May Mann Jennings formerly of Jacksonville, was a powerful political player in Florida, not only as First Lady to Governor William Sherman Jennings from 1901-1905 but through her own legislative and advocacy efforts over her lifetime, much of which occurred before women had the right to vote. She was a leading member of the women’s club movement serving as president of the 9,000+ member Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs from 1914-1917. It was during her tenure as president that she spearheaded the effort to have Royal Palm State Park established in 1915 later to become part of the Everglades National Park in 1947. She championed causes for women’s suffrage, prohibition, better treatment of children and prisoners, education funding, historic preservation, Seminole Indian reservations, fence laws, and highway beautification. Mrs. Jennings was known as the “Mother of Florida’s Forestry” for her conservation efforts including her part in lobbying for the establishment of a State Board of Forestry today known as the Florida Forestry Service. She was a founding member of the Florida State League of Women Voters in 1921, a precursor to the League of Women Voters of Florida. Upon her death in 1963 the Florida Legislature issued a concurrent resolution expressing “deep sorrow of the entire state”. As we approach the eve of the 100-year anniversary of the 19th amendment, there is no better time to honor one of Florida’s original suffragists and conservationists, May Mann Jennings.

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