Florence Gibb Pratt, 1872 – 1935
Florence Gibb was born in Brooklyn, on November 3, 1872, into what would be a family of eleven children. Her father John Gibb had emigrated from Scotland, and was a wealthy merchant who imported lace and upholstery. Her mother, Harriet Balsdon, was born in England and died when Florence was six years old. Her father re-married four years later to Sarah Mackay.
Florence graduated from the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn in 1894 and married Herbert Lee Pratt a few years later in 1897. Herbert’s father, Charles was the partner of John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil. Florence and her husband lived in Manhattan, and built their summer home near the other Pratt siblings in Glen Cove in 1902. Herbert Lee built his mansion on the shore of Long Island Sound, and named it The Braes. (It is now the home of Webb Institute of Naval Architecture). The couple had five children.
Leaders of the Woman Suffrage Movement had long seen the benefit in involving wealthy socialites in its work, and the years preceding the turn of the 19th to the 20th century had seen many become involved. The Pratts were strongly involved in philanthropic causes throughout the Island. In addition to her suffrage work, Florence Gibb Pratt contributed to the founding of Nassau Hospital in Mineola, (now Winthrop Hospital), later serving on its Board of Trustees. She also served on the local school board.
Florence was worked for woman suffrage with her sister-in-law Helen Deming Sherman Pratt. Their homes were right around the corner from each other in Glen Cove, and were often sites of parties, dances, fund-raisers – all to benefit suffrage. In December of 1917 Florence held the post of Treasurer of the Woman Suffrage Party of New York City, as well as Third Vice-Chairman of the Manhattan Borough. That same month she joined a group of delegates from New York State and traveled to Washington DC for the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
When the suffrage battle was won Florence continued to work for social causes. She was the first woman appointed as a Regent of the University of the State of New York. In 1930 she received and Honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Russell Sage College.
Florence Gibb Pratt could have led the life of a wealthy dilettante, filling her days with idle pursuits. Instead, she chose to work to make life better for those less fortunate, using her wealth and position to facilitate important changes in society.
Happy Birthday, Florence Gibb Pratt!