The Fort Lauderdale Historical Society Provides The Fort Lauderdale History Center
The mission of the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society is to bring the history of greater Fort Lauderdale to life through education, research and preservation for the enrichment of present and future generations.
We are an organization formed of many parts. Most of our buildings were built in early 1900s as school houses, inns, and homes, but are now used to explore the history of what we call “Old Fort Lauderdale.” Because a sense of history is fundamental to understanding human experience, we collect, preserve and share material from our community’s past so that present and future generations can comprehend more fully their predecessors, their community and themselves.
We offer public lectures and workshops; arrange school and general group tours; operate a research center; maintain a 1907 house museum, three other 1905 historic structures and a museum of changing and permanent exhibitions.
March – September 2014
The Fort Lauderdale Historical Society Presents
“Debunking the Pocahontas Myth”
Forget everything you know about the mythical story of Pocahontas and learn about the real woman and her real home – Florida.
The Fort Lauderdale Historical Society presents “Debunking the Pocahontas Myth” on Monday, March 10 at 6 p.m. at The New River Inn. The lecture features author Mae Silver and Merrilyn C. Rathbun, Research Director at the Fort Lauderdale History Center.
The real Pocahontas, her name lost to history, was the daughter of the chief of a Native American tribe near Tampa. The chief, who had developed a fierce hatred of the Spanish because of their brutal treatment of Native Americans, captured and threatened to kill Juan Ortiz, a Spanish explorer, until his daughter persuaded him not too. All this happened in 1528, almost 100 years before the Pocahontas story allegedly took place.
“Historians think it got picked-up and translated into the myth about Pocahontas,” said Silver. “The story just wove its way up the East Coast.”
Silver will use the story of Pocahontas as a metaphor to talk about some more recent women, part of Fort Lauderdale’s history, who shared the same fate – their stories distorted, discarded, or dismissed.
Three of the women – Florence Hardy, Mary Brickell and Eula Johnson – are included in her book, Too Hot Too Hide.
“All these women were positive contributors to the development of Fort Lauderdale. I don’t get why they’re so often left out of our local history,” said Silver.
Florence Hardy, Fort Lauderdale’s First Female City Clerk
Florence Hardy, the first female city clerk of Fort Lauderdale, was renowned for providing information to anyone in the city, regardless of their political beliefs or affiliations. Many years ago, her peers had a plaque installed at the old city hall in her honor. Recently, that plaque was found, restored and Fort Lauderdale Historical Society members will display it in a place befitting Hardy’s legacy.
Mary Brickell, Land Owner
Mary Brickell and her husband, William, donated large tracks of their land to Henry Flagler so he could build his Florida East Coast Railroad. In exchange, Flagler agreed to build a train station in Fort Lauderdale – where the current Tarpon Bend restaurant is located. The station directly contributed to the growth of the city. “Back then, having a railroad station made you a boomtown. You don’t have to be Warren Buffet to understand that,” said Silver.
Eula Johnson, First Female President of the NAACP
Eula Johnson was instrumental in desegregating Fort Lauderdale and served as the first woman president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. At great personal risk, Johnson led demonstrations and organized members of the African American community in Fort Lauderdale. “She was so brave. In my book, I refer to her as the Black Joan of Arc,” aid Silver. “She was an extremely important person in desegregating Fort Lauderdale. She was an incredible force.”
A longtime member of the Fort Lauderdale Women’s Club and the Friends of the Broward County Libraries, Mae Silver is the author of nine books and many media articles. She is new to the area but brings 20 years of experience writing about Fort Lauderdale’s history, something many say doesn’t exist. But thanks to the efforts of historians like Mae, the early days of the “Venice of Florida” are well documented. Part of that documentation includes the stories of women of many colors, who helped shape the Fort Lauderdale that exists today. When people wonder where she gets all her information, Mae usually replies, “I am just curious and I have a big nose that is nosy. I ask questions. Most people love to talk about history, I just ask and listen.”
Merrilyn C. Rathbun
Originally from upstate New York, Merrilyn C. Rathbun moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1968 and studied printmaking at Florida Atlantic University from 1973 to 1977. She first worked for the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society as a museum attendant from 1979 to 1980 and as a research assistant in 1997. In 2000, she became the Director of Research Services for the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and took over management of the society’s contract with the City of Fort Lauderdale Historic Preservation Board – positions she still holds today.
Questions about the Lecture Series?
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Please Join Us at Our 52nd Annual Meeting!!
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Located in the “Lucy Bryan Room” – Refreshments will be served – We look forward to seeing you!
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Events & Activities
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