest 
working conditions in the country. The bill did not pass, 
but the two organizations continued their efforts to 
up-grade the life style of women. The League was particu- 
larly active in urging Florida women to play a more active 
role in local and state political and civic affairs. 

The Duval County Democratic Women, Inc., in its 
early days reached a peak membership of 1,500 but declined 
to about 4 00. Through the years the organization opposed 
the use of "sweat boxes" in state prisons and jails, 
sought the purging of Duval County registration lists of 
names that were no longer pertinent, called for voting 
machines in all elections, and helped promote the passage 
of bills which prohibited politicking around polling 

300 



301 

places. They also sponsored annual voter registration and 
get-out-the-vote drives. In 193 6 the organization support- 
ed the passage of the rule change, known as the "5 0/5 0," 
which allowed women greater participation in the affairs 
of the Democratic party. As a consequence, the organiza- 
tion endorsed and promoted a list of Florida women who were 
elegible for election as delegates to the 1936 national 
party convention. At the time May expressed her hope "that 
every precinct and ward in every county and the state 
committee would be filled by proper representatives of 
our best women citizens." Later that same year May was 
among the delegation of women who escorted Mrs. Eleanor 
Roosevelt when she came to Jacksonville on a speaking 
tour. 

After nineteen years as head of the organization May 
Jennings noted in an interview with a local newspaper 
reporter, "Women vote now and think nothing of it. But 
there was a day when they didn't and thought a great deal 
about it. . . . We must keep active, we stand for high 
class elections, but we don't endorse candidates. Instead, 
we endorse measures. We go out for something and fight 

for it." She also said that she had "fought for causes 

2 

ever since I can remember." 

May continued her work for the Florida State His- 
torical Society, serving as vice-president, with special 
responsibilities for overseeing the Connor "mission" and 



302 

Turtle Mound. In 1939 the Society merged with the Florida 
Historical Society, and May was no longer as active as she 
once had been. By that time Turtle Mound and the "mission 1 
had been placed under the auspices of the state park sys- 
tem and had been designated historic memorials. 

The Florida Federation of Women's Clubs and the 
Springfield Improvement Association continued to receive 
May's attention. In 1932 the SIA, later known as the 
Springfield Woman's Club, built a clubhouse only a few 
blocks from the Jennings' home. In 1954 the club cele- 
brated its fiftieth anniversary. Through the years the 
organization kept a vigilant eye upon Springfield and took 
the lead in keeping the public buildings, schools, and 
parks in the area clean and in repair. The group also 
supported the efforts to beautify Hogan's Creek in Spring- 
field Park. As Lucy Blackman remembered: "Some years ago 
Mrs. Jennings represented the Springfield Improvement 
Association in a campaign to beautify unsightly muddy 
Hogan's Creek which divides the main part of dov/ntown 
Jacksonville from Springfield. The Creek winds through 
the city for a mile and a half before it empties into the 
St. Johns River. The Association under Mrs. Jennings' 
leadership worked 18 years before they secured a bond 
election for a half million dollars for the work and it 
took two years more before they could persuade the city 
commission to sell the bonds for the work. Mrs. Jennings 



303 



finally secured the engineer wanted for the work and it is 
now conceded the most outstanding work of its kind in the 
whole southeast—with its bulkhead, concrete walks and 
ballisters and lighting system. A bronze tablet bears 
the Springfield Improvement Association name and date. 

Mrs. Jennings was asked to dedicate the beautiful improve- 

3 
ment and turn on the lights which she did." 

Through the years May continued her interest in 

state government. In 1942 when officials threatened to 

change public health policy, she submitted the following 

resolution to the Federation: "whereas civilian health is 

a paramount consideration at the present time . . . and the 

state has announced the intention of discontinuing public 

health service and units in counties of less than 25,000 

population, be it resolved that the FFWC protests the 

discontinuance . . . and that copies of this resolution be 

forwarded to Governor Holland and the State Board of 

4 
Health and the press." The resolution, along with protests 

which May solicited from other organizations, prevented 
the cancellation of the program. 

In 1928 she served as Ruth Bryan Owen's campaign 
manager in Owen ' s second bid for election to the House of 
Representatives. After the election May helped organize 
the Washington office and recommended workers for the Congress- 
woman ' s staff. The relationship between these two extraor- 
dinary women allowed May to continue the fight to preserve 



304 



the Everglades. Mrs. Owen was also an avowed conserva- 
tionist, and one of her first actions in Congress was to 
sponsor a bill calling for the creation of a national 
park in the Everglades. The idea was not new, for many 
groups had called for it over the years, but Mrs. Owen's 
was prepared to fight for it on the national level. 
Senator Duncan U. Fletcher sponsored the bill in the Senate. 

As soon as the new bill was announced, May, with 
the concurrence of the Federation, offered Royal Palm Park 
to the new national park, if and when it should be created. 
She also worked with other interested groups to make the 
park become a reality. The struggle to save the Ever- 
glades and establish a national park proved long and 
arduous. May and her fellow conservationists pushed bills 
through the 192 9 legislature which laid the groundwork 
for the park by providing for the acquisition of state- 
owned lands in Dade, Monroe, and Collier counties, and 
for the establishment of a state Everglades Park Commission. 
The onset of the Depression, however, and the defeat of 
Ruth Owen in 1932, sidetracked the issue, and little was 
achieved for many years except the holding of hearings and 
the production of feasibility studies. 

