Departments — 04 March 2022
What gives trailblazing women hope through troubled times

By Robyn A. Friedman

City & Shore Magazine

March is Women’s History Month, but an exhibition March 10-31 at the Galleria Fort Lauderdale will also honor a new wave of female leaders helping to strengthen the community today.

The event, History Fort Lauderdale’s Women Trailblazers presented by Memorial Healthcare System at the Galleria Fort Lauderdale, will feature photographs of six prominent women of today who are proponents of change, along with their historical predecessors who helped pave the way. The exhibit will include 40 images that celebrate the women.

“There are so many outstanding women that it’s tough to make the choices,” says Patricia Zeiler, executive director of History Fort Lauderdale, formerly known as the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society. “I’m really excited about this group of women.”

This year’s women trailblazers are Sebrina María Alfonso, music director of the South Florida Symphony Orchestra; Alexandra Anagnostis-Irons, founder and owner of Total Marine Solutions; Kathleen Cannon, president and CEO of United Way of Broward County; Melanie Dickinson, president and publisher of the South Florida Business Journal; Bertha Henry, county administrator of Broward County; and Carolyn Michaels, executive vice president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.

Trailblazers logo

The exhibit, free and open to the public during mall hours, will be located on the top floor of the mall in the center, outside the old Neiman Marcus store, Zeiler says. Past pioneering women to be highlighted include Gertrude Denison, a forerunner of Fort Lauderdale’s yachting industry; Ruth Dichtenmueller, a teacher, principal, vice president of the Community Service Council and general supervisor of Broward County Schools; Anne Kolb, a journalist, environmentalist and the first woman to be elected Broward County Commission chair; Juliette Lange, a mezzo soprano, musical comedy star vocalist and choir director at St. Anthony’s Church; Eva Oliver, a philanthropist, historian, suffragette and first woman on the local election board; and Lorna Simpson, a columnist for the Fort Lauderdale Daily News.

“Galleria Fort Lauderdale is proud to collaborate with History Fort Lauderdale and other vital organizations to create impactful programs,” says Melissa Milroy, senior marketing manager for Galleria Fort Lauderdale. “Women have great influence in business, family life and even shopping so we are delighted to showcase several who are now making our community stronger, with a look at past trailblazers, too.”

Sponsors of the event include Memorial Healthcare System, United Way of Broward County, City & Shore PRIME magazine, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, Galleria Fort Lauderdale, Seasons 52, Dillard’s, Goodman Public Relations, The Capital Grille and South Florida Business Journal.

  “History is sometimes not so sexy, but this gives us a chance to highlight six living women who are contributing right now to Broward County as well as introduce six women who have done great stuff for Broward County, but people don’t really even know their names,” Zeiler says. “Our mission is to bring to attention people who have done outstanding things in the county that no one knows about.”

The event kicks off with a ticketed preview and recognition ceremony benefiting History Fort Lauderdale on March 10 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Galleria Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at For more information, call 954-463-4431 or visit


Women Trailblazers 2022

  City & Shore PRIME asked each of the women the following question: The past two years have been challenging for many people. How has your experience during the pandemic given you hope for the future? Here’s what they said.


Alexandra Anagnostis-Irons

Founder and owner of Total Marine Solutions

Calvin Klein dress and Cezanne earrings, from Dillard’s at the Galleria Fort Lauderdale. Photography by Andrew Meade and Tyler Molinari.

“The pandemic has challenged each of us in many ways. One of the positives that has come out of the pandemic is our recognition that we need other people to feel whole – that sense of relief and happiness in being with a friend, family member or colleague, the pure joy in seeing someone after several months apart. That gives me hope.”


Sebrina Alfonso

Music director of the South Florida Symphony Orchestra

Asian-inspired jacket and red shell by Ming Wang, necklace and earrings by Swarovski, from Dillard’s at the Galleria Fort Lauderdale. Photography by Andrew Meade and Tyler Molinari.

“The pandemic created an incredible reimagining of South Florida Symphony operations. Focusing on what we COULD DO kept our musicians working and our patrons engaged, resulting in a spectacular virtual season. I’m eternally grateful to be united with our audiences once again. The energy shared between us is electrifying!”

 Kathleen Cannon

Kathleen Cannon

President and CEO of United Way of Broward County

Ruffled floral blouse and royal blue satin skirt by Skies Are Blue, and jewelry by Givenchy, from Dillard’s at the Galleria Fort Lauderdale. Photography by Andrew Meade and Tyler Molinari.

“The past two years were difficult, and I experienced additional personal challenges, but my mindset is to choose happiness. This doesn’t mean I don’t get sad or worried, but I choose resiliency, and I think many have adopted this as well. I am optimistic for the future and together we can accomplish anything.”


Melanie Dickinson

President and publisher of the South Florida Business Journal (photo courtesy)

“It’s made me very hopeful about how the business community can handle any formidable challenge moving forward. Mainly because despite the many challenges faced by companies, the business community pulled together, which helped so many companies bounce back, and they’re now stronger than ever. It just demonstrates why South Florida is known as one of the most innovative and entrepreneurial regions in the state – and how we’re ready to take care of business regardless of any uncertainties. My hope is that we continue in this vein and keep applying what we’ve learned in terms of helping each other to become an even stronger community.”

Bertha Henry

 Bertha Henry

County administrator of Broward County (photo courtesy)

“It took a simple phrase – ‘essential worker’ – to raise our consciousness for those who struggle economically in our community. People without an option to work from home sacrificed their own safety so the rest of us could make it through the pandemic. Treating people with dignity and respect are the hallmarks of a civilized society. Here’s to getting back to that again!”


Carolyn Michaels

Executive vice president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce

Spring paisley dress by Tommy Hilfiger, and jewelry by Swarovski, from Dillard’s at the Galleria Fort Lauderdale. Photography by Andrew Meade and Tyler Molinari.

“During these challenging times, I chose to reflect on the positives as well as to embrace and be grateful for those we hold dear. I believe the future will continue to connect us though the power of our great community plus faith and family.”

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