Elaine Gordon Biography

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Elaine Gordon was born in The Bronx, New York, but became Florida’s "native" daughter, a devoted public servant who representing the state’s underrepresented in the Florida legislature for 22 years. She distinguished herself through her knowledge of the issues, her tireless work, her compassion for people, and her passion for the democratic process. A person of the highest character and integrity, her champions and opponents alike said, "Her word was always good."

Gordon became an advocate for equal rights in 1964 when, as a divorced Miami mother of three young children, she was denied opportunities solely because she was a woman. She was passed over for jobs that were traditionally given to men and could not even establish credit as a single woman. She was a founder of the National Organization for Women and the Florida Women’s Political Caucus and quickly emerged as a savvy, intelligent, outspoken community activist, a leader and force to be reckoned with.

Elaine Gordon was determined to change the system, set an agenda and make policy that helped people. She knew that change could be accomplished most effectively from within. She was part of Florida’s constitutional revision session in 1968, serving as a legislative assistant. In 1972, with a campaign staff consisting of her parents and children, she defeated a sitting mayor and was sworn in as a member of the Florida Legislature, representing the people of Northeast Miami-Dade County. The people liked what they saw, she delivered what they wanted, and they elected her to represent them 11 consecutive times.

Elaine Gordon’s legislative activities and accomplishments were directed at helping people. She sponsored and passed legislation to improve the quality of life for all Floridians, including the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment and legislation to protect women and children through child support enforcement and protection from domestic violence. She was a champion of Florida’s 1989 hate crimes law, which became a model for the nation. She was the voice and guardian of abused children, victims of sexual assault, the elderly, the indigent and the mentally ill. She also introduced the terms "Ms." and "chairperson" to the legislature and had smoking banned in the House chamber and committee rooms more than 30 years ago. In the early 1980s she crafted and sponsored Florida’s Patients Bill of Rights legislation. She was a woman ahead of her time.

As a result of Gordon’s hard work, keen knowledge of the issues, mastery of the process and the respect of her colleagues, she ascended to the highest and most influential circles of legislative leadership that included many "firsts" for women in Florida politics and government. She was the first woman to chair a standing committee, the first female Speaker Pro Tempore and the first woman inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame. She was the first recipient of the Florida United Way Humanitarian Award. She chaired numerous committees during her tenure and earned the respected title of Dean of the House. As she accumulated legislative experience and seniority and became the House’s longest-sitting member, her colleagues often looked to her for advice and counsel.

Her colleagues in the legislature rewarded her breadth of knowledge, hard work and dedication to the people with increased responsibility. In 1986 Speaker James Harold Thompson tapped her to chair two major committees simultaneously. She led the committee on Health and Rehabilitative Services and the subcommittee on Appropriations, which was responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in funding the state’s hospitals, prisons, state attorneys and public defender’s offices and programs for the mentally ill, women and children. She was tapped for special assignments as well, serving on the state’s first comprehensive water quality committee and on a joint committee for prison overcrowding.

Gordon will long be remembered for her indefatigable efforts to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970’s. Although she prevailed in the House, her efforts fell just short in the Senate. Undeterred, she never stopped fighting for women’s equality under the law. She just took it piece by legislative piece ­ one law at a time for more than two decades.

When Elaine Gordon retired in 1994, she returned home to her family and the district she represented with distinction. But she did not retire from serving the public. She became an assistant vice president at the university she loved just a few miles from her home, Florida International University. She helped raise funds for scholarships at FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus and for the University’s state-of-the-art conference center. She also served as proactive liaison to the North Dade community, establishing new friends and supporters for FIU.

A public servant, wife, mother and grandmother, Elaine Gordon was quite simply an extraordinary woman. Her legacy will last a lifetime—she left a more tolerant, more compassionate and better Florida.

Elaine Gordon died on February 25, 2000 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, at the age of 68.

Elaine Gordon's Accomplishments:
Governor Lawton Chiles lobbied the Florida Legislature to statutorily create the Florida Commission on the Status of Women after he took office in 1991. The leading sponsor in the House of Representatives for CS/CS/HB 109 was Representative Elaine Gordon, while Senator Carrie Meek sponsored the companion bill, SB 1324. The Commission's legislative authority now exists in Section 14.24, Florida Statutes. Since 1991, the Florida Commission on the Status of Women has been fully supported by the Governor, the Cabinet and the Florida Legislature.

