Women with Jacksonville ties leave inspiring legacy for future generations

Mitch Hemann joins us today to tell us about the first Black female aviator, Bessie Coleman and Henrietta Dozier, Jacksonville first female architect.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As part of Women’s History Month, News4Jax is highlighting several history-makers with ties to the River City.

I spoke with historians about the impact of two women who reached new heights in very different ways.

“The first Black female aviator,” said Mitch Hemann, Jacksonville Historical Society Senior Archivist.

Bessie Coleman was the first African-American woman and first Native-American to hold a pilot license.

Born in Texas to sharecroppers, she received her pilot training in France.

“She only performed her airshows if the audiences were integrated and if everyone was allowed to enter by the same gate. That was something she insisted upon before performing,” said Hemann.

This was a huge feat for a woman of color in the 1920s. Her final air show would bring Coleman to the River City.

During a test flight for the upcoming show, a mechanical issue with the plane caused it to crash throwing Coleman from the plane to her death.

She was just 34 years old.

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Bessie Coleman was the first African-American woman and first Native-American to hold a pilot license.

“What a tremendous life she had in such a short span of time. She really inspired a lot of people. So many people went on to really great things because of there, that’s a pretty extraordinary thing,” said Hemann.

While Coleman made history in the sky, Henrietta Dozier left her mark on the skyline.

“Henrietta Dozier was Jacksonville’s first and foremost female architect. She graduated from MIT School of Architecture in 1899 when that was a rarity for a woman to go to architecture school,” said Dr. Wayne Wood, Historian at large for Jacksonville Historical Society.

Dozier was born in Fernandina Beach.

In 1914, she started her own practice and built many buildings throughout the River City that are still up today.

“Many people called her cousin Harry. And often she would wear pants and a hard hat on the job so that she would not stand out as much and be discriminated against,” said Dr. Wayne Wood. “Many of her buildings are on our list of historic landmarks. So, her works stand out. Although she was not extraordinarily creative compared to some other architects and she was not extraordinarily prolific the works that she did still remain with us and are very much a part of Jacksonville’s architectural heritage.”

Both Coleman and Dozier were the first women in their fields, but most certainly not the last.

Paving the way for generations of women past, present, and future.