Gwen Cherry Garden
Franklin W. Chase Library
W 5th Ave
Windermere FL 34786
I had the honor of dedicating a garden to Gwendolyn Sawyer Cherry. She was born in Miami on August
27, 1923 and was the daughter of Dr. William B. Sawyer, a pioneer black
physician in Miami who was instrumental in the founding of Christian
After earning an undergraduate degree in biology and
chemistry from Florida A&M University in 1946, Cherry furthered her
education by earning a master’s degree from New York University. She
then became the first black woman to enroll in University of Miami’s
School of Law, later completing her law degree at Florida A&M’s
College of Law in 1965. She became the first black woman to pass the
Florida Bar exam and practice law in Dade County.
various careers, Cherry fought for the right of minorities and women.
She worked first as a teacher, then as an attorney and in 1970, won a
difficult election to become the first black woman elected to the
Florida Legislature. She served there, introducing several bills,
including legalization of abortions for women who lived in Florida over
six months, proposals for federally funded child- care centers and
abolition of capital punishment. She introduced the state’s first Equal
Rights Amendment bill in 1972. She was serving in her fourth term when
she was killed in a car accident in Tallahassee in 1979.
Gwenn Cherry accomplished so much during her very short life and is an inspiration to all women, not just in Florida, but around the United States. In a time when women were considered below their male counterparts, she stood up and served as a voice to be heard and a woman to be reckoned with.