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Monday, September 20, 2021
Graphic by Ashley Hicks
Graphic by Ashley Hicks

In September 1925, Lassie Goodbread-Black stood patiently behind a block-long line of boys waiting to register for Fall classes at UF. But when she finally made her way to the registrar, he refused to help her. 

“He looked at me like he thought I was a nut or crazy or something,” Goodbread-Black said in a 1984 interview with Gayle Yamada through the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program. “He said, ‘Step aside, lady! Step aside, lady! This isn’t summer school.’ And, of course my feelings were crushed.” 

Despite the initial hurdles she faced, Goodbread-Black became the first woman to enroll full-time at UF in 1925. The university wouldn’t officially begin accepting women until more than 20 years later.

The history of women at UF has been a long-fought war, with them officially joining the university in 1947 but underrepresented for decades after. 

Congress designated March as Women’s History Month in 1987. This month is about remembering impactful women of the past, celebrating powerful women of the present and empowering successful women of the future. 

It all starts with honoring the first women trailblazers at UF and Santa Fe College.

University of Florida

Irene Thompson tirelessly fought for increased female representation at UF by becoming the first director of the women’s studies program at the university in 1977. 

She began by forming a committee to address the status of women at UF. She then began teaching a course on images of women through literature at night. 

“If you think I knew what I was talking about, you’re out of your mind,” she said in a 2003 interview through the SPOHP. 

Thompson persevered, and four years later, she said she applied to the College of Arts and Sciences for a probationary program, which at the time served as the equivalent of a women’s studies minor. 

Two years later, an official women’s studies program received 100% approval, and Thompson served as the first director until her retirement in 1986. 

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Since then, women have continued to make progressive strides within the Gator community. 

In 2015, Laura Rosenbury became the Levin College of Law’s first permanent female dean. In October, Colleen Koch was named the first female dean of UF’s College of Medicine.

Aside from UF staff, student organizations have taken up the task of honoring historical women. 

Izabella Smith, the mentorship co-director for Women’s Student Association, a UF organization that aims to empower women, said the group believes in an accurate historical depiction of women. 

Women’s history has been whitewashed, the 21-year-old UF agricultural education and communication junior said. ‘Whitewashing’ can refer to the emphasis on the impact of white people, which then diminishes and misrepresents nonwhite individuals in history. 

“Women’s history month isn’t just Susan B. Anthony, and it really shouldn’t be,” she said. 

Besides diving deep into the actual history of women, Smith has one other objective in mind for this month. 

“I’m kind of taking it as an opportunity to not take much bulls---,” she said. 

The path to success for female students in leadership roles hasn’t been without hardships. 

Despite an increase in women’s representation at the university, the UF Student Body didn’t experience female leadership in SG until less than 40 years ago.

Charlotte Mather-Taylor, the first student-elected Student Body President, was an active member of SG in the 1980s. She said her motivating force has always been service.

During her time at UF, Mather-Taylor served as an SG senator, vice president, and was elected to be the first female Student Body President in 1983. While in SG, she created the Minority and Women Cabinet divisions, which were originally intended to give a platform to underrepresented groups and has now expanded into the Diversity Cabinet Division.

“I ran not because I was thinking I would be the first female, but because I really just thought I could continue the work I was doing and make a difference,” she said.

After she was elected, Mather-Taylor said an older female student came to congratulate her. The woman confessed she had always wanted to run for Student Body president but allowed other people to convince her that a woman couldn’t run. 

“If you feel a passion within your being to do something, you should do it,” she said. “At least try it because you don’t want to regret that.”

She said the leadership demographics should reflect the population, but equality can only be created when women are supportive of each other.

“It is important for women to support other women. But not blindly,” she said. “You don’t support a woman just because she’s female. You want to support a woman who is pro-female — a woman who wants to empower other women.”

She now works as the director for the Agency Disability and Resource Center of Broward County and was honored by the county following the National Women’s History Alliance chosen yearly theme of “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.”

Since Maher-Taylor’s presidency, seven other women have led UF SG.

Pamela Bingham, who served as UF’s first and only Black woman Student Body president in 1986, faced challenges during her path to leadership in the form of racist and hateful comments. 

Following in the footsteps of female trailblazers like Bingham and Mather-Taylor, Faith Maniti and Gio Mompremier, two women of color, will take over the positions of Student Body vice-president and treasurer in late April.

