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  • Writer's pictureFlorida Trust

Florida Women Who Made History: Grace Bell & Louise Pinnell

by Adrienne Burke, AICP, and Ennis Davis, AICP*

*excerpt from an article first published in The Jaxson magazine


Portrait of Grace Bell (Florida Memory)

Grace Mann Bell, born in 1880, was the daughter of prominent 19th century Florida politician, Austin Mann, and sister to May Mann Jennings, wife of Florida Governor William Sherman Jennings, and a political activist in her own right.


Prior to her marriage in 1910, Grace served as her brother-in-law’s stenographer and was praised for her knowledge of the law. Around the turn of the 20th century, Grace sought admission to the Florida Bar, but due to the unwillingness of the all-male organization to accept women to their ranks, she was not admitted.


Her daughter said it was something that disappointed her for years. She lived in Springfield and Atlantic Beach, passed away in 1962, and is buried in Jacksonville Beach.


Louise Pinnell (Florida Memory)

While Grace’s attempt to join the Florida Bar was unsuccessful, Louise Rebecca Pinnell was

successfully admitted to the Bar in 1898, and is considered Florida’s first female lawyer.


Pinnell started practicing law in Bronson, in Levy County, but moved to Jacksonville to work with well-known attorney Major Alexander St. Clair-Abrams. Being the height of the booming railroad industry, St. Clair-Abrams and Pinnell’s specialty was railroad litigation. Ms. Pinnell ultimately worked for the Florida East Coast Railway as in-house counsel for many years before returning to private practice before retirement.


Ms. Pinnell was an active member of many civic and legal organizations in Jacksonville, and lived in Mandarin. She passed away in 1966 at age 89 and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery. She was a practicing lawyer for sixty years.



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