During the years many prominent Floridians and 
other Americans spoke out in favor of the proposed park, 
including Ebert K. Furlew, United States Secretary of the 
Interior; Gilbert Pearson, president of the National 



305 



Audubon Society; Roger Toll, superintendent of Yellowstone 
Park; H.C. Bumpus, of the National Park Service; and David 
Fairchild, Ernest F. Coe, and John K. Small. When famed 
landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted toured the glades 
on an official inspection trip, he was escorted by Coe, 
chairman of a citizens group known as the Tropic 
Everglades National Park Association. May worked with 
Coe's organization as well as with the Federation, the 
state Audubon Society, and all other groups which favored 
the project. In 1934 President Franklin D. Roosevelt 
signed the bill which authorized the park, but it would be 
many years before the park became a reality. 

During the years May continued to oversee operations 
at Royal Palm Park. The site registered over 20,000 
visitors in 1930, but fires and devastating storms con- 
tinued to wreak havoc. With the help of her son, Bryan, 
who was president of the state Board of Forestry, she 
secured a brigade of the Civilian Conservation Corp for 
the park. They made extensive repairs to the lodge and 
grounds and accomplished much fire protection work. 

Governor David Sholtz, a past president of the 
State Chamber of Commerce, appointed May to the state's 
Everglades National Park Commission which had been author- 
ized in 1929. In 1937 the other commissioners elected 
her to lobby the legislature for an $87,000 appropriation 
to provide for the commission's work. Fred Cone, the new 



306 

governor, who was opposed to the national park, agreed to 
sign the appropriation bill if the entire commission would 
first resign. He assured May that later he would reinstate 
most of the members. Since there was no other choice under 
threat of a veto May acceded to Cone's demand. After the 
commission resigned Cone proceeded to appoint G.O. Palmer, 
a friend from Columbia County, as the new chairman of the 
commission. Palmer allowed the commission to remain in 
limbo and it was claimed that he allowed the funds to be 
expended on relatively unimportant activities. May was 
enraged and embarrassed by the governor's behavior. She 
had made what she though v/as a fair political arrangement, 
and she felt that she had been betrayed. Thereafter she 
considered Cone "a double-dealer" and a dishonest man. 
But, Cone's tactic effectively stymied the movement to 
establish the park. 

Despite such discouraging setbacks, May and the 
conservationists continued their work. World War II again 
eclipsed the movement, but after 1945 Governor Millard 
Caldwell revived the defunct commission naming May as a 
member. The new commission v/as led by August Burghard 
from Fort Lauderdale and John D. Pennekamp of Miami. Among 
the twenty-five commissioners were May's old friends Mrs. 
T.V. Moore, longtime Federation worker from Miami, and 
Harold Colee, a state Chamber of Commerce official. May, 
who was now seventy-four, still owned land near Flamingo, 



307 

and was designated by the governor to be the commissioner 
who represented the area's landowners. May immediately 
deeded her land to the state for the park. Pennekamp 
remembered May as "a most loyal commission member, who 

attended every meeting, took little or no part in the 

M 5 

discussion, but invariably voted approval of all proposals." 

When the Everglades National Park became a reality in the 
spring of 1947, the old Federation lodge at Royal Palm 
Park was utilized as the park's first visitor's center. 

Ceremonies dedicating the national park were held 
at Everglades, Florida, on December 6, 1947. The ceremony 
was attended by many national and state officials and 
dignitaries and by mere than 8,000 of the general public. 
May was seated on the speaker's platform. Her involvement 
in the preservation of the Everglades was longer than any 
other person present. Presiding was John Pennekamp, and 
there were speeches by Ernest F. Coe, August Burghard, 
Senators Claude Pepper and Spessard Holland, Governor 
Caldwell, and Secretary of the Interior Julius A. Krug. 
President Harry S. Truman, who was wintering at Key West, 
flew to Everglades and delivered the keynote address. May 
was on the program preceding the speeches; she and Mrs. 
L.J. McCaffery, president of the Florida Federation of 
Women's Clubs, presented a plaque to Newton Drury, 
director of the National Park Service. The presentation 



308 

was a symbolic act giving Royal Palm State Park to the 

federal government. It culminated the thirty-three year 

fight May had waged to preserve the beauty and uniqueness 

of Paradise Key and the surrounding Everglades. 

The Florida Times-Union that day published a long 

editorial summing up May Jennings' life's work: 

Everglades National Park was a 
permanent monument to the Florida 
Federation of Women's Clubs, for 
to this energetic organization must 
go most of the credit for the long 
and much of the time trying struggle 
that resulted in setting aside that 
portion of the Everglades area that 
now becomes Everglades National 
Park . . . the part played by the 
Florida Federation of Women's Clubs 
is recognized by the Government, 
as indicated by a letter received 
by Mrs. W.S. Jennings . . . from 
Newton B. Drury, director of the 
National Park Service. 'The dona- 
tion by the Federation constitutes 
a major step toward the ultimate 
goal . . . the State Park area has 
been properly guarded from depredation 
and perpetually kept for Park 
purposes by the Federation as you 
pledged it would be in your speech 
of dedication on November 23, 1916.' 
. . . All who are familiar with the 
work of Mrs. Jennings will agree 
that a large measure of credit is 
due her for determination and per- 
sistence which at times bridged wide 
gaps of disappointment in the progress 
of the program. Today Mrs. Jennings, 
who is attending the dedication at 
Everglades City, declared that 'it 
has been a long hard fight, but the 
final outcome very gratifying'; with _ 
that there will be general agreement. 

