Behind every great fisherman... the great women of Cortez!

While the rich wilderness and abundant marine life was very appealing to Florida's early male settlers, it presented many challenges for their female kinfolk. Often relocating from communities with established social, educational and religious structures, these women were faced with re-creating their societal comforts from scratch, in addition to making a home and raising children without many familiar amenities.


The women of Cortez (and other fishing communities throughout the state) also had to contend with the occupational absence of their male counterparts. The women, therefore, tended to have stronger social, political and cultural influence than women in other communities. They were relied upon to keep the home, community and financial structures in order while their husbands were at sea.


There are multiple articles that could be written on this topic, but for now we will focus on women as secondary bread winners. Since fishing was often an inconsistent source of income, women were relied upon to bring in a steady paycheck.


Though not as potentially lucrative as fishing, many women took outside work to subsidize the lean times.


One way that Cortez women earned extra income was to "take in" laundry. The lack of indoor plumbing and electricity, coupled with the inevitable abundance of fishy-smelling work clothes, meant that doing laundry was very labor and time intensive.


Wash day was indeed an entire day that involved several washtubs, a fire, a large pole for agitating, a wash board, and various soaps, starches and bluing agents.


Those who could afford to would often pay to have their wash done rather than face the process themselves.