Historical Village Celebrates Women’s History Month with Exhibit

March 1, 2018 – The Sanibel Historical Village is proud to honor some of the women who made history on Sanibel during Women’s History Month. In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month to honor the extraordinary achievements of American women.

A different female Sanibel pioneer will be featured in each of the village’s nine buildings. Some of the women highlighted are:

Mary Dos Santos Bowen


Mary Dos Santos Bowen

Mary, a native of Trinidad, traveled to Sanibel in 1887 with her husband and two children. She was married to Oliver Bowen, a Confederate veteran. When it came time to homestead, Mary had to be the homesteader, because no one who bore arms against the United States was allowed to homestead. Together they ran and worked their 80-acre farm, growing vegetables for northern markets. Mary soon became the farmer, as Oliver had become eccentric and spent most of his time in a hammock strung between two palm trees over his well. In 1894, at his request, he was buried in this well. After Oliver died, an older Bowen son from a prior marriage showed up to claim his inheritance – Mary’s homestead. He sent Mary and her then-four-year-old son packing back to Trinidad. He sent the other children to a northern relation, and then leased out the farmland.

Elinor Dormer


Elinor Dormer

A conservationist dedicated to the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, Dormer helped formulate the historical preservation section of Sanibel’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. She was instrumental in getting the Sanibel Lighthouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places. After the toll bridge was built, Dormer worked to preserve the island’s historical buildings and helped form the city’s Historical Preservation Committee. This group was the power behind the formation of the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village in 1984. Dormer authored “The Seashell Islands” in 1987 after interviews with island families and research into the origins of the island’s history. Her book has long been considered the quintessential book on the history of Sanibel. Dormer’s parents, Ross and Daisy Mayer, built the Sears kit home Shore Haven, in 1924 that now serves as the museum’s welcome center.

Learn more about the women who built Sanibel during the Sanibel Historical Village’s Women’s History Month exhibit in March.

The Sanibel Historical Village is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Full guided tours take place at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at no additional charge, depending on docent availability. The village is located at 950 Dunlop Road (next to BIG ARTS) and there is handicap access to the buildings. Admission is $10 for adults over 18. Members and children are free. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.sanibelmuseum.org or call (239) 472-4648.