One hundred years ago, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution expanded voting rights to millions of women across the United States. Women’s right to vote, or suffrage, came as the result of a seven-decade campaign to sway public opinion and state and federal lawmakers. For women of color, full voting rights would not be realized until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1968. Along the way, this long-fought struggle was led by trailblazers who stood in the face of resistance, violence and even imprisonment–people like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Ida B. Wells.
To commemorate the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, UF/IFAS has been celebrating the women who, over the past century, have advanced our research, education and Extension. Each of these women is in their own way trailblazer, a leader, an innovator, and an example to everyone who benefits from UF/IFAS’ land-grant mission.
Vermelle “Vam” York is best known as a businesswoman and philanthropist whose vision and commitment has left an indelible mark on UF/IFAS. Her support endowed a lecture series that has brought internationally distinguished faculty to campus, provided scholarships for College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) graduate students, helped to build the Roland T. Stern Learning Center at Austin Cary Memorial Forest and more.
Lassie Goodbread-Black became the first woman to enroll full-time at the University of Florida in 1925. She earned a degree from the UF College of Agriculture and later earned a master’s degree in education from Emory University in Atlanta. For many years, she served in the Extension service as a home demonstration agent in Columbia County and had a hand in establishing the Lake City recreation council and Lake City Garden Club. She was named a Great Floridian by the State of Florida in 2000.
Floy Britt is remembered as a 4-H leader and an advocate for Black youth during a time when the Florida Cooperative Extension Service was segregated. In 1981, the Black Archives at Florida A&M University created the Floy Britt Memorial Room to honor her legacy, and she is a Florida 4-H Hall of Fame inductee.
Anne Cawthon Booth graduated first in her class from the UF College of Agriculture with a degree in agronomy in 1956. She later went on to become Florida’s first female appellate judge and first female Chief Judge, blazing a trail for others.
Amegda Overman was among the first women scientists employed by UF/IFAS. In 1945, she took a position as a soil microbiologist with the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, (GCREC). Her research contributed to the development of plasticulture (using plastics in agricultural applications) production methods, which are now used statewide.
Eleanor Green is a CALS alumna who later served as the chair of the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and chief of staff of the Large Animal Hospital, the first woman to hold these administrative offices in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Today she serves as the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University.
Marjorie Moore dedicated her Extension career of 40 years to empowering children and adults alike and establishing partnerships to advance the needs of the communities she served. She later became the first African American woman to serve as Extension director of Bay County.
Elaine Turner is the Dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) at the University of Florida. Since 2014 Dean Turner has led CALS in achieving its highest enrollment, launched a new Ph.D. program in Youth Development and Family Sciences, created the Roche Teaching Scholars Program, and created the Field & Fork Campus Food Program in collaboration with other campus partners.
Jackie Burns was the first woman to be named UF/IFAS Dean of Research, a position she held from 2014 until her retirement in January 2019. She was also one of the first women to join the faculty of the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, where she began her tenure with the university in 1987.
Lynn Bailey joined the UF/IFAS Food Science and Human Nutrition faculty in 1977 and over the course of her career, has become internationally recognized for her research related to the role of the vitamin folic acid in ensuring normal fetal and maternal health.
Yu Wang is a flavor researcher at the Citrus Research and Education Center. In addition to her groundbreaking flavor research, she utilizes her expertise in analytical chemistry to develop new ways to study citrus greening.
Maia McGuire is the director of Extension and education for Florida Sea Grant, leading efforts to engage the public and stakeholders on coastal issues around the state. Since joining Florida Sea Grant, she has been named the Marine Science Educator of the Year and the Conservation Educator of the Year– just to name a few of her many accomplishments. In 2015, McGuire was awarded a NOAA grant to develop the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project.
These are just a few of UF/IFAS’ women trailblazers, and there will be more profiles to follow throughout the rest of the year. The contributions of each of these women have helped to put UF/IFAS on the map. And every day, thousands more women are working to advance our land-grant mission by bringing scientific research, education and Extension to all the people of Florida.
To view the whole series, visit: https://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/news/tag/women-trailblazers/