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Thank her for your playground

Kate Jackson, born in Tampa in 1857, is credited for pushing the city to build its first public playground.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 29, 2002

She never married or had children. Yet a playground bears her name.

Born in 1857 in Tampa, Kate Jackson was the daughter of John Jackson, a prominent surveyor and subsequent Tampa mayor. At 16, she was the youngest graduate of the Convent of Mary Immaculate in Key West. Family tradition holds that she helped convince sisters of the Order of Holy Names to establish a school in Tampa. The 1881 Academy of the Holy Names still stands as Tampa's oldest school.

Jackson's catch phrase: "agitation and education."

She built her civic profile to intimidating proportions, presiding over civic and women's groups. She helped organize the Girls Scouts in Tampa, and started one of the city's first garden clubs.

In 1910, she visited Mayor D.B. McKay on his first day in office. She told him that Tampa needed legitimate playgrounds for its youth. McKay demurred at first, "but she would not be denied," he later wrote. "Miss Jackson is entitled to credit for the acquisition of Tampa's first public playground."

Jackson died in 1940 at age 83. In 1975, the city named the community center and park at 821 S Rome Ave., the site of her former home, after her.

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