Mar 12, 2023 - News

Women's History Month: Honoring the women who helped shape Tampa Bay

C. Bette Wimbish sits at a desk

C. Bette Wimbish served on the St. Petersburg City Council. Photo: State Archives of Florida/Shaw

Nods to notable women in Tampa Bay history can be found in our parks, roads and schools.

Why it matters: These are some of the women who helped shape Tampa Bay.

Driving the news: For Women’s History Month, we asked which Tampa Bay women deserve their own statues, and you responded.

  • While these women's names can be found around town, none have a statue ... yet.

The big picture: No comprehensive, up-to-date ledger of American public art installations exists, but researchers agree that women and people of color are deeply under-represented, Axios Local's Chelsea Brasted writes.

Zoom in: These Tampa Bay women were all real. But sometimes we get so used to reading the names of buildings or streets that we forget who they're honoring. Here's your reminder:

Johnnie Ruth Clarke

Why she matters: Clark is credited as the first African American to obtain a doctorate from any Florida public university, specifically the University of Florida College of Education in 1966.

  • She was a Pinellas County Public Schools teacher and served as dean of Gibbs Junior College in the 1950s, as well as assistant dean of academic affairs at St. Petersburg Junior College in the 1960s.
  • She founded the Florida State Sickle Cell Foundation in 1972.

How you know her name: St. Petersburg College established an academic scholarship in her name and there's a community health center named after her in St. Petersburg.

C. Bette Wimbish

Why she matters: Wimbish was the first Black person to hold elected office in Tampa Bay in the modern era and Pinellas County's first Black female lawyer. She served on the St. Petersburg City Council and later became the city's vice mayor.

How you know her name: Interstate 375 in Pinellas County was renamed C. Bette Wimbish Highway in 2017.

Flora Wylie

Why she matters: She was the first woman to serve on St. Petersburg's Planning Board in 1928 and was a founding member of the city's Garden Club.

How you know her name: St. Pete named the waterfront park downtown after her to honor Wylie's dedication to protecting parks.

Jennie Hall

Why she matters: Hall, then an 85-year-old white woman, funded St. Petersburg's first Black swimming pool in 1954.

  • Hall gave most of her life savings — $25,000 — to fund the pool and give the city's African American community a place to swim.
  • She wrote an initial check for $10,000 on the spot at a City Council meeting to prove her dedication to the project. City Council matched her gift with $35,000. The pool was built just a year before she died.

How you know her name: Jennie Hall Pool was segregated until 1959, when the city integrated its public pools and beaches.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Tampa Bay stories

No stories could be found

Tampa Baypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Tampa Bay.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more