Awards and Honors

Historical Listing of Elaine Gordon's Accomplishments

  • The Jewish Museum of Florida - Breaking the Glass Ceiling Award - 1997
  • The Florida Nurses Association - 1994 Outstanding Legislator Award - February 1994
  • Florida Children's Forum, Chi1dren's Day - March 24, 1993
  • The Civil Rights Legislative Advocacy Award - November 18, 1993
  • "We Will Rebuild" honors Representative Elaine Gordon - November 15, 1993
  • The Florida Assisted Living Association - Better Life Award - January 18, 1994
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Miami, Stanley Milledge Award - December 12, 1992
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, North Miami Mayor’s Economic Task Force - 1992
  • Florida Recreation & Park Association, Legislator of the Year Award - 1992
  • Honored by Florida Foster Care Review Project, Inc. - 1992
  • Honored by Florida Hospices - 1992
  • The Angels of Bon Secours Hospital Villa Maria Nursing Center, Woman of Achievement - 1991
  • Women's Equality Day Award by the National Organization for Women - 1991
  • The Florida Association For Women Lawyers - Judge Mattie Belle Davis Award - 1990
  • Women's Committee of One Hundred, Trail Blazer Award - 1990
  • Florida Hospital Association, Honorary Chair for Hospital Day - 1990
  • Honored by Florida Hospices Inc. - 1990
  • North Dade YMCA - Children's Advocate of the Year Award - 1990
  • Miami-Dade Community College, CHANGE CENTER - Woman of Strength and Vision Award - 1990
  • Hadassah, Miami Region - Woman of the Year - 1990
  • American Association of University Women - The Phoenix Award - 1990
  • Coalition for Women's History & the Historical Museum - 1990
  • Anti-Defamation League - Leonard L. Abess Humanitarian Award - 1990
  • The Miami Ballet Society - Outstanding Woman of Our Community - 1990
  • Florida Academy of Family Physicians - 1990
  • Dade County League of Cities - Good Government Award - 1989
  • B'nai B'rith Women South Coastal Region, Life Enrichment Award - 1989
  • The Dade Chapter of the Florida Psychological Association - Legislative Achievement Award - 1989
  • Florida Federation of Business & Professional Women's Clubs - Outstanding Legislator in theFlorida House - 1989
  • Honored by The Alternative Programs, Inc. - 1989
  • Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association - Furtherance of Justice Award
  • National Abortion Rights Action League - Lady Liberty Award - 1989
  • Associated Self Insurers of Florida - For Improving Florida's Worker's Compensation Law
  • Florida Chiropractic Association Inc.
  • Little Havana Activities and Nutrition Centers of Dade County Inc. - 1988
  • Miami Herald Spirit of Excellence Award Nominee - 1988
  • Florida Health Care Association, Outstanding Legislator Award - March 9, 1988
  • American Jewish Congress, Southeast Region, Ruth Greenfield Community Achievement Award - 1988
  • Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association Inc. - 1988 Session
  • ARC Broward - 1987
  • Metropolitan Dade County Department of Human Resources Advocates for Victims, Outstanding
  • Community Service and Advocacy that Promotes Furtherance of Victim Rights for All - 1987
  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement - Crime Fighter Award - 1986
  • Florida United Way – First Human Service Award for Outstanding Leadership and Achievement - 1986
  • Florida Association of Homes for the Aging Legislative Service Award - August 1986
  • State of Florida, Department of Corrections Certificate of Achievement - July 17, 1986
  • Good Government Award - June 21, 1986
  • Citizens of South County & South Dade Council of B'nai B'rith Lodges - March 21, 1986
  • Na'Amat Celebration of Women Award - February 1986
  • Nova University Honors Elaine Gordon for … securing legislation …for juvenile sex offenders in South Florida - June 18, 1985
  • Woman of the Year Florida Women's Political Caucus - May 18, 1985
  • Florida Medical Association Inc., and the Florida Medical Association Auxiliary, Inc., Certificate of Distinguished Leadership and Support of Child Restraint Legislation - April 24, 1985
  • Project Return, in appreciation to Rep. Elaine Gordon
  • Florida State Division American Association of University Women
  • City of Tampa, Office of Community Relations, Human Rights Award - 1985
  • Woman of the Year, Florida Women's Political Caucus - 1985
  • Legislative support Award in Appreciation of dedication and contribution to the City of North Miami - 1985
  • The Florida Society of Ophthalmology - 1985
  • Woman of the Year of the National Federation of Business & Professional Women's Clubs - 1985
  • Metro Dade Commendation for Important Contributions - 1985
  • Mental Health Association, Florida Division, Maxine E. Baker Human Services Legislator Award - 1984
  • Women's Committee of 100 - For Outstanding Legislative Achievement - 1984
  • Council of Community Mental Health Centers of Dade County - 1984
  • Miami Shores Business and Professional Women -"Woman of the Year" - 1984
  • GANTT Report - Selected as one of Florida's "Top Ten" Legislators - 1983
  • Florida Health Care Association - District 1 "Legislator of the Year" - 1983
  • Florida Council for Community Mental Health, Inc. - 1983
  • Dade County Psychological Association - Outstanding Legislative Contribution in the Area of Mental Health - 1983
  • Gwen Cherry Award - 1983
  • Florida League of Hospitals - Outstanding Legislator - 1982
  • North Miami Chamber of Commerce - "Person of the Year" - 1982
  • Dade County Advocates for Victims - Victims Rights Week - 1982
  • City of Miami - Person of the Year - 1982
  • Florida Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics, Florida Pediatric Society - Support of Children's Medical Services
  • Perinatal Program and Child Health Legislation - 1982
  • Florida NOW - Prime Sponsor of ERA - 1982
  • Florida Women's Hall of Fame - First Woman inducted - 1982
  • State of Florida Executive Department - April 1980
  • Dade County Fellowship House - in recognition of leadership and advocacy for the Mentally Ill - 1980
  • Florida Nurses Association - Legislators Award for Advocacy and Support of the Nursing Profession, 1979 Legislative Session - 1979
  • St. Petersburg Times - "Most Valuable Representative Award" nominee - 1979
  • United Teachers of Dade, Tiger, C.O.P.E. - 1979
  • Association of Home Health Agencies - Certificate of Appreciation for Recognition of Service to Florida - 1978
  • American Academy of Pediatrics - 1977-78
  • Florida Association of Retarded Citizens - 1976
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation - 1976
  • Florida Association for Retarded Children - 1974
  • State Department of HRS, Division of Health, VD Control Section
  • North Miami Jaycees - "Good Government Award" - 1974
  • Dade Business and Professional Women's Club - "Woman of the Year" - 1973
  • American Biographical Institute - Outstanding Personality of the South
  • Metro Commission – Certificate of Appreciation for Community Service
  • Mayor and Commission of City of Miami - Certificate of Appreciation for Community Service Dade County - "Outstanding Citizen Award" nominee - 1973

