At Coachman Fundamental Middle School in Clearwater, 50 girls attend a tea party dressed as historical women

CLEARWATER

On Sunday, they'll remember their mothers, but on Wednesday they paid tribute to the other women in their lives — those who had opened doors, shattered glass ceilings and paved the way for a brighter future. "Today I am Michelle Obama," said Deja Blunt, 13, donning a sleeveless black dress. "I am the first African-American first lady of the United States, wife of our 44th president, Barack Obama. I am a lawyer, Chicago city administrator and community outreach worker, but foremost, mother of Sasha and Malia." Deja was speaking at the third-annual Women of History Tea at Coachman Fundamental Middle School.

The affair honored women who made history by being "firsts" in their field or profession. The 50 girls in attendance had signed up for the tea on a first-come, first-served basis.

They dressed in period attire and shared a few comments about the woman they chose to represent.

Condoleezza Rice and Coco Chanel made an appearance as did Katie Couric and Sarah Palin. Female sports figures, astronauts, entertainers and scientists all tipped tea cups.

Jalesya Jones, 12, was Billie Holiday with a white gardenia in her hair and an evening gown.

"I'm the first African American to work with an all-white orchestra," she told her audience.

Kaitlan McKinney, 12, dressed as Anne Boleyn (the second and most famous wife of King Henry VIII) and said she was "one of the most inspirational queens of England, yet the first to be beheaded."

Maya Folan Johnson, 13, twinkled in a sparkly white skater's dress as Tenley Albright, the first American figure skater to win gold in the Olympics.

And Cayli Caruso, 14, wore an aviator's cap, neck scarf and leather jacket as Amelia Earhart, the first woman pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic.

Assistant principal Carolyn Underwood coordinated the affair.

"This is all about self-esteem, respect and decency," she said. "It's an opportunity for girls to come together and display good manners and learn about other women and what they've achieved. Hopefully, they'll realize, 'I can do this.' "

Underwood said she plans to do something for boys next year.

The school's cafeteria was transformed into a fine dining area with silk flowers, pink tablecloths, purple and white tulle and organza. Archways were covered in purple wisteria.

The young ladies dined on tea sandwiches, petit fours, chocolate-covered strawberries and grapes — all while 16 young male servers poured their tea and replenished their finger foods.

Sierra Minott, the reigning Miss Florida, was the keynote speaker.

Minott graduated from Fort Myers High School in 2006 with an International Baccalaureate diploma and a grade point average of 5.13. She said her goal as Miss Florida was to help empower young women.

"We can be the first in so many ways," she said. "Women are smart, strong and beautiful. We can be all of that."

She stressed abstinence, self-respect and determination.

"When you believe in yourself," she said, "you can achieve anything."

Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at treeves@tampabay.rr.com

At Coachman Fundamental Middle School in Clearwater, 50 girls attend a tea party dressed as historical women 05/06/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 9:42pm]

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