Monday, August 27, 2018

1st Florida woman voted in 1915

vintage photo of woman at picnic table with dog
This photo from Vero Beach Magazine shows Zena Dreier,
the first woman to vote in Florida. She voted in Fellsmere
in 1915. (Credit: Vero Beach magazine)
It's a busy election season in Florida, in case you haven't noticed. Perfect timing to remember the lady believed to be the first woman to vote in Florida. In 1915! Five years before the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote.

I stumbled across this information in Vero Beach Magazine. I love local publications. They often provide historical information unavailable in larger media outlets. The story details what led to Mrs. Zena Dreier's vote in Fellsmere in 1915, and is fully available online. I first read the article in the print version of the magazine's June 2018 issue, while visiting relatives.

Fellsmere is hardly a metropolis even today. Wikipedia puts its 1920 population at 333 people. I'm guessing the 1915 population was even smaller. But Fellsmere was incorporated even then.

The settlement was launched by Fellsmere Farm Company. Magazine article author Mary Beth Vallar writes about the influence of activist Marian Fell Vans Agnew on incorporation. She was the daughter of Fellsmere's founder, and wife of the attorney who wrote the city charter  - the same charter that authorized women's right to vote in municipal elections.

Florida state legislators likely snoozed through charter review, the article theorizes. The article of incorporation that granted suffrage for women in Fellsmere received what appeared to be rubber-stamp approval in April 1915.

Two months later, Zena Annetta Matthews Dreier cast the first woman's vote in a Fellsmere city election. It was a big deal. The newspaper in Jacksonville - 200 miles from Fellsmere - even covered the news. A screengrab of the article is on the city clerk's website.

Zena, too, had connections to the Fellsmere Farms Company. The article says her husband was the company's top salesman. It's unknown whether she was a suffragette. It doesn't matter. She voted.  I hope all of you do, too.