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About this collection

Browse this collection Easter Lily Gates

 

The Woman

   

Easter Lily Gates was the Broward County Supervisor of Elections for 40 years, from 1929 to 1969.

 

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1889 on Easter Sunday, Easter Lily Bilbo travelled west with her family by covered wagon. As a 17-year-old store clerk, she began making and wearing her extravagant trademark hats, oversized and covered in flowers. Soon thereafter, she met and married husband George Gates, eventually settling in Fort Lauderdale in 1918. The city was a sleepy hamlet of 3,000 residents when they added two sons to the population.

 

In the killer Hurricane of 1926, Easter Lily Gates heroically saved her family but lost everything she owned. Two weeks later, her husband died. To provide for her children, Gates became Broward County’s first female bus driver. In 1928, she ran for Supervisor of Elections, hitchhiking and walking to campaign because she had no car. The electorate then consisted of 5,000 voters; Gates won the election, and served unchallenged for the next 40 years. She registered Broward County’s first Seminole and African-American voters. 

 

The daughter of a milliner, Gates developed a fondness for outlandish, flowery hats that epitomized the bold, personal style of a powerful woman who knew how to be noticed and recognized — memorable campaign gear for a lady on the stump.

 

Following her retirement at age 80, Gates remained active in the community, the Methodist Church, and quietly supported children around the world. She passed away in February 1985. 

 

The Collection

 

The photographs in this collection display the public and private Easter Lily Gates and the world she lived in, locally and internationally. Her life spanned most of the twentieth century. And although she was anything but typical, the photographs are a window to the period and the more conventional people she moved among.

 

To the Florida naturalist and urban historian, the collection presents an opportunity to see old Fort Lauderdale in its rural early days, wild and unpaved. Open spaces and lush vegetation, palms, pines and hammocks, bespeak an Old Florida that is gone forever.

 

Gates had many admirers, some of whom paid tribute to her with gifts that acknowledged her party affiliation or her trademark headwear. The collection contains photos of her personal collections: Democratic donkeys and unusual hats, which accumulated over the decades and were proudly displayed in her office. But behind the fun was a public servant dedicated to the electorate and the candidates of Broward County. Many of the photographs show Gates going about her duties, swearing in new voters, counting ballots, reviewing the voting rolls, and overseeing the polls.

 

Easter Lily Gates was a Fort Lauderdale pioneer and an international traveler; a strong leader and a tender matriarch and sister, devoted to her immediate and extended family; a patriot and a politician; a champion of the people and a lover of animals. This collection is a photographic record of her Broward County legacy.

 

Terms of Use


The Broward County Libraries Division maintains special collections including but not limited to, documents, photographs, artifacts, artwork and rare books. Materials in these collections may be protected by the U. S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U. S. C.). The reproduction or downloading materials may be restricted by terms of purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy & publicity rights, licensing and trademarks.

Usage, transmission, downloading, or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by Fair Use Copyright Law requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Copyright or other information about restrictions may be difficult or even impossible to determine. When possible, the Division provides information about copyright owners and restrictions concerning its collections.

DETERMINING THE EXISTENCE OF COPYRIGHT OR ANY OTHER LEGAL RESTRICTIONS, AS WELL AS OBTAINING PERMISSION FROM THE COPYRIGHT HOLDER, IS SOLELY THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE USER/PATRON.

 
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