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Helen Gordon Davis

(1926- )

 

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When Helen Gordon Davis tells her own story, there’s no bragging, just the brass tacks of what it was really like to be one of the first women to be elected to the Florida legislature in the 1970s. She doesn’t dwell on the negatives, but she pulls no punches in describing her experience. It was literally the struggle to be heard: she famously stood on the floor of the Florida House for hours, defiantly holding the floor microphone aloft while she stood waiting to be recognized, utterly ignored by the presiding chair. A photo, of course, was widely published – today it would have gone viral.

Glamorous fashion model, stage actress, wife and mother, Helen was hardly the portrait of someone who knew first-hand about social and economic inequality. Yet, that was precisely her experience and one that compelled her to create The Centre for Women nearly 40 years ago. Since then, more than 65,000 individuals have found hope, help and success here.

Helen discovered early that life is unpredictable. As a child, Helen’s family lost everything in the market crash of 1929 and her father died when Helen was nine, leaving an impoverished mother of two young girls to scrap daily toward their uncertain future. Helen watched her mother fight through the daily pain and humiliation of poverty, inequality, and lack of opportunity for women: “I’ll never forget the look of despair on my mother’s face, every day.”

The story of Helen’s mother is still an all-too-common story today for so many women in the Tampa region who face enormous challenges and uncertain futures for themselves and their families. For some, The Centre for Women is a place of last resort. It is a place where women find inspiration and learn from peers and experts on how to achieve their personal and professional goals. Through the years, our programs have evolved and expanded to meet the needs of the community. Today, The Centre for Women is the only comprehensive development centre for women in the Tampa region. Our licensed, master’s level counselors help women, couples and families navigate life’s challenges. Our Success Strategies for Employment Program helps women and men prepare to find meaningful work. Our newly opened Helen Gordon Davis Women’s Business Centre is the only Small Business Administration-designated Women’s Business Centre on the West Coast of Florida. It is a place where women can pursue their dreams of owning a business and find the support they need to succeed. The newly re-opened Centre for Girls now offers an exciting curriculum in a safe environment where girls, ages 5 through 14, can learn life skills and self expression to help them achieve their potential.   And, our unique, highly regarded Senior Home Improvement Program (SHIP) helps low-income seniors with home repairs that enable them to live independently in their homes.

Helen Gordon Davis is proof positive that one person can make a difference in the lives of so many others. You can too. Take the first step today by supporting her vision. The Centre for Women is a nonprofit (501(c)3). Make a gift today to The Centre for Women and help empower women to succeed both personally and professionally.