Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Lena Culver Hawkins, 1866-1949
By Amy An, Library Assistant, Boca Raton Public Library
Civic Leader, Suffragist, and Politician
Lena H. Culver was born in Laurence, Michigan, on September 23, 1866, to Anson and Emma Culver. She married Charles Edwin Hawkins on September 15, 1891, in Chicago, Illinois. They lived first in Illinois, where their son Allan was born in 1893 (another child did not survive), and then in New York City. They moved to Brooksville, Florida, in 1911 when Lena was 45 years old.
In Brooksville, Hawkins was very active in the community; she served on 22 organizations and as mayor of Brooksville. She served as president of the Brooksville Woman's Club for six years and as the architect for the club's building. She held several offices for the Florida Federation of Woman's Clubs (FFWC); she was recording secretary for 20 years, and vice-president for section 8. She also served on the FFWC's Good Roads Committee and was an early proponent of the Good Roads movement. Hawkins also worked for a number of community organizations: she was associate editor and business manager for the Brooksville Argus (1915), served as the recording secretary for the Florida Equal Suffrage Association (1919), was on the PTA, president of Hernando County Hospital auxiliary, and a member of the Tampa Women's Club. She was also secretary to the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce. In 1925, as secretary to the Chamber of Commerce, Hawkins joined five other citizens of Brooksville in writing a letter to King George of England inviting him to recuperate in the "quiet and unparalleled climate" of Brooksville (he declined).
In the early 1920s, Hawkins was encouraged to run for office as a representative for Hernando County; she ran for mayor of Brooksville in 1927, 1928, and 1928. She lost the election in 1927 by 34 votes, won unopposed in 1928, and lost in 1929. She was one of the first women to serve as mayor in Florida and the first mayor to run on a campaign of beautification; her goals were to improve paving, sewers, and water connections, remove billboards, as well as to work toward greater cooperation between the mayor and city council. She also presented at several organizations and meetings. She spoke to the first annual convention of the Florida League of Women Voters on women in industry (1922), at the Civic Association of Tampa dinner on the operation of a city and police court (1928), and to the Brooksville Woman's Club on the Constitution of the United States (1932).
By the 1920 census, Lena and her son Allan still lived in the family's Brooksville home but without Charles. The 1930 census shows Charles living and operating a business in Cincinnati, Ohio, while Lena and Allan remained in Brooksville. Charles died in 1935 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Allan died in 1937 in Brooksville, Florida. Lena Culver Hawkins died on June 6, 1949, at her home in Brooksville and is buried in Brooksville Cemetery.
Image Source: "Prominent Woman," Tampa Tribune, May 31, 1925, p. 36.
"Brooksville Sets Out to be State's Prettiest Town Under Woman Mayor," Tampa Tribune, October 10, 1928.
"Brooksville Woman in Race for Mayor on Beautification," Tampa Tribune, October 2, 1927.
"Federation Head Speaks," Tampa Bay Times, December 30, 1928.
Harper, Ida Husted, et al., eds. The History of Woman Suffrage. Vol. VI (1900-1920). N.p.: National American Woman Suffrage Association, 1922, p. 118.
"Hernando County is Urging that a Woman Run for the Legislature from that County," Pensacola Journal, September 9, 1920.
"King's Reply to Brooksville," Tampa Tribune, March 8, 1925.
"Mrs. C. E. Hawkins May Run for Member of the Legislature," Ocala Banner, September 10, 1920.
"Mrs. Hawkins Dies at 82 at Hernando Home," Tampa Tribune, June 6, 1949.
"Special Edition of the Brooksville Argus," Lakeland Evening Telegram, November 16, 1915.
"Suffrage Convention at Tampa is at End," Palatka Daily News, November 1, 1919.
"The Prettiest," Tampa Tribune, October 11, 1928.
"Woman Candidate Beaten for Mayor in Hernando Race," Tampa Tribune, October 11, 1927.
"Woman Mayor of Brooksville Loses to Man," Tampa Tribune, October 15, 1929.
"Women Voters to Hold Convention," Pensacola Journal, January 23, 1922.