Since her youth May had been interested in beautifi- 

cation work, and from the early 1920s until her death in 



309 



1963 she was the most prominent "beautifier" in Florida. 
Like many other movements the beautif ication movement 
seemed to have a life of its own. Beginning around 1920, 
it grew rapidly during that decade, peaked in the 1930s 
and 1940s, and gradually declined during the years after 
World War II. Several organizations were used to accom- 
plish the goals of the beautifiers. The first formal 
garden club in Florida was organized in Jacksonville on 
March 25, 1922, at the Riverside Avenue home of Ninah 

g 

Cummer. Its membership was composed mainly of women from 
the Jacksonville Woman's Club. Two years later the ladies 
again met in Jacksonville, this time at Grace Trout's 

(Mrs. George W. Trout) home and organized the Florida 

9 
Federation of Garden Clubs. Three clubs were listed in 

the charter — Jacksonville, Halifax, and Winter Park. This 
federation grew rapidly, and within a decade there were 
many clubs throughout the state, each with its own indivi- 
dual cells, called circles. Jacksonville counted eighteen 
circles. May belonged to the Springfield circle. The 
Rockledge club had a circle composed of black women known 
as the Magnolia circle. 

The Federation of Garden Clubs became an invaluable 
ally of May Jennings. Other groups supporting May's 
beautif ication efforts were the Tamiami Trail Association, 
Dixie Highway Association, Florida Branch of the National 
Association for Restriction of Outdoor Advertising, Florida 



310 



Federation of Women's Clubs, and the State Chamber of 
Commerce. May's initial introduction into the movement 
came when she attended the Third annual state Beautifica- 
tion Convention, sponsored by the Chamber, which met in 
Tampa, October 1924. At the convention she gave a speech 
on the conservation movement in Florida. In 1928 her 
interest in beautif ication work began in earnest when she 

and a small group met June 19, at the Jacksonville Mason 

12 
Hotel. The Association developed close ties with local 

garden clubs, the Chamber of Commerce, and other groups 
interested in beautif ication. 

The State Chamber of Commerce had a long and com- 
plex history. There had been many Florida booster organi- 
zations over the years, but the immediate antecedent of 
the Chamber was the Tick Eradication Board established in 
1916. This board was in turn an offshoot of the Southern 
Settlement and Development Association, which was composed 
of growth-minded cattlemen and lumbermen. In 1921 the 
Tick Eradication Board changed its name to the Florida 
Development Board, and in 1925 to the Florida State Chamber 
of Commerce. Through these formative years it was led by 
the same slate of officers, including Jules M. Burguierres 
of West Palm Beach, William L. Wilson of Panama City, A. A. 
Coult of Fort Myers, and A.G. Cummer of Jacksonville. May 
Jennings began working with the organization when it was 
still known as the Tick Eradication Board. By the time 



311 



it had turned into the Chamber and moved its headquarters 
to Jacksonville, she was one of its better known members. 

For years the Chamber, the garden clubs, and others 
tried to get beautif ication and highway standards upgraded, 
but without too much success. As president of the Duval 
County Highway Beautif ication Association May attended 
the Chamber's Eleventh Annual State Beautif ication Conven- 
tion November, 1928, in Kissimmee, and addressed the meet- 
ing with a speech entitled "Legislation for Highway Beauti- 

13 
f ication." It was apparent to the assembly tnat May was 

both determined and prepared. She had come with a bill on 
highway beautif ication which she presented to the conven- 
tion. It later was published in Beautiful Florida , the 
Florida Federation of Garden Club's official journal. She 
wrote, "it seems quite time, although years too late in 
some cases, but vital to the future of the state, for 
higher authorities to take a decided stand and declare a 
definite policy in regard to road beautif ication and plan 
for rights-of-way suitable to such need. I will recommend 

to the Legislative Council that a definite policy be fixed 

14 
by law." Her bill, which had been drawn up with the 

help of her son, Bryan, had several sections: it mandated 
that a beautif ication expert be appointed to the State 
Road Department's governing board, every Florida road have 
a right-of-way of not less than 100 feet; all road construc- 
tion be done from the center of the right-of-way outward, 



312 



and that any widening of a roadbed be uniform in nature; 
beautif ication and landscaping work reproduce the natural 
setting as close as practicable; at least twenty-four feet 
of the 100 foot right-of-way be reserved for conservation 
and beautif ication; all wire-holding poles be set back 
to the outer edges of the right-of-way; and county commis- 
sioners be allowed to authorize expenditures for beautifi- 
cation of county roads. The measure left little to conjec- 
ture or debate; like all of May Jennings' proposed bills, 
it was direct and to-the-point. 

