From the late 1880s, women in and around Homestead have always played important roles. Names such as Isabelle Krome, Lily Lawrence Bow, or Fannie Starr Turner may come to mind, yet there are many stories told and waiting to be told. An exhibit highlighting a number of women that may be less well-known is on display at the Homestead Town Hall Museum in honor of Women’s History Month.
Among the items, the Link/Linke Family Papers, 1912-1970s, is a collection the museum has acquired. Lena May Ritter Link was born in 1866, in Springfield, Massachusetts and her Homestead story takes a few decades to unfold.
She married Fred Randolph Link in 1884, had two children, separated in the 1890s and in 1906 they ultimately divorced. Whether by choice, necessity, or both, she worked in the bindery department where they hand-bound Good Housekeeping magazine, and in fact became the foreman.
In the meantime, Fred Link visited his sister, Annie Linke Fuchs and her husband, Charles T. Fuchs, in their Tennessee home. Link was headed to Florida, and he apparently influenced them to come to Homestead with him.
Shifting to Fuchs, he traveled to Europe in 1925 with his son, Richard, and Russell Horne. After returning to the United States, Lena joined them for a trip to Homestead through fate or perhaps merely coincidence. It was a small community where she met her ex-husband again and they re-married. Not long after the Great Depression gripped the country.
Like most families they struggled and determined to avoid bankruptcy, in 1936, she took in some elderly borders; later improving the main house and adding cottages. It became Camp Happy, a private home for the aged. She went on to hold positions in almost a dozen different organizations such as the Redland District Chamber of Commerce, the Crime Commission of Greater Miami, the Homestead Art Club, Director of the Soroptimist Club of Homestead, and the local V.F.W Auxiliary to name a few.
The Annie Mayhew Fitzpatrick Papers, 1900-1960s, provide insight into a woman who was a much-loved figure.
She was born in 1881 in Canada and raised in the United States by her Aunt Francis Lewis, a successful businesswoman. Lewis ventured to South Florida in 1904 and “homesteaded” on what became Redland Road. Mayhew visited her periodically beginning in in 1907 and by 1914 she married Harvey Fitzpatrick, who lived near her aunt.
The new bride was an accomplished musician who had graduated from Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Royal Conservatory of Lipzig, Germany. Having headed the music department at exclusive girls’ schools in Louisiana and Tennessee, she brought another level of culture to the community. She was also a writer with three books of poetry and her prose, “Red Shawling By A Redland Pioneer,” is part of the exhibit.
And speaking of music, Ruth Ann Snell Davis’s Monday Music Club Scrapbook, 1937-1948, is also on display. Her husband, Sam J. Davis, was inspired by her love of music to begin crafting violins.
Eda Moeckel’s 1936 Scrapbook is from a woman who although a resident of Stockbridge, Michigan, became good friends with Colonel H.W. Johnson, known as “Florida’s Burbank.” She documented her time in the area, and the scrapbook contained letters, notes, and articles about him.
Moving forward, the Ambassador Frances D. Cook Papers, 1990s-2022, brings to light a woman who could claim more than one “first.”
She joined the Foreign Service in 1967 and at only age thirty-four, she became the youngest career officer to serve as an ambassador.
She was also the first female ambassador to a Persian Gulf nation. She recently provided an oral history to the museum and contributed photographs and other items.
No exhibit honoring women in Homestead would be complete without portraying the Women’s Clubs. Even without the right to vote, their contributions to their respective communities throughout Florida were wide-ranging. The Homestead Woman’s Club, established in 1914, was instrumental in promoting education and active civic service in many ways.
The exhibit will be on display for approximately two months and the Homestead Town Hall Museum, 41 N. Krome Avenue, is open Tuesday through Saturday 1:00-5:00 p.m. Special tours for groups can be arranged. For more information, go to https://townhallmuseum.org or Tel: (305) 242-4463.
The Museum, established in 1994, is in the original Town Hall of the City of Homestead. Opened in 1917, it is the oldest municipal building in the City.
The Museum continuously seeks to add collections from individuals and families who have experienced Homestead as it was and has changed through the decades. Life experiences are part of the fabric of the community and the Museum wants to preserve stories, photographs, and documents to ensure all segments of the population are included. Individuals are encouraged to stop by the museum to learn more about donating materials and providing oral histories.
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