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Women Shaping Winter Park’s Story

Even after decades, their legacies continue to influence our commerce, culture and devotion to causes.

Women of Influence

We hear their names all of the time, but rarely consider that it’s been decades since these notable women began working their magic on Winter Park. Women of influence, they left their mark in a variety of ways that continue to shape Central Florida even today.

Zora Neale Hurston

Writer/folklorist Zora Neale Hurston’s return from New York to her “native village” of Eatonville in 1932 became a turning point in the artist’s literary career. With the support of Rollins College president Hamilton Holt and others, Hurston saw her production From Sun to Sun performed at a nearby experimental theater in January 1933. Hurston’s subsequent involvement with the university helped kickstart her career, and she never forgot the college and faculty’s roles in her success.

Jeanette Genius McKean

A native of Chicago, Jeanette Genius McKean founded and funded the Morse Gallery of Art at Rollins College in 1942. The museum opened in a new home facing Park Avenue in 1978, creating the nucleus of what would become the most comprehensive collection of work by Louis Comfort Tiffany anywhere. In addition to her community service and careers as an artist and interior designer, McKean was president of Winter Park Land Co. and founder of the Center Street Gallery.

Eve Proctor

Winter Park’s stature as an upscale retail mecca was bolstered in 1948 with the arrival of Eve Proctor, a New York fashion buyer. After purchasing a building at the corner of Canton and Park Avenues, she began improving her shop while encouraging other merchants to do the same. Her goal? To transform the Avenue into an intimate “Little Europe” of specialized boutiques with sophisticated awnings, cozy courtyards and small fountains. The rest is history. (Visit the Winter Park Historical Museum for more.)

Edyth Bush

Successful actress, ballet dancer and playwright, Edyth Bush gave up her St. Paul stage career in 1919 and established a winter home in Florida. Today, her legacy spreads far and wide throughout Central Florida, supporting causes ranging from education and the arts to health and human service efforts. She firmly believed that the Foundation’s best work was helping nonprofits be better managed, governed and led.

  • Zora Neale Hurston
  • Eve Proctor
  • Edyth Bush
  • Jeannette Genius McKean