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Honoring Lily Lawrence Bow: Librarian, Poet and Police Officer in Celebration of Women’s History Month


Portrait of Lily Lawrence Bow

Born in 1870, Lily Lawrence Bow moved to Florida in 1900 alongside her husband Richard. In 1904, Bow relocated to Cudjoe Key and later settled in the City of Homestead with her two children, where she lived in a log cabin at the intersection of Second Avenue and Avocado Drive.

Bow, a true community advocate, was appointed as Chair of the Library Committee for the Women’s Club of Homestead in 1920. Shortly after, the Women’s Club transformed into a public library and grew in popularity. During President Roosevelt’s administration in the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) program, along with land donations, facilitated the construction of a permanent home for the library in 1939. Located at 212 Northwest 1st Avenue in Homestead, Florida, the library was designed by local Florida City architect Clarence J. Parman. It was constructed with native oolitic limestone and hand-hewn pine timbers, showcasing a unique blend of materials and construction techniques.

Bow assumed the role of the first librarian once the construction of the library was complete. However, due to the absence of a designated librarian position within the City of Homestead, Bow found herself appointed as a police officer instead. This dual role showcased her versatility and commitment to community service.

Between January 1975 - 1980, the library was operated by the Metro-Dade County Library System. In the following years, the building experienced periods of vacancy and the City of Homestead subsequently leased the building to a non-profit organization. On August 5, 1996, the Lily Lawrence Bow Library, as it is now known, was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Currently, the building serves as the Community Redevelopment Agency for the City of Homestead.

Current building

Bow was not only a librarian and a police officer, but also a poet. She accepted the role of editor for the Pirate’s Gold column in The Redland District News, a Homestead newspaper from the 1930s. In this capacity, she selected poetry from a variety of authors and regularly featured her own poems at the end of each column, contributing to the enrichment of literary appreciation within the community.

The Miami-Dade Public Library System’s Special Collections and Archives holds a scrapbook compilation of several Pirate’s Gold newspaper columns. The scrapbook was recently digitized and is now available as part of our Digital Collections in the “Rare Book, Manuscript and Print Selections” section. To view the scrapbook and read more of Bow’s poems, click here.