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Sunday Favorites: Women Trailblazers who Shaped the Community


Throughout history, Manatee County has been shaped by the remarkable contributions of pioneering women who defied norms and left an indelible mark on their community. From the OG Pioneer to the Headmistress, their stories illuminate the diverse talents and enduring legacies that continue to inspire generations. Join us as we celebrate these extraordinary women.

The Pioneer

Julia "Madam Joe" Atzeroth circa 1870.
Julia "Madam Joe" Atzeroth circa 1870.

Julia Atzeroth, born in 1807 in Bavaria, Germany, migrated with her husband, Joe Atzeroth, and their young daughter to Terra Ceia in 1843. Initially dwelling in a palmetto hut, Julia actively assisted her husband in clearing their sixty-acre land using an axe. Recognized locally as" Madam Joe, she initially balanced her time between their Terra Ceia farm and a bustling beer and cake shop she operated in Tampa (formerly Fort Brook). She sold that business and ran a general store in downtown Palmetto for many years. Following her husband's passing in 1873, she relocated to Fogartyville in West Bradenton, residing with her daughter Eliza Atzeroth Fogarty. It was during this period that Julia achieved a remarkable feat by cultivating the first coffee seeds in the continental United States. She sent four pounds of her coffee to President Rutherford B. Hayes, receiving a $10 gold piece in return for her pioneering efforts.

The Artist  

Amid Women's History Month, the story of Mary Ward stands as a testament to the year-round impact of women on history. In 1914, Ward defied odds and established a thriving pottery business in Manatee County. The location was initially dismissed due to a lack of quality clay. Through perseverance, Ward unearthed a significant clay deposit in the Manatee River and transformed it into a lucrative enterprise, employing primarily single women. DWard's pottery featuring intricate Florida scenes gained popularity nationally. Later, she partnered with Henry A. Graack, expanding the business before moving on to establish Orlando Potteries. Today, her legacy lives on through collections displayed at historical sites, with enthusiasts still valuing her works at antique shows.

The Educator

Mrs. Frankie Howze greets her class circa 1920-1929.
Mrs. Frankie Howze greets her class circa 1920-1929.

Francis "Frankie" Agnes McKay Howze (1868 -1956) is a pioneering figure in Manatee County's history, defying gender barriers to become a transformative educator. Originally aspiring to pursue journalism, she shifted her path to become what many consider the "Mother of Education in Manatee County." Despite facing asthma complications in Chicago, she found solace and purpose in Florida, where she became the first female teacher in Bartow at age 19. Recognized for her innovative teaching methods and dedication, she played a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape of the region. From transforming a humble schoolhouse into the first publicly funded school in Manatee County to coaching the first football team, Frankie's legacy as a disciplined educator and community leader endures, earning her posthumous recognition under the Great Floridians 2000 program. Though blindness later marked her final years, her impact lives on in the hearts of those she inspired, with her contributions commemorated at the Palmetto Historical Park.

The Rancher

Faye Blackstone does her famous drag horse  trick circa 1948.
Faye Blackstone does her famous drag horse trick circa 1948.

Faye Blackstone, the eponym of Blackstone Park in Palmetto, Florida, remains a legendary figure in local history. Born Fayetta Hudson in 1915, she cultivated a deep love for horses from a young age on her family's Nebraska ranch, eventually becoming renowned for her fearless trick-riding abilities. Transitioning from farm life to the spotlight, she became the feature act in Gene Autry's Wild West Show, captivating audiences with daring maneuvers such as the reverse fender drag and inventing new techniques like the Flyaway and the Ballerina. Alongside her husband Vic, a celebrated rodeo champion, Faye left an indelible mark on the community, hosting grand events at their Parrish ranch and fostering a love for horsemanship among local children. Despite their ranching success, Faye's adventurous spirit never waned, as evidenced by her feats well into her 80s, including standing on the back of an elephant and performing an unexpected split. Her trailblazing spirit and unwavering courage continue to inspire, making her a beloved figure and personal idol for many, showcasing the extraordinary potential of women across generations.

The Headmistress

Florine Jones Able in her home around 1970.
Florine Jones Able in her home around 1970.

Abel Elementary is named after Florine Jones Abel, who served as an educator for 45 years, bridging the eras of segregation to modern-day practices. In 1945, she became the first African American principal in Manatee County. Then, became one of the first black women to serve as the Superintendent of Negro Education from 1959 to 1965 (when the district was still segregated). After segregation occurred in 1970, she held an important advisory administration role until her retirement a year later. In 1980, Abel Elementary was named in her honor.

As we reflect on the stories of these influential women, let us honor their contributions and draw inspiration from their remarkable journeys. Their resilience, creativity, and unwavering commitment to progress serve as guiding beacons for generations to come, reminding us of the transformative power of women in shaping our communities and our world.

Merab Favorite is a fifth-generation Floridian, published author and columnist for the Bradenton Times. She can be reached at favorite.merab@gmail.com


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  • Hamwoman

    Loved this column.

    Sunday, February 18 Report this