Shirley Webb Honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

swebbCongratulations to Shirley Webb on being honored as a Lifetime Achievement Honoree by Women Business Owners of North Florida.  Shirley was the founder and executive director of the Hubbard House domestic-violence shelter, the University of North Florida Women’s Center and the Women’s Center of Jacksonville.  “I’m such a behind-the-scenes type person, but I’ve realized that every once in a while it is nice to be recognized and have people say thank you,” Webb said in an interview with The Daily Record. Here is an excerpt from the article:


Webb was born to a stay-at-home mother and a father who worked in the commercial tire department at Montgomery Ward. A brother was two years older; another came almost five years later.

She became the first person in her family to not only earn a bachelor’s degree but a master’s as well.

After graduating from Englewood High School in 1968, she attended what was then Florida Junior College, now Florida State College at Jacksonville. She left to work as a dental assistant for five years, and loved it. Then came the women’s movement.

Webb focused on what was then called the “battered woman movement,” taking phone calls at home for the new hotline for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. The problem was, there was nowhere to send them for help. “So we started Hubbard House,” she said.

The facility continues to be an award-winning organization that shelters about 90 victims and their children a day and serves more than 5,000 victims a year.

Webb remembers Hubbard House being the 13th or 14th shelter in the nation when it opened in 1976. For $75 a month, it rented a two-story house with three bedrooms, first furnished with mattresses and then adding bunk beds. “We were winging it,” she said.

Within two months, it was full, sheltering 10 women and 15 children. “It took off like crazy,” she said.

It opened with $2,000, thanks to a couple of donors and other supporters, and then was accepted into the United Way of Northeast Florida.

In December 1975, she married Dr. Wayne Wood, and they remained married for 21 years. They have two adult children –– Grady, a financial executive, and Sarah, a pediatrician — and four young grandchildren, who all live in North Carolina.

When Grady was born in 1978, Webb couldn’t continue working 18-hour days, sometimes longer when her responsibilities kept her overnight at Hubbard House. By then, the shelter outgrew the house and was moved.

She left to complete her associate degree at FJC and transferred to the University of North Florida. She gave birth to Sarah in 1981.

At the time, UNF offered only upper-division courses. Webb was elected vice president of the student government, which also was the position of president of the student senate. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and then entered graduate school.

In 1986, she was instrumental in creating the UNF Women’s Center with $5,000 in startup funds from the student government. “We focused on some of the areas that were obvious to women,” she said, such as campus safety, education and emergency loans for books.

Her “teeny, tiny office” served women and men on the campus, expanding over time. Webb served as the volunteer director and then was hired as the paid director. She left in 1995 after completing her master’s degree in mental health counseling in 1994.

As a licensed mental health counselor, she was asked by Jacksonville therapist Banta Whitner what she wanted to do next. Her answer: Create a Jacksonville women’s center. Whitner’s response: “Me, too.”

“We provided a lot of referrals to community services at the UNF Women’s Center, so I knew what was out there,” Webb said.

Webb launched the Jacksonville Women’s Center from a house in Riverside. “We didn’t have a women’s center. We had a women’s room,” she said.

Eventually, it occupied the entire house and by 2001-02 moved to its current location at 5644 Colcord Ave. in Arlington. The center rented those offices for a few years. Webb soon launched a $1.5 million capital campaign to buy and renovate the structure.

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