2009 "Woman In History" Honoree: Julia DeForest Tuttle

Women’s History Month is the perfect time to honor the achievements of the strong and courageous women who changed our history forever.  During Women’s History Month 2009, Women’s Exhibit honored the achievements of one such pioneering woman: Julia Tuttle — often referred to as “The Mother of Miami”.

Founder of Miami
Born: c. 1840
Birthplace: Cleveland, Ohio

Miami is the only major U.S. city to have been founded by a woman. Julia Tuttle, a Clevelander, first saw southern Florida in 1875 when she visited her father, who had moved there as a homesteader. After Tuttle’s husband died in 1886, she decided to move to South Florida as well. Arriving in 1891, she bought several hundred acres on the bank of the Miami River. To a friend she announced that “it is the dream of my life to see this wilderness turned into a prosperous country.” She knew that the area, then called Bay Biscayne, would never be anything but a sleepy backwater unless it was accessible by railroad.

She eventually convinced railroad executive Henry M. Flagler of the area’s vast potential and persuaded him to extend his Florida East Coast Railroad to Miami in 1896. In exchange, Flagler received hundreds of acres of land from Tuttle and the other major property holders in the region, the Brickells. That same year the city of Miami was incorporated.

Died: Sept. 14, 1898

Women’s Exhibit donated a portion of the proceeds from the 2009 Miami Beach Women’s Conference to the future maintenance of a statue built in her honor.