As an Asian American woman pursuing a degree in political science, Maniti often finds herself as the only woman of color in a room. It can be intimidating to speak out in conversations mostly dominated by white men, she said. The 21-year-old junior wants to create an approachable environment in her office and serve as a mentor to SG members and students.

Mompremier is one of the few Black women to be elected to the SG executive board. She wants to advocate for students in underrepresented communities who often don’t feel like they belong within the SG environment.

“Women need to realize that their gender or identity shouldn’t be limiting factors or something they are scared of in regards to their qualifications,” she said.

Other members of SG are working towards gender equality, too. Haley Palumbo, the SG Women’s Affairs Cabinet director, is one example.

Looking to April, the 21-year-old UF political science and women’s studies junior is excited to arrange Women's Summit, a networking event open to all UF students to discuss the inclusion of women in the professional world at the beginning of the month. 

She also said all SG cabinet members are currently planning events for healthy relationship week, which is meant to bring awareness to sexual assault, on April 12-16. The Women’s Affairs cabinet is currently organizing an event to discuss sexual assault and consent.

However, UF has yet to see a female university president. Since the institution’s inception in 1853, all of its presidents have been men

Santa Fe College

Similar to UF, Santa Fe College has been led solely by male presidents since its inception. 

Santa Fe spokesperson Jay Anderson wrote in an email that the college, which has accepted women since its opening in 1966, honors notable women within the community by hosting an annual Women of Distinction Luncheon every March. 

Ann Bromley, who was Santa Fe’s coordinator of women’s programs and special projects from 1981 until she retired in 1992, created the event in 1987 to recognize women’s contributions, according to Santa Fe’s website. Bromley was the college’s first female administrator, serving as associate dean for Student Affairs from in 1966 to 1968, Anderson wrote in an email. 

More than 190 women have been honored through the luncheon since its creation. A “Woman of Promise” category was added in 2006 to recognize young women between the ages of 16 and 21 for their leadership in the Alachua and Bradford County communities, according to the website.

Although Santa Fe postponed the 2020 luncheon because of COVID-19, the college hopes to recognize those women later this year. An announcement will be made soon about a 2021 event and how the college will celebrate the 2020 honorees, Anderson wrote in an email. 

Joudi Ayroud — Santa Fe’s 2020 Woman of Promise — was born and raised in Aleppo, Syria. Around the start of the civil war in 2011, the 22-year-old Santa Fe organizational management senior and her family left Syria and moved to Qatar where they have lived since. 

Ayroud is currently the college’s Student Body president and is the first Arab woman to hold this position, she said. Ayroud said she’s proud of this and loves being in a position where she can give back. 

“Ever since I came to the U.S., I’ve been constantly working on breaking those stereotypes that people have of Arab women that they’re oppressed, they’re weak, they’re incapable,” Ayroud said. “I’m none of those, and neither are any Arab women.” 

Women’s history should be celebrated every day, Ayroud said. She celebrates the women who got her and others to this point each day, she added. 

“It’s about empowering each other,” Ayroud said. “It’s about standing by each other, recognizing that we’re capable of so much, and we have so much to offer.”

Contact Abigail Hasebroock, Carolina Ilvento, Juliana Ferrie and Sofia Echeverry at ahasebroock@alligator.org, cilvento@alligator.org, jferrie@alligator.org and secheverry@alligator.org. Follow them on Twitter @abbeyhasebroock, @CarolinaIlvento, @juliana_f616 and @sofecheverry.

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Sofia Echeverry

Sofia is a news assistant on The Alligator's university desk. This is her second semester at paper, where she previously worked as a translator for El Caimán. 


Abigail Hasebroock

Abigail is a second-year journalism major covering university general assignment news for The Alligator. When she’s not catching up on school or reporting, she’s spending time outside, reading or reorganizing her Spotify playlists - usually all at the same time. 


Carolina Ilvento

Carolina is a second-year journalism major with a minor in sustainability. In the past, she covered stories and events for WUFT, and she is now reporting on Student Government for The Alligator. Carolina loves to do yoga and go to the beach whenever she isn't writing.


Juliana Ferrie

Juliana Ferrie is a second-year UF journalism student. She is excited to be working for The Alligator as the Santa Fe Beat reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading or listening to music.


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