The Historical Monument Trail honors 30 prominent residents of the Tampa area with bronze busts along the 2.6-mile scenic route of the Tampa Riverwalk.
The Riverwalk is home to the Tampa Museum of Art, Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, Glazer Children’s Museum, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, outdoor statues, recreational parks, and restaurants. The path is easy to walk or bike and can even be explored by boat or kayak.
Below are the herstories of the nine prominent women commemorated on the Historical Monument Trail.
Bena Wolf Maas (1863-1947)
Born to a Jewish family in Germany, Bena arrived in Tampa in 1886. She co-founded with her husband the Maas Brothers, Tampa’s longtime department store.
She served as the orphanage Children’s Home president for twenty-five years, a charter member of Congregation Schaarai Zedek, and a founder of the Community Chest, the predecessor of today’s United Way.
As the Nazis rose to power in the 1930s, she and her husband assisted many Jews, including their families, to immigrate to the United States.
Blanche Armwood (1890-1939)
Excelling at school led her to pursue a teaching career, and after graduating from college at 16, she became a teacher in several African-American schools. She began promoting “household arts schools for cooks and housewives of the Negro race.” It later evolved into the subject of home economics, and she taught it in the US. In 1937, she graduated from Howard University with a law degree but unfortunately passed away two years later.
Clara C. Frye (1872-1936)
Clara C. Frye was a nurse and the founder of the first unsegregated hospital in Tampa.
She studied nursing in Chicago, Illinois, and Montgomery, Alabama. In 1901 she got married and moved to Tampa. In 1908, following a request to take care of a black patient who needed a surgical operation, she opened her house to serve as a hospital for black patients unable to receive treatment at the Tampa Municipal Hospital. Her dining room table served as the operating table and her bedroom as the recovery room. After 15 years, she bought, renovated, and established the Clara Frye Hospital. Treating anyone in need led to financial difficulties, so in 1928, the city of Tampa purchased and took over the hospital. She continued to work there until health challenges forced her retirement. She passed away in 1936; she was 63 years old.
Today, the ninth Floor wing at Tampa General Hospital and a memorial garden in Tampa were named in her honor.
Eleanor McWilliams Chamberlain (C.1848-1934)
Eleanor Mcwilliams Chamberlain was a journalist and Florida’s suffrage leader. She was born and raised in Iowa and was among the first generation of women to graduate from Okaloosa College in the 1860s as “co-eds.” Chamberlain relocated with her husband from Iowa to Florida in 1881 and settled in Tampa in 1883. A year after attending a women’s rights convention in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1893, she established the Florida Women’s Suffrage Association and served as its president. She toured the state, connected with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and wrote articles for the Tampa Tribune. When she left Florida, the local movement collapsed. Later in life, she advocated for “Mother’s Pensions,” supporting widows raising children, prisoners in jail, and hospital care for people of African descent.
Elizabeth Dortsch Barnard (1881-1960)
Her plaque reads:
“Elizabeth Dortsch Barnard was Tampa’s first female postmaster, at a time when postal service was important to a fast-growing city during the Roaring Twenties. It also was a time when postal appointments often were political, but she earned her way to the top position in Tampa. A widow with children to support, she was undeterred by initial employment discrimination, and earlier than most women or minorities, she understood the relative opportunity for women in the federal civil service. She studied the post office’s promotion requirements and scored well on objective civil service exams – and when she reached the highest position in Tampa in 1923, she was the highest-paid woman in the history of the US Post Office. Under her ten-year tenure, sixteen new postal sub-stations were created in Tampa, and the number of letter carriers here rose from 19 to 113. She proved that women could be top executives and thus provided a role model for others.”
Kate Veronica Jackson (1857-1940)
Kate Jackson was a feminist, businesswoman, philanthropist, and environmentalist who devoted her time to improving the life of Tampa residents.
In the early 1870s, she recruited the nuns who educated her to establish Tampa’s historic Academy of the Holy Names.
In 1910, Jackson founded the Tampa Civic Association, which had a significant role in the city’s first water and sewage system, its first library, first playground, and recreational facilities.
Meroba Hooker Crane (1845-1898)
Meroba Hooker Crane was a businesswoman who owned and ran the Orange Grove Hotel, one of Tampa’s most famous hotels at the time. She was the president of the Board of Lady Managers, which established Tampa’s first hospital, and the president of the Ladies’ Memorial Societies, which preserved Oaklawn Cemetery.
Norma Tina Russo (1902-1977)
Norma Tina Russo was an opera singer, an advocate for the arts in Tampa, who became known as Tempa’s First Lady of Opera.
She was born Concetta Centonze in Naples, Italy but was called “Tina.” Her singing career started at fourteen, and by nineteen made her debut with the San Carlo Opera of Naples.
In 1923 she was recruited by the director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and arrived in NYC. During her nine years in NYC, she performed in several productions and delivered three children.
In 1932 she was abandoned by her husband in Tampa. To support her family taught music. In the coming decades, Russo became a local celebrity, producing many recitals, concerts, and grand operas, often under the aegis of the Italian Club, teaching music and establishing art and culture in the city.
Paulina Pedrosa (1845-1925)
Paulina Pedrosa played a significant role in Cuba’s 1895 revolution against Spain.
She was born free in Cuba to slave parents. In the 1880s, she relocated to Tampa and was a middle-aged career cigarmaker. When Cuba declared independence from Spain in 1895, the Pedrosos housed Jose Marti, Cuba’s equivalent of George Washington, in their boarding house at 8th Avenue and 12th Street and plotted strategies to win. She organized other black Cubans to La Sociedad Libres, which raised money to arm rebels against the Spanish government.
The couple returned to Cuba in 1910 and were honored with a rent-free house for the rest of their lives.
Pedrosa was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 1993.