In 1929 May with the endorsement of Governor Doyle 
Carlton, submitted her bill to the state legislature. 
Hours of lobbying persuaded her that the bill would be 
passed, but it was narrowly defeated. At the time she 
wrote to Federation members, "You will recall that the 
Highway Beautif ication Bill was taken by me to Tallahassee 
with the full endorsement of the FFWC , by the Duval High- 
way Beautif ication Association, where it originated, by the 
State Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Coast Highway and Florida 
Federation of Garden Clubs. I have never handled legis- 
lation . . . that had such enthusiastic support, and still 
failed to become law. ... I had two conferences with 
the Governor and several with Chairman Bentley. ... It 



is needless to tell you that I also had to satisfy the 

15 
wire, or pole using companies." Utility and outdoor 

advertising companies were to remain opponents of May's 



313 



for many years. In 1931 she returned to Tallahassee with 
the bill. This time even more groups favored its passage, 
and without much opposition it became law. Thereafter May 
was regarded by many citizens throughout the state as the 
leader of Florida's highway beautif ication program. 

The Duval County Highway Beautif ication Association 
became an organization with political clout and reputation. 
It helped Jacksonville and Duval County and was responsi- 
ble for many important projects which enhanced the quality 
of life. It was responsible for the beautif ication of 
eighteen miles of Atlantic Boulevard from Jacksonville to 
the beach and sixteen miles of San Jose-San Marco Boulevard, 
and for the beautif ication of Pearl Street, Saratoga Point, 
and Beach Boulevard. It oversaw the landscaping of city 
and county sites including Imeson Airport, the Duval County 
courthouse, Matthew Bridge entrances, and the downtown 
riverfront. It also was responsible for the acquisition 
of DeWees Park at Atlantic Beach and the right-of-way for 
the road which leads to St. John's Bluff, the site of 
Fort Caroline National Park. Since the mid-1930s May and 
others were interested in establishing a national monument 
to commemorate the landing and settlement of Ribault. It 
was not until the election of Charles Bennett to Congress 
that the Fort Caroline National Park became a reality. 

The Duval County Highway Beautif ication Association 
also turned an unsightly dump along Long Branch Creek and 



314 



marsh in north Springfield, into a fifty-acre park, which 
when complete was named Jennings Park, in May's honor. 
In addition the Association, with the aid of local garden 
clubs, oversaw the planting of thousands of flowers, trees, 
and shrubs along the county and city roadways. Many of 
the projects were completed with FERA, CWA, WPA, and PWA 
funds. Through the years the Association received many 
accolades. In 1958, May's last year as its president, it 
was cited by the General Federation of Women's Clubs and 
the Sears-Roebuck Foundation as one of the nation ' s most 
successful beautif ication groups. 

With the Hogan Creek-Springfield Park project and 
the passage of the highway beautif ication bill of 1931 
behind her, May's reputation as the state's leading expo- 
nent of beautif ication was further enhanced by succeeding 
Karl Lehmann, as chairraan of the State Chamber of Commerce's 
beautif ication committee. She held this position for over 
twenty-five years. May hoped to organize beautif ication 
auxiliaries in each community which had a Chamber of 
Commerce. Over the years these local committees helped 
establish scores of local parks and beautified many build- 
ings and roadways. In 193 6 May served on the board of 
governors of the Southern Woman's Digest , a magazine 
devoted to women's interests which was published in Jackson- 
ville. The magazine lasted only one year, but during that 
time she published several articles pertinent to conservation 



315 



and beautif ication. In one, "God's Own Garden," she 

17 
described Royal Palm Park. In another she wrote of 

Florida's beaches and advocated the opening to the public 
of all state beaches, "Our beaches must be declared to be 
state reservations or parks under the protection of the 
state. . . . Florida women must realize the value of 
Florida's beaches . . . and through local Chambers of 
Commerce, civic and social groups strive for a 'closed 
season' on Florida's coastline" which is being fenced off 
for private use. Shortly after this article appeared 
she proposed that the state legislature enact a law call- 
ing for the protection and beautif ication of the state's 
waterways and beaches, but the measure did not pass. 
With the outbreak of World War II in 1941 the 
beautification movement was forced to operate at a reduced 
pace. Most projects were geared to beautifying the grounds 
in and around Florida's many military installations. At 
Cecil Field in Jacksonville May personally oversaw the 
erection and landscaping of a flagpole plaza on the quadrant 
in front of base headquarters. During the conflict she 
made her own personal contribution to the war effort by 
opening her Springfield home to roomers, to help ease 
Jacksonville's critical housing shortage. Many contem- 
poraries recall the small, neat sign, "JENNINGS," which 
hung from her front porch during those days. In 1943 she 
participated in the christening of the 10,500-ton liberty 



316 

ship the S.S. W.S. Jennings . Members of the family and 
city officials attended the ceremony, at which Thomas B. 
Adams gave an address about the career of Governor Jennings. 
Then May christened the ship with the words, "May this 

liberty ship prove as sea worthy, sturdy, strong, and 

19 
dependable as the man was, whose name it is it bear." 

After the war a resurgence of the beautif ication 
program took place. With Americans more mobile than ever 
thousands of tourists began to visit the state. In Florida 
several memorial highways were beautified in memory of the 
state's war dead, including a section of the Old Spanish 
Trail (U.S. 90) from Monticello to Tallahassee, known as 
the Blue Star Highway; the highway between Tallahassee and 
Thomasville, Georgia; and a section of Highway 3 01 which 
began at Clermont and extended south through the Florida 
ridge for more than sixty miles. These and scores of other 
such projects were coordinated by May's State Chamber of 
Commerce beautif ication committee. 

