Jean Siegfried: Gentle, steady LWVOC leader for more than six decades
Shown below: Jean with Leaguer Ann Hellmuth creating a StoryCorps/NPR, Jean marching in the Citrus Bowl Parade
The Orange County League and its activities have been so rich and vital to our community that some members have continued their commitment over decades. To salute them, the Membership and History committees began an occasional series of profiles in May with Jeannine Walsh, our most senior lifetime member, and continue today with Jean Siegfried. We salute these League Treasures and the inspiration we find in their stories, told here by Ann Patton
Jean Siegfried has been a member of the Orange County League of Women Voters for more than six decades – longer, in fact than there has been an Orange County LWV.
The chapter was known as the “Winter Park / Orlando League of Women Voters” from the day it was created in 1939 until 1979, when the group renamed itself the Orange County League, shortly after Jean served as chapter president (1974-1976).
Now she is the senior living former LWVOC president and the second-longest-serving member of the Orange County League. Jean Siegfried is, indeed, a League Treasure.
Jean moved to Orlando in the early 1960s and promptly joined the League because her mother said, “Those are the most interesting women in town.” Quiet and gentle by nature, Jean was quickly swept into the vortex of League activism, and she has never looked back.
Jean led the League in an era of daunting challenge and sweeping change:
- Her League tackled major government reforms at the local and state level and no less sweeping changes in the League itself.
- She was local president when the League launched its passionate campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment and also voted to give men the vote in the League itself.
- With the opening of Disney, Orlando abruptly changed from a small city to a major metropolis.
- With LWV support, Florida approved a privacy amendment, sunshine laws, other progressive laws, and a workable amendment authorizing Floridians to change the constitution by initiative petition – all of which would prove essential to progress over the ensuing decades.
Even beyond her League work, some of Jean’s most lasting contributions were in community civil rights.
In the era of civil rights lunch-counter protests, managers would refuse service, order the Black youngsters to leave, unscrew the tops of lunch counter stools, and sometimes have the protestors arrested. Jean worked closely with Black leaders, who recalled that Jean drove young people to protest those segregated lunch counters, ultimately leading to the desegregation of Florida public facilities.
Jean Siegfried could well represent that larger body of League members whose steady, diligent work over generations, often uncelebrated, secures the foundation for progress – revealing them to be, truly, League Treasures.
Ann Patton, History Committee
From Mary Dipboye:
"In 2004, Jean was the angel who introduced herself to me, the new kid in town, and said she wanted to join forces with me to launch a Ten Thousand Villages store in our metro area.
For the next 18 months, Jean worked tirelessly to introduce the fair trade mission of the store to her many friends, family and customers at the printing company she had owned for 45 years.
The Ten Thousand Villages store opened in 2006 and continues operating on Park Avenue in Winter Park, Fl. It is one of her many legacies."