Jacksonville Women’s History Month Spotlight: Nell L. Cowan Bostwick

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Jacksonville Women’s History Month Spotlight: Nell L. Cowan Bostwick

Research notes are provided by the MOSH Director of Curatorial Operations

Nell L. Cowan Bostwick was born in Sanford, FL, 1883. She worked as a teacher in Orange County for two years before starting a career practicing law in 1905 in Hillsborough county. By 1909, she became the third woman admitted to the Florida Bar by virtue of her active legal practice in the state.

Bostwick operated the Nell L. Cowan Bostwick Legislative Bureau in Tallahassee, providing information, advice, and advocacy for bills in the Florida Legislature. She also maintained a legislative information booth between the Senate and the House in the Old Capitol. Her work through the legislative bureau ended the practice of lawmakers “killing” a bill by obtaining the only copy of it and hiding it (duplicate bills were not made during that time). She made multiple copies of bills on request and provided them to legislators and lobbyists to prevent the act of bill killing.

In 1907, Bostwick moved to Jacksonville and opened a law practice, while maintaining her legislative bureau in Hillsborough. She was involved in many important pieces of legislation for women’s rights, veterans, and public school systems. This work included:

  • The right of a married woman to legally manage her own property independent of her husband.
  • The establishment of the state sales tax to fund public schools.
  • The establishment of a statewide retirement system for public school teachers.

Bostwick continued advocating for the upbuild of the state and the Jacksonville community and practicing law up until six months before her passing in 1970.

Fun Fact: Bostwick was involved in the fight against citrus canker (bacterial disease affecting citrus trees causing leaves and fruit to drop prematurely) in 1913 and 1915, which threatened to wipe out the citrus industry.

Read Bostwick’s biography here.