During the 1950s Florida joined the national Keep 
American Beautiful campaign. For nearly a decade each 
September was designated as "Florida Beautif ication Month." 
During this month May and her committee coordinated the 
beautif ication mobilization effort which took place among 
hundreds of Florida garden and women's clubs, chambers of 
commerce, and beautif ication associations. Every few 
years, under the auspices of May's committee, these 



317 

organizations met in convention. One such meeting was 
held in 1954. 20 Over 300 Floridians devoted a day to dis- 
cussing anti-litter campaigns, law enforcement problems, 
and public education issues. That same year May began to 
lobby for a bill calling for the creation of a division 
of landscaping within the State Road Department, but the 
bill was rejected by the legislature. 

In 1956 the State Chamber of Commerce dedicated a 
new headquarters building in Jacksonville. May supervised 

the landscaping which included the installation of sabel 

21 

palms and flowering trees on the grounds. '" In 1959 she 

was a special guest when the William R. Kenan Floral 

22 

Gardens were dedicated on the building's lawn. '" In 1961 

May resigned as head of the committee. She was now 
eighty-eight years old, but before her resignation she 
agreed to oversee one last "Florida Beautif ication Month" 
effort. The Florida Times-Union wrote: "If while driving 
this month in the family car you see a lovely lady out 
planting flowers and shrubs along Florida's highways, it's 
a good bet her name will be Mrs. W.S. Jennings. . . . She 
is the hardworking chairman of the State Chamber's Beauti- 
f ication Committee. Since September is Beautif ication 
Month in Florida, Mrs. Jennings and her co-workers are 
extremely busy making the Sunshine State pretty for its 
winter guests. So when you see Mrs. Jennings out planting 

this month, stop and give her a hand to make Florida a more 

23 
beautiful state." 



318 



After May's retirement she received a plaque from 

the State Chamber of Commerce inscribed with a resolution 

24 
of gratitude for her years of service. She was made an 

honorary member of the beautif ication committee and an 
honorary life member of the Chamber. By now May had become 
used to receiving honors. In 1955 she was named the Spring- 
field Woman's Club outstanding citizen, and the following 

year the Jacksonville branch of Soroptimist International 

25 
named her "Woman of the Year. " ' She had been honored at 

a University of Florida Centennial convocation program in 

Gainesville in 1953, with a medal for meritorious service 

as one of Florida's most outstanding leaders. In 1961 

the University named a female residence hall in her honor. 

In the building hangs a bronze plaque upon which is 

inscribed the words: 

May Austin Mann Jennings 
A civic leader and wife of William 
Sherman Jennings, made her own out- 
standing contributions to the life 
and growth of this state as a pioneer 
in highway beautif ication and park 
development. The progress of 
Florida forestry owes much to her 
dedicated interest. 27 

In 1961 May Jennings contracted cancer and retired 

from all civic activities. Her son and daughter-in-law 

moved into her home to care for her. She died quietly 

at her home in Jacksonville on April 24, 1963, the day 

before her ninety-first birthday with her son at her 

bedside. Her funeral was held at Riverside Park Methodist 



319 



Church where friends, including Eartha M.M. White, Chamber 
of Commerce officials, and members of the Springfield Woman's 
Club paid their respects. She was buried next to her 
husband in Evergreen cemetery. The Florida Times-Union , 

in editorial, noted her passing and asked, "Who will step 

2 8 
forward to take her spade?" 

The legislature of the state of Florida issued that 

day a concurrent resolution expressing deep sympathy and 

regret over her passing. In the resolution it was stated, 

"The people of the entire state of Florida mourn the loss 

of a warmly dedicated woman of rare charm, intelligence 

and leadership of the highest order who built an enviable 

record of good works, NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA, THE 

SENATE CONCURRING: That on behalf of the people of Florida 

this legislature does unanimously express its deep and 

earnest sense of regret and heartfelt sorrow at her untimely 

29 

passing. 

In 196 3 a few months after her death May Jennings 
was awarded a Chair of Business in the State Chamber of 
Commerce's Florida Hall of Achievement. On November 12, 
19 66, the State Road Department in cooperation with the 
Florida Federation of Garden Clubs erected a highway 
marker on U.S. Highway 17, near Yulee, where U.S. Highways 
1 and 301 enter the state. The marker bears the inscription 
"In memory of MAY MANN JENNINGS lover of beauty." 



320 



Notes to Chapter X 

Southern Woman's Digest , I, April, 1936, p. 2. 

Unidentified newspaper clipping, June 21, 1945. 
In possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge. 

o 

Blackman, The Women of Florida , II, p. 96. 

Mrs. Fred Noble, Florida Federation of Women ' s 
Clubs: Jubilee Issue (Jacksonville, 1946) , p. 85. 

John D. Pennekamp to author, August 27, 1974. 

Miami Herald , December 7, 1947. 

7 Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , December 6, 1947. 

P 
Yearbook, Jacksonville Garden Club, Founder s 

Circle, 1926-27 , n.p. 

9 Ella G. Alsop, History of the Florida Federation 
of Garden Clubs (Jacksonville, 1943) , n.p. 

10 Ibid . In 1958 the Jacksonville Garden Club was the 
largest club in the United States with 14 6 circles. 

Beautiful Florida , I, November 1924, p. 3. 

