REVIEW: Book Notes by Valerie Oakley

SUMMER 2017 Out East
The Newsletter of the Friends of Fruitville Library

For anyone residing or even visiting south of the Florida-Georgia border, Suncoast Empire: Bertha Honoré Palmer, Her Family, and the Rise of Sarasota by Frank Cassell is a “must-read.” The opening sentence of the Introduction sets the tone and direction of the work: “In February of 1910, Mrs. Potter Palmer and members of her family stepped down from their private Pullman car in Sarasota, Florida, after a 34-hour ride from their home in Chicago.” From there we go on to learn Mrs. Potter Palmer had been a moving force in the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 as president of the Board of Lady Managers, a newly created position and “the first time the government had created such an official recognition to women.” She observed that the United States government had “just discovered women.” Her move to the Sarasota area in 1910 and the influence she had on everything from infrastructure to local crops to tourism is still evident over 100 years later. “The society queen and social reform advocate excelled as a frontier entrepreneur, just as she had in every other endeavor in her life.” Dr. Cassell’s account of Bertha’s accomplishments is recounted in an easily readable style, leaving the reader with an appreciation for the remarkable accomplishments of one very strong, forceful and farsighted woman.

By Valerie Oakley, Friends of Fruitville Library