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As Women’s History Month unfolds, Earn Up is excited to highlight some of the trailblazing women who have left an indelible mark on Jacksonville’s professional landscape. From early pioneers to contemporary leaders, the history of women in leadership roles in the Jacksonville region reflects not only their individual achievements, but also a collective narrative of resilience and progress.

The Clara White Mission was founded by Dr. Eartha M. M. White and named after her mother. For more than 100 years, the Clara White Mission has been dedicated to serving the needs of the less fortunate in our community. Dr. White was also responsible for founding Mercy Hospital, The Boys Improvement Club and several other programs that have raised the standard of living for the citizens of Jacksonville –  all while becoming a licensed real estate broker and a charter member of the Lewis & White Business League.

Born in Fernandina Beach, Henrietta Dozier graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After 13 years in Atlanta, she moved her architecture practice to Jacksonville, where she became the City’s first and foremost woman architect. Some of her work can be seen in Saint Philips Episcopal Church, the Old Federal Reserve Bank Building and several residences in the Jacksonville area.

Women in Jacksonville have also ventured into new territories, breaking gender norms in business. Figures like Mary Singleton, the first African American woman on the Jacksonville City Council, and Dorothy Johnson, who served on the Duval County School Board, exemplified a commitment to leadership that transcended gender boundaries.

Over the years, women continued to ascend the corporate ladder. Delores Kesler founded AccuStaff, the nation’s third largest temporary staffing agency at the time of its transition to MPS Group and ultimately Adecco Group North America. She still serves the Jacksonville community through the University of North Florida Delores Pass Kesler Scholarship Endowment for students in financial need.

Women have also played a prominent role in politics. Audrey Gibson, the first African American woman to serve as a senator in Florida, has become a prominent voice in politics, amplifying the importance of diversity and representation. More recently, Donna Deegan was sworn in as the first woman to serve as mayor of Jacksonville.

The interconnected stories of these women leaders, along with women from all professions and walks of life, weave a tapestry of progress, determination, and empowerment. Their individual journeys, spanning various industries and sectors, collectively contribute to a narrative of women making significant strides in Jacksonville and beyond.