12 ... 

Duval County Highway Beautif ication Association 

Constitution and By-Laws , 1928, n.p. 

13 

Beautiful Florida , V, November , 1928, p. 4. 

14 Ibid . , V, March, 1929, p. 15. 

1::> The Florida Bulletin , IX, August, 1929, p. 4. 

In an interview with the author, November 5, 1979, 
Representative Bennett recalled that May Jennings was 
politically adroit, had a calculating mind and never had 
an "axe to grind," but was enjoyable to work with. 

17 

Southern Woman's Digest , I, April, 1936, p. 6. 

18 Ibid. , p. 4. 

19 

Unidentified newspaper clipping dated July 26, 

1943. In possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge. 



321 



20 

Florida Business Review and Outlook, XIII, August, 



1954, p. 1. 

21 

Ibid . , XV, December, 1956, p. 1. 

Ibid . , XVIII, February-March, 1959. 

23 

Quoted in Florida Business Review and Outlook , XX, 

September, 19 61, pT A~. 

Ibid . , XXI, February, 1962, p. 1. 

25 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , October 24, 1956. 

Program, Centennial Convocation, Recipients of 
Awards (University of Florida, 1953) . 

27 

Dedication plaque, May Mann Jennings Hall, Univer- 
sity of Florida, Gainesville, Florida. 

2 8 

Jacksonville Florida Times-Union , April 26, 1963. 

29 

"House Concurrent Resolution, No. 1196, Expressing 

Deep Sympathy and Regret Over the Passing of May Austin 

Mann Jennings." In possession of Dorothy Jennings Sandridge. 



APPENDIX I 
"BEYOND THE ALPS LIES ITALY" 



Kind Friends, 

There are occasions when silence is more eloquent 
than words, when we are surrounded by circumstances in 
which, it would seem mockery to attempt to give utterance 
to our feelings. Such are the emotions which arise in 
our souls, as we stand before you today, to take our final 
f arewell . 

We have been as wayfarers among you seeking for 
treasures in distant lands and in our search for knowledge 
we have been separated from those who are near and dear to 
us, but, in the gloom which, at times, overspread our days 
of search, we were encouraged by the thought that "Beyond 
the Alps Lay Fair Italy" our beloved home and that at a 
future day, the highest peak would be reached and laden 
with treasures we would return to our homes. 

Ours has frequently been a weary struggle for, in 
the rugged paths, how often has the shadow of discourage- 
ment disturbed our efforts! How often has the phantom of 
glory tried to lead us astray! How often, too, have we 
fallen when we thought ourselves secure, and with bleed- 
ing hearts lay amid the rocks; but, cheered on by the 

322 



323 



hope of one day arriving at the top of the Alps v/e arose 
and continued our work. 

Having at last, climbed one by one the rocky cliffs, 
and having come in sight of our friends and home, we 
rejoice and fondly arranging the treasures sought and 
found, we look upon them and with the poet, consider them 
"things of beauty, hence, joys forever." 

Among the many rare and precious stones which we 
have gathered on our weary journey across the Alps, our 
labor has been rewarded by the possession of the Garnet, 
emblematic of constancy and fidelity; we have also found 
the Bloodstone, symbolical of wisdom, courage and firmness; 
procured the peerless Diamond of faith and innocence, and 
secured the Sapphire of virtue and truth: these are the 
most precious among our collection of gems; these com- 
plete our casket. 

Although we were happy in finding our earnestly 
sought treasures, yet, we often grew sad and sighed for 
home, but, we were encouraged by the kind and reassuring 
words of our esteemed guides, for whom we have formed 
strong attachments. Our associates, too, have grown dear 
to us — and as we greet each other today perhaps to meet no 
more, and as the blithsome notes of happy school day songs 
are echoed among the heights, the key notes of memory are 
touched, and their sweet but mournful strains force the 



324 



tear drops to dim our eyes "ere we summon the courage to 
say farewell." 

For looking backward from the craggy heights, the 
scene is well calculated to move every chord and to open 
up the vista of the past; we gaze with pleasure mingled 
with pain on the dear old classroom and recreation hall, 
where hand-in-hand we worked and played together, and 
"the social smile of every welcome face, will in fond 
memory ever hold a place." 

Nor is the chapel hidden, where low before our Lord 

we made known our little wants; to all these we must bid 

adieu, but in days to come happy memories will call forth 

the aspiration, 

Oh! friends regretted, 
scenes forever dear, 
Rememberance hails you 
with her warmed tear ! 
Drooping she bends oer 
pensive Fancy's urn, 
To trace the hours 
which never can return 
Yet with the retrospection 
loves to dwell, 
And soothe the sorrows 
of her last farewell! 

May A. Mann 

June 26,, 1889 



APPENDIX II 
ilST OF PRESIDENTS OF FFWC , 1895-19 20 



1895-1397, Mrs. P. A. Borden Hamilton, Village 
Improvement Association, Green Cove Springs. 

1897-1888, Mrs. N.C. Wamboldt, Town Improvement 
Association, Fairfield (Jacksonville) . 

1899-1901, Mrs. J.C. Beckman, Woman's Town Improve- 
ment Association and Cemetery Association, Tarpon Springs. 

