West Villages celebrates Women’s History Month with a tip of the hat to a variety of historical figures who helped set the stage for the area’s rich surroundings.
From a savvy Chicago business woman who purchased huge tracts in Sarasota County, to The Shark Lady, who founded the famed Mote Marine Laboratory, Sarasota County owes much to the distaff portion of the population.
Today, West Villages boasts nine distinctive communities chockful of family friendly amenities—remember, none of us could be here had it not been for a mother, So let’s celebrate a gallery of notable women who helped make this area what it is:
Bertha Palmer: Without Bertha Palmer (and, later, her sons), Myakka River State Park wouldn’t be where it is—virtually around the corner from West Villages.
In 1910, Bertha Palmer, a progressive business woman from Chicago, came to Sarasota and bought a vast amount of land. A few years later, she purchased acreage farther inland than her initial real estate purchases and tried her hand at cattle and swine ranching. Meadow Sweet Pastures was located very near the Myakka River, where she introduced fencing and dip vats to Florida ranching. Several years after Mrs. Palmer passing over17,000 acres of the Palmer estate was purchased by the Florida government to develop Myakka River State Park. Myakka is one of eight Florida state parks developed by the CCC during the 1930s.
Eugenie Clark: Dubbed “The Shark Lady,” the marine biologist studied life in the Red Sea and once road a 50-foot whale shark. In 1955, she founded what became the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, just 34 miles from West Villages—a great day trip for the entire family. She made her last dive in 2014, the year before her death at age 92 in Sarasota.
Marie Selby: Marie was the wife of wealthy oilman William “Bill” Selby.
Born in 1895 in West Virginia, Marie was fond of gardening, hiking and boating. She also liked to drive. She’s billed as the first woman to motor across the country, a century ago. Four years after her death in 1971 and thanks to the William and Marie Selby Foundation, the immensely popular botanical garden that bears her name opened in Sarasota.
Mable Ringling: No history of the area would be complete without a mention of the world-renowned circus impresario. His wife, of course, was the brains of his operation.
Wildly rich, they named their Sarasota palace Ca’ d’Zan, or “House of John,” but it’s said that blueprints for the 36,000-square-foot mega-mansion, famous for its treasures and gardens, were titled: “Mrs. John Ringling’s Home.” The must-see Ringling Museum of Art and Circus Museum are an easy 35 miles from West Villages.
Sallie Jones: Closer to West Villages, just 21 miles away in Punta Gorda, Sallie Jones Elementary School pays tribute to the first woman in Florida history to become a school superintendent. She started running Charlotte County Public Schools in 1938, and the elementary school named in her honor opened in 1957.
To start making history and living Life Your Way at West Villages, visit West Villages’ Model Home Centers, listed here. Or call the Home Buyers Information Line at 941-960-7805.