In 1891, five years before Miami became a city, Flora McFarlane and the women of Coconut Grove formed the Housekeeper’s Club, now called the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove.
As a woman homesteader and teacher, Flora McFarlane was keenly aware of the isolation and loneliness of the pioneer women. She invited women in the community to take part in weekly gatherings. Her goal was “to bring together the housekeepers of our little settlement by spending two hours a week in companionship and study.” By working together their pioneering spirit built a community. Their motto was “lend a hand.”
Members of the Club have provided service to the community and support for each other for 126 years. Their first major project was raising the funds for a Sunday School Chapel in 1894, which eventually became Plymouth Congregational Church.
The Club was the cultural center of early Coconut Grove holding theatrical performances, literary readings, musical entertainment and parties.
Members were engaged in Everglades conservation, saving Paradise Key, the nucleus of Everglades National Park. It has provided aid for local and national organizations like Casa Valentina, Cancer Survivors, Virrick Public Library, the Hacienda Girls’ Ranch, Canine Companions, and Heifer International.
The club-sponsored the Learn-To-Swim program at the Virrick Pool that taught hundreds of West Grove children to swim. Its Young Artists’ Gallery provides exhibition opportunities for Miami-Dade High School Students, providing $4,500 in awards and scholarships annually.
126 years later, the spirit of the early pioneer women remain. The Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove is a place where women come together, build relationships, and create community through their civic service activities.
Team Archives of the Woman's Club of Coconut Grove put togehter these bits and pieces in a video in honor of the celebration of the Club's 125th Anniversary. To view the video Click Here
In 1880s and 90s many naturalists explored the Everglades. It was the honeymoon destination for Kirk and Mary Munroe. The Housekeepers Club founded in 1891 hosted one meeting of the 10th Annual Convention of the Florida Federation of Women's Clubs at their clubhouse in Coconut Grove on Jan 25th 1905 at which Mary and Edith Gifford presented a resolution to conserve Royal Palm Hammock as a State Reservation. They kept urging.
In 1914, May Mann Jennings became president of the Federation took action pushed that proposal through legislation.
In 1915, an act of legislation granted the Florida Federation Royal Palm State Park. With no funding, Florida Clubwomen raised a few dollars and enough dines, nickles and pennies to make the hammock ready for the dedication in November of 1916. The Legislative Act stipulated that the Federation must improve, beautify and maintain the Park. Usually forgotten but good to remember the women had no vote.
Somehow for 32 years, the women of Florida maintained the park through fire, the 1916 Hurricane, WWI, followed by the Great Depression and World War II. At the same, the Federation actively pursued the formation of a National Park.
Finally in 1947, The Federation deeded their Royal Palm Park over to the Everglades National Park. One hundred years ago, May Jennings dedicated the Park to the people of Florida and their children forever.