Since 1973, August 26 has officially been known in the U.S. as Women’s Equality Day. The day was chosen to celebrate the certification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, which granted women the right to vote.
Throughout American history many strong and dedicated women have left their mark on our community, inspiring others and influencing positive change. Pinellas County has had its share of inspirational women who are remembered as a vital part of the history of our area. Here are just a couple of them.
C. Bette Wimbish
Born in 1924 in Perry, Fla., C. Bette Wimbish came from humble origins but rose to become an important activist for school desegregation and civil equality. She was a woman of many firsts: the first black person on the St. Petersburg city council, the first black person to hold elected office in the Tampa Bay area, and the first black female lawyer in Pinellas County.
Wimbish and her husband, Ralph, fought for the desegregation of schools. Ralph was also a political activist who served as the branch president of the St. Petersburg NAACP. After the Pinellas County Board of Public Instruction refused to comply with the Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate schools in 1954, Wimbish ran for a seat on the board. She did not win, but it was only the start of her fight.
She was involved in numerous sit-ins, boycotts and protests to fight against segregation and the problems that came with it, like the overcrowding of black schools.
Wimbish never stopped fighting to improve the lives of people in her community. As a lawyer in St. Petersburg, she successfully ran for a city council seat, and served as vice-mayor of St. Petersburg from 1971 to 1973. She continued to hold public office and fight for the people of St. Petersburg and Florida until her retirement in 2003. Wimbish died in 2009, leaving behind a lasting legacy of equality and perseverance.
Margaret Acheson Stuart
The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg is home to a vast collection of iconic works. It’s thrilling to experience this kind of art that spans the ages, and we have Margaret Acheson Stuart to thank for bringing it to our community. Stuart admired fine arts and sought to build a museum that St. Petersburg residents would enjoy and cherish for years to come.
In 1961, Stuart approached the city with a proposal and a promise to provide funds for construction, endowment and annual operating costs. Even though she was contributing incredible amounts of money to the project, she did not want her name attached to the museum. Instead, with doors opening in 1965, it would be named the Museum of Fine Arts.
Still in operation today, the museum stands as a testament to the influence of great women in St. Petersburg’s history. The city now enjoys a reputation as an artistic and cultural center — a renown that would not have been possible without the vision of Margaret Acheson Stuart.
Celebrating Women’s Equality Day in Pinellas County
Though a difficult task to choose only two, we are honored to have highlighted the accomplishments of these fine women in our community’s history. Please contact us to let us know which women in Pinellas County history have inspired you, and we’d love to write another article about them!