May Mann Jennings Park
May Mann Jennings Park opened in 1940 and is located in northern Jacksonville, Florida. It is about 32 acres and is named after the former governor of Florida, William S. Jennings’s wife. His wife May Mann Jennings was a conservationist and women’s rights activist, who was elected president of the Florida Federation of Women’s clubs in 1914.
Backstory and Context
May Mann Jennings was an influential and powerful woman of her time. Jennings was the First Lady of the former governor of Florida, William S, Jennings, from 1901 to 1905. Not only were she and organizer for The County’s Federation of Women’s Clubs and the president of the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs as well. Jennings used her power and influence to motivate the network of women’s clubs in order to fight for pressing issues such as environmental conservation stock fence laws, state parks, women’s suffrage, education reforms and improvement in welfare, such as child welfare and compulsory education. Other issues she concerned herself with were the State Library of Florida and the reservations for the Seminoles, the Native Americans of Florida. (1,3)
After her husband died, Jennings’s work continued as she became the co-founder of the Florida Chapter of the League of Women Voters. She helped campaigned by speaking about things such as prohibition, better treatment of children and prisoners. She also crusaded for improvements in public welfare, education reforms and funding, the historical perseveration and the beautification of the highways. She also was involved in campaign drives with her women’s groups that lobbied legislators and other organizations for their assistance. (1,2)
Jennings was also able to help acquire 1,800 acres of unprotected land and turn it into the Royal Palm State Park, which is now known as part of the Everglades National Park. Jennings is also known to some as the “Mother of Florida Forestry,” because of her great efforts and promotion in acquiring the legislative act that helped create an important environmental organization known as the “Florida State Board of Forestry”, which is now known as the “Division of Forestry.” Her extensive work as a conservationist and activist didn’t go unnoticed; she has been well recognized for her efforts. Jennings was a very well educated woman who graduated as valedictorian of her class, and learned from assisting her father in his campaign for Florida State Senate. (1, 3, 4)