Florida's First Female Lighthouse Keeper

On January 7, 1860, Maria Mestre de los Dolores Andreu became the first woman to serve as an official U.S. Lighthouse Keeper in Florida, and the first Hispanic-American woman to command a federal shore installation. She had lived and worked at the St. Augustine Lighthouse since her husband became keeper in 1854, making her the most qualified and readily available person for the job. Upon the death of Joseph, the town of St. Augustine rallied around her and ensured that she was given the post of light keeper.

She served as lighthouse keeper until 1862, and was therefore the keeper during the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, the light was darkened by order of the Confederate Secretary of the Navy, and the mayor of St. Augustine had the lens removed and buried. There is no record of Maria after 1862, but she is believed to be buried in Brunswick, Georgia, near where one of her five children lived. 

The U.S. Lighthouse was incorporated into the U.S. Coast Guard in 1939. The Coast Guard now honors Maria Andreu as its first female employee, as well as one of its earliest Hispanic members.

Though she was a first in many respects, she followed a long line of keepers at the St. Augustine Lighthouse who claimed Menorcan descent. As light keepers go, St. Augustine has one of the most diverse groups in the United States. This is a reflection of the diversity and change that marks St. Augustine's 500-year history.

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