In 1992 fifteen acres of Miami-Dade parkland was designated as the Women's Park. It was intentionally dubbed somewhat generically, explains Roxcy Bolton, the project's visionary, so that “every woman would have a park ... [a] special place. Women aren't often remembered,” observes Bolton, an outspoken activist for gender equality in South Florida since the Sixties. “Men have always remembered men. Now it's time for women to remember other women.”
All the memories, stories, accomplishments, and contributions from local women -- past, present, and future -- need a repository, too, which they'll get with this weekend's opening of the Roxcy O'Neal Bolton Women's History Gallery, nestled on the Women's Park grounds. Proposed by the Women's Park Founders' Committee, designed by architect Ana Alleguez, and funded by a million-dollar grant from the Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond and Quality Neighborhoods Improvement programs, the 6000-square-foot building, which had its groundbreaking ceremony in March 1999 and, according to a park sign, cost about $950,000 to complete, is ready for action.
For the debut expect plenty of speeches and dedications in the airy coral-rock-accented space, as well as an exhibition curated by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida and a performance of arias from the Girl Scout opera Daisy (who knew they had their own opera?). On hand should be a host of female public figures, including U.S. Reps. Carrie Meek and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both of whom will have areas in the gallery named for them. A sampling of the first ten honorees: Miriam Alonso, in whose district the park is located; M. Athalie Range, the first black woman elected to the Miami City Commission; long-time WLRN-FM (91.3) talk-show host Audrey Finkelstein; and Barry University president Sister Jeanne O'Laughlin.
Anyone else Bolton wants added to the list? She cites the late Janet Chusmir, the Miami Herald'sfirst female executive editor, and state Rep. Gwen Cherry, “my friend and sister.” Not that she's unappreciative of the county commission's unanimous decision to name the Women's History Gallery in her honor -- in fact, she uses the word “overwhelmed” -- but truth be told she really would rather it conjure the woman she calls the Mother of the City. “I wanted it to be Julia Tuttle,” Bolton says. “She made such a contribution over a hundred years ago. She made a place for us.”