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Three Pioneering Women (One An Actual Pioneer) To Join Fla. Women's Hall Of Fame

Three women are joining the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame this year. Gov. Rick Scott has chosen two historical figures and a women’s-rights leader who helped shape social policy during the 1960s.

This year’s only living inductee into the Women’s Hall of Fame is Aleene Kidd Mackenzie. She’s 92 and lives in Ocala. Back in the early 1960s, then-Gov. Farris Bryant appointed her to chair the first-ever Commission on the Status of Women. The group penned a report highlighting gender inequalities in Florida law.

Mackenzie said, “Things have changed dramatically in all of those fields that we studied back at that time. And I think women are coming into their own.”

The report was written at a time when at least one public university openly discriminated against hiring married women—for fear they’d have to stay home with sick kids. Along with a panel of female lawyers and other community leaders, Mackenzie recommended changes to family and employment law to put women on a more equal footing with men.

Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) said, he nominated Mackenzie to the Hall of Fame because of her many accomplishments.

“We look to these women who were pioneers in their lives, and they built the path forward for many women and the rest of us to have a better Florida future,” he said.

In addition to chairing the women’s-status committee, Mackenzie was also the first president of a national women’s safety group that lobbied for the passage of highway safety improvements. And she was among the founders of the Florida State University Foundation, which has raised more than $400 million since the 1960s.

Susanne Hebert, chair of the Women’s Hall of Fame committee, said, this year is unusual in that only one inductee is still living. A posthumous honor is going to Clara Frye, a nurse who founded Tampa’s first hospital for African-Americans.

Hebert said, “[Frye] had heard about a lot about African-Americans not being treated in so-called ‘white’ facilities and, actually, a lot of them dying as a result of that. So she began caring for these individuals in her home. And in 1923, she actually did move to a 17-bed hospital.”

The third inductee is one of South Florida’s earliest pioneer women, Lillie Pierce Voss, who grew up among the Seminole Indians in what would eventually become Palm Beach County. Her family’s lodge for survivors of shipwrecks put her in contact with many historical figures including Florida Gov. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward.

“She was quite a wilderness person,” Hebert said. “She liked to hunt. She would fish, and she did a lot of things that women at that time did not usually do.”

The induction ceremony will be held March 20 at the state Capitol. And inductee Mackenzie said, she’s keeping her hopes up that she’ll be able to attend.

“I’m very, very anxious to go. However, at this point, I’m having to let a doctor tell me whether or not I can go,” she said.

Gov. Scott made his three selections after the Hall of Fame committee received more than 50 nominations.