Florence Gaskins

Florence Gaskins arrived in Miami from Jacksonville in 1899. She was a widow. Gaskins started a laundry business in which she went over to Flagler’s elaborate Royal Palm Hotel that stood on what was the parking lot of the old Dupont Plaza building downtown. She collected the dirty laundry from white guests and distributed the laundry to black women who made a living by washing and ironing for the clients Gaskins had at the hotel and elsewhere. Many a black student was was put through college by mom’s and grandmoms washing clothes for white people.

Gaskins owned a real estate business and a private school. She was Miami’s first black successful businesswoman.

I saw an ad years ago in the city’s first newspaper, the Miami Metropolis, for a white-owned laundry downtown. The ad read (paraphrasing) “White Men of Miami! Who is Wearing Your Clothes? Negro washerwomen let their men wear your clothes all week before returning them to you. Be sure this does not happen to you! Use Our Laundry.”