19 01-1903, Mrs. W.W. Cummer, Woman's Club, Jackson- 
ville . 

1903-1S05, Mrs. Lawrence Haynes, Woman's Club, 
Jacksonville . 

1905-1906, Mrs. Richard F. Adams, Woman's Fortnightly 
Club, Palatka. 

1906-1908, Mrs. Charles H. Raynor , Palmetto Club, 
Daytona. 

1908-1910, Mrs. Thomas M. Shackleford, Woman's Club, 
Tallahassee. 

1910-1912, Mrs. A.E.Frederick, Woman's Club, 
Miami. 

1912-1914, Mrs. William A. Eocker, Woman's Club, 
Ocala. 

1914-1917, Mrs. W.S. Jennings, Woman's Club, Jackson- 
ville. 

1917-1919, Mrs. Edgar A. Lewis, Woman's Club, Fort 
Pierce. 

1919-1921, Mrs. J.W. McCollum, 20th Century Club, 
Gainesville . 



3 2! 



APPENDIX III 
LIST OF CLUBS IN FFWC 



Part I: 1905 

Date of Entry Club 

1895 Village Improvement Association, Green Cove 

Springs 
Village Improvement Association, Tarpon 

Springs (changed to Cycadia Cemetery 

Association) 
Village Improvement Association, Crescent 

City 
Village Improvement Association, Orange 

City 
Village Improvement Association, Fairfield 



1896 



1897 Palmetto Club, Daytona 

Literary and Debating Club, Melrose 
Avilah, Rockledge 

1898 Woman's Club, Jacksonville 
Woman's Fortnightly Club, Palatka 
Village Improvement Association, Ormond 

1899 

1900 

1901 Housekeepers, Cocoanut Grove 

1902 

1903 Village Improvement Association, San Mateo 

1904 Current Events Club, Live Oak 
20th Century Club, Gainesville 
New Century Club, High Springs 

Village Improvement Association, Lake Como 

Woman's Club, Fort Myers 

Current Events Club, Tampa 

Married Ladies' Afternoon Club, Miami 

1905 



326 



327 



Part II: 1914 

State Section I [Citrus, Sumter, Lake, Hernando, Polk, 
Desoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, and Lee Counties] 



Civic League 
Woman ' s Club 
Woman ' s Club 
Woman ' s Club 
Mother ' s Club 
Woman ' s Club 
Alpha Sorosis 
Woman ' s Civic Club 
Woman ' s Club 
Woman's Club 
Woman's Club 
Woman ' s Club 
Woman ' s Club 



Fortnightly Club 

2 0th Century Club 

Woman ' s Club 

Woman's Town Improvement Association 

Woman's Club 

Civics Association 

Woman's Club 

Woman's City Club 

Cycadia Cemetery Association 



Arcadia 

Auburndale 

Brooksville 

Bradenton 

Clearwater 

Dade City 

Eustis 
Fort Myers 
Lakeland 
Leesburg 
Manatee 



Ladies Village Improvement Association Ozona 



Punta Gorda 

Ruskin 

St. Petersburg 

Sarasota 

Tampa 



Tarpon Springs 



323 



Civics Club 
Woman ' s Club 
Civic League 
Civic Leaque 



Wildwood 
Wachula 
Winter Haven 



State Section II [Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Columbia, 

Baker, Nassau, Taylor, Suwannee, Bradford, Lafayette, 
Alachua, Levy, and Marion Counties] 



Woman ' s Club 

Ladies Civic League 

20th Century Club 

New Century Club 

Village Improvement Club 

Woman's Club 

Current Topic Club 

Woman 1 s Club 

Woman's Club 

Woman ' s Club 

Woman ' s Club 

Woman ' s Club 

Woman's Club 

School and Civic Club 



Dunnellon 

Fernandina 

Gainesville 

High Springs 

Hawthorne 

Jasper 

Lake City 

Lawtey 

Live Oak 

Madison 

Mayo 

Ocala 

Perry 

Starke 



State Section III [Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton, Holmes, 

Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Liberty, Franklin, 
Gadsden, Wakulla, and Leon Counties] 



Woman's Club 
Civic League 
Woman's Club 



Panama City 

Pensacola 

Tallahassee 



329 



State Section IV [Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Volusia (part), 
and Putnam Counties] 



Crescent City 

Daytona 

Deland 

Federal Point 

Green Cove Springs 

Jacksonville 



Village Improvement Association 

Palmetto 

Woman ' s Club 

Village Improvement Association 

Village Improvement Association 

Fairfield Improvement Association 

Ladies' Civic Improvement Club of 
Riverview 

Ladies' Friday Musicale 

Springfield Improvement Association 

New Springfield Woman ' s Club 

Pan-Hellenic Association 

Woman ' s Club 

Woman's Club Orange Park 

Village Improvement Association Ormond 

Woman's Club Palatka 

Ladies Village Improvement Association San Mateo 

Book Club South Jacksonville 

Woman ' s Club 

Woman's Civic League St. Augustine 

St. Cecilia Club 

Village Improvement Association Welaka 



330 



State Section V [Volusia (part), Seminole, Orange, Brevard, 
Osceola, St. Lucia, Palm Beach, Dade, and Monroe 
Counties] 



