A Woman to Know: Florence Martus

These sailors have heard of the waving girl from their fathers and grandfathers in faraway ports and villages. — river pilot Michael Foran

(image via Georgia Historical Society)


Where I grew up, the "waving girl" is something of a legend.

From 1887 to 1931, Florence Martus greeted ships coming into the port of Savannah, Ga. Locals said she waved to each sailor hoping one would be her lost love returning from sea; others said the shock of a broken heart left her a tad "touched in the head"; others wondered if she was waving (a wide white handkerchief in the morning; a lantern aglow in the dark) as a show of Southern hospitality.

Sailors told her story around the world: "Watch for the waving girl" became its own maritime legend. Today, a statue of Florence stands on the riverfront, where she can wave to sailors for all time.

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