TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the selection of Graci McGillicuddy, May Mann Jennings, and Penny Thompson to the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. Each year, the Governor selects three nominees from recommendations presented by the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.


Graci McGillicuddy

McGillicuddy is the Co-Founder of the All Star Children’s Foundation, a child advocacy center which combats child abuse and provides a safe place for foster children. She has dedicated her life to advocating for the rights and welfare of abused children, and her actions have inspired countless individuals to contribute in their own ways to fight against child abuse and human trafficking. Her commitment to such a noble cause extends to public service roles on various state councils and nonprofit boards where she contributes to arts, mentoring, and child abuse prevention initiatives. In 2022, she was recognized by The KNOW Women as a member of their “100 Women to Know in America” and she was honored with the “Spirit of Service” Award by the Florida Senate in 2009, the highest honor bestowed on civilians. McGillicuddy’s powerful advocacy has led to the reframing of human trafficking victims in the eyes of the law and public opinion, transforming them from criminals to victims, deserving of support and care.


May Mann Jennings

Jennings was the First Lady to Governor William Sherman Jennings, who served as Florida’s 18th Governor. She was a founding member of the Florida State League of Women Voters, the precursor to the League of Women Voters of Florida, and served as President of the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs. Jennings is known as the “Mother of Florida’s Forestry” due to her efforts to lobby the Florida Legislature for the establishment of the State Board of Forestry, which today is known as the Florida Forestry Service. She also spearheaded the effort to have Royal Palm State Park established in 1915, which later became part of the Everglades National Park. Her legacy has earned her a reputation as one of Florida’s original suffragettes and conservationists. Jennings championed causes for women’s suffrage, better treatment of children and prisoners, education funding, historic preservation, and highway beautification which still leave their mark on Florida today.


Penny Thompson

Thompson was a leader in women’s aviation in Florida during the pivotal post-war years in the 1940s and 1950s. During World War II she volunteered as a Civil Air Patrol Pilot, searching for German submarines in the Gulf of Mexico. After the war, she published and edited an aviation newspaper, Southern Aviation News. Thompson was elected as President of the Florida Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, a women pilots organization that was founded by Amelia Earhart. She was also elected as Chairwoman of the world’s first All-Woman Air Show that occurred in Tampa in 1947. In 1949, she and fellow pilot Ellen Gilmore flew into history by piloting an experimental “flying car” called the Roadable Ercoupe as part of the Montreal-Miami All-Woman’s Air Race; this flight gained national publicity for female pilots and was immortalized in newspapers around the country. She was also a passionate advocate of motherhood and families, founding the Miami-Dade County Mothers of Twins Club as a support group for mothers in Florida. Thompson was honored posthumously when Miami-Dade County named its largest park and campground in honor of Penny and her husband, Larry, in 1975, calling it the Larry and Penny Thompson Memorial Park. The park is one of the few parks in the United States named for a husband and wife. Penny played a key role in aviation history during this period, helping to elevate women into the burgeoning world of aviation.




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