Woman ' s Club 

Public Library Association 

The Folio 

Housekeepers 

Woman ' s Club 

Woman ' s Club 

Woman's Club 

Ladies' Civic Association 

Woman ' s Club 

Woman ' s Club 

The Mothercraft Club 

Woman ' s Club 

Woman ' s Club 

Village Improvement Club 

Sorosis 

Woman's Civic League 

Ladies Civic Improvement Club 

Woman's Club 

Woman ' s Club 

Progressive Culture Club 

Entre Nous 



Boynton 

Cocoa 

Cocoanut Grove 

Fort Lauderdale 
Fort Pierce 
Homestead 
Key West 
Lakeworth 
Miami 

Melbourne 
New Smyrna 
Orange City 
Orlando 

Pompano 
Sanford 
Stuart 
Titusville 
West Palm Beach 



APPENDIX IV 
ANNUAL CONVENTIONS OF THE FFWC, 1896-1919 





Date 


Location 


irst organized 


1895 


Winter) 


Green Cove Springs 


1st 


1896 


'Winter) 


Green Cove Springs 


2nd 


1897 


'Winter) 


Jacksonville 


3rd 


1898 


Winter) 


Daytona 


4th 


1899 


Winter) 


Jacksonville 


5th 


1900 


Winter) 


Palatka 


6th 


1901 


Winter) 


Daytona 


7th 


1902 


Winter) 


Crescent City 


8th 


1903 


Winter) 


Ormond 


9 th 


1904 


Winter 


Jacksonville 


10th 


1905 


Winter) 


Miami 


11th 


1906 


Winter) 


Tampa 


12th 


1906 


'Autumn) 


Tallahassee 


13th 


1907 


Autumn) 


Gainesville 


14th 


1908 


Autumn) 


Live Oak 


15th 


1909 


Autumn) 


Palatka 


16th 


1910 


Autumn) 


Ocala 


17th 


1911 


Autumn) 


Jacksonville 


18th 


1912 


Autumn) 


West Palm Beach 


19th 


1913 


Autumn) 


Orlando 


20th 


1914 


Autumn) 


Lakeland 



331 



332 



21st 
22nd 
23rd 

24th 
25th 



Date 

1915 (Autumn) 

1916 (Autumn) 

1917 (Autumn) 

1918 (Autumn) 

1919 (Autumn) 



Location 
Deland 
Miami 
Tampa 
Daytona 
St. Petersburg 



333 



APPENDIX V 
CAMPAIGN SONG FOR MAY MANN JENNINGS 



Sung at GFWC biennial convention Los Angeles, June, 1924, 

May Mann Jennings 
(to the tune of Auld Lang Syne) 

Should work and merit be unsung 
or unrewarded stay? 

Then praise the splendid worthiness 
And merits of our May. 

May Jennings for our President 
Achievement, charm and cheer 
To carry on the Winter ' s work 
The fruitful Maytime's here. 

Her record stands for all to read 
Performance through and through 
A tale of work and victory 
Of lotfy dreams made true. 

May Jennings for our President 
Achievement, charm and cheer 
For every lav; and plan we need 
Make her the engineer. 

North and South and East and West 

One womanhood we stand 

And loyally uphold the best 

For home and native land. 

May Jennings then for President 
Achievement, charm and cheer 
Her splendid service let us crown 
With faith and vision clear. 

In her our hopes and dreams are safe 
Our seeking meets an end 
Her past is ours, our future hers 
Hail, Champion and Friend. 



334 



May Jennings then for President 
Achievement, charm and cheer. 
From coast to coast we pledge our faith 
To the May time of the Year. 



From the Florida Bulletin , III, 
No. 8, May, 1924. 



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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Linda Darlene Moore Vance was born in Fort Worth, 
Texas, August 9, 1938. A fifth-generation Texan, she 
attended public schools in Corpus Christi. Higher educa- 
ton was pursued at The University of Texas at Austin. 
She received a bachelor's degree in History from The Uni- 
versity of Houston in 1964. From 1964 to 1967 she was a 
research assistant at the Humanities Research Center, 
University of Texas. She is married to Dr. John M. Vance, 
Professor of Mechanical Engineering. They have four 
children. Mrs. Vance has authored and presented several 
professional papers in her field. She is a member of 
Phi Alpha Theta, history honorary society, Florida Histori- 
cal Society, and Texas History Society. 



345 



I certify that I have read this study and that in 
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly 
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of^Doctor of Philosophy. 




X./7V a. 



X\A 



^L-tr^jxx 



Samuel Proctor, Chairman 
Distinguished Service Professor 
of History 



I certify that I have read this study and that in 
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly 
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 



LyUe N . M ' n 
Distinaui 



:-'lcAlister 
shed Service Professor 
of History 



I certify that I have read this study and that in 
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly 
presentation and is fully adequate,- in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 




C . tj6hn Sommerville 

Associate Professor of History 



I certify that I have read this study and that in 
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly 
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 




I certify that I have read this study and that in 
my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly 
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, 
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 




Richard K. Scher 
Associate Professor of Political 
Science 



This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of 
the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts 
and Sciences and to the Graduate Council, and was accepted 
as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree 
of Doctor of Philosophy. 



August, 1980 



Dean, Graduate School 



UNIVERSITY OF FLO Rl A 

| ill 08666 370 4