Professional History

Committee Assignments

  • Appropriations, Vice Chair Aging & Human Services
  • Aging & Rehabilitation, Subcommittee Chair Employee & Management Relations
  • Employer/Employee Relations, Subcommittee Chair Health Care
  • Rules & Calendar
  • Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining, Co-Chair

Legislative Leadership and other Public Service

  • Chairperson, Health Care Committee - 1988-90
  • Chairperson, Special Session on Abortion, Health Care Committee - 1989
  • Chairperson, Appropriations Sub-Committee - Health and Criminal Justice - 1982-88
  • Chairperson, Health and Rehabilitative Services Committee - 1978
  • Chairperson, Joint Legislative Management Committee - 1978
  • Chairperson, House Administration Committee - 1978-80
  • Chairperson, Select Committee on Generic Drugs - 1978
  • Chairperson, Select Committee on Human Rights - 1974-76
  • Joint Legislative Auditing Committee
  • Insurance Committee
  • Corrections, Probation and Parole Committee
  • Judiciary Committee
  • Vice Chairperson, Human Resources Committee, National Conference of State Legislatures, Washington, D.C.
  • Charter Member, Dade County Commission on the Status of Women - 1971
  • Chairperson, Dade County Legislative Delegation Member, National Conference of State Legislatures - Energy Committee, NCSL
  • Chairperson, State Government Issues and Organization Committee
  • Board of Directors of NCSL Foundation of State Legislatures

Business Background

  • Vice President - Duke Industries, manufacturer of industrial cleaning and maintenance chemical; Responsibilities: Chief Financial Officer and administrative management.
  • Executive Assistant - Chairman of Board Ed Sharp, Decraform Inc., manufacturer of extruded plastic and vacuum forming equipment; Responsibilities: sales representative, assistant to Chairman of Board, personal holdings and administrative duties.
  • Stoneridge Farms - thoroughbred breeding farm and training ranch, Ocala, Florida; Responsibilities: managed breeding records and entries for race horses, administrative duties, payroll.
  • Junior Accountant - Paul F. Kretzschmar, Certified Public Accountant.; Responsibilities: audits, profit and loss statement, balance sheet, payroll, tax returns.
  • Executive Secretary - Vice President Don Witchey American Bankers Assurance Company; Responsibities: Client proposals, travel arrangements, calendar
  • Executive Assistant and Property Manager - Kessler and Hess Real Estate and Development Holdings; Responsibilities: office manager, bookkeeping, rental records administrative duties
  • Executive Secretary - L. Staples Pierce, Insurance Executive, Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company; Responsibilities: account analysis, bookkeeping,client proposals, travel arrangements, calendar, administrative duties

Sources Containing Biographical Data

  • A Changing Pattern: Women in the Legislature, compiled by Allen Morris, Florida House of Representatives - October 1991
  • Elaine Gordon - A leader Who Cares, Miami Shores News, August - 1990
  • Legislator Profile: Rep. Elaine Gordon, by William Marden, Florida Medical Association - July/August 1990
  • Politico Proud of Making a Difference, by Margo Harakas, The Sun Sentinel - April 1987
  • Gordon Gains Powerful Role in Directing Future House, by Paul Anderson, The Miami Herald - 1983
  • Rep. Elaine Gordon - A Woman in the House, by Michael Cahlin, Gainesville Sun