Who was Florence E. Clay Higginbotham?

Florence Higginbotham
Florence Elizabeth Higginbotham, wearing a fur-trimmed coat, circa 1900. P19179.

Born in Virginia in 1893, Florence E. Clay Higginbotham made Nantucket her home. After formally training at the Boston Cooking School, she arrived on island in 1911 to work as summer staff in ‘Sconset. In 1920, she was hired to manage the Underhill Cottages in the village, where she lived with owner Evelyn Underhill. She purchased the historic Seneca Boston home in the New Guinea neighborhood closer to town, which she used for rental income.

After the stock market crash of 1929, Higginbotham moved to the Boston house permanently, with her former employer Underhill in tow. In 1933, she purchased the adjoining historic African Meetinghouse, which she also rented out for storage and, once, as a studio.

Higginbotham lived at the Boston house until her death in 1972. Her son, Wilhelm, retained ownership of the house until it was sold to the Museum of African American History (MAAH) in 1989. The MAAH has recently completed an award-winning restoration of both properties, ensuring her legacy.


The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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