In the process of creating a timeline of women's landmarks, I am discovering wonderful stories about dedication events such as this one:
FIRST WOMAN'S STATUE blared the headline in The Baltimore Sun on February 18, 1905. The place was Statuary Hall, the United States Capitol building. Each state could place two statues in Statuary Hall. To date, all were of men. On February 17, 1905, Frances E. WIllard, preeminent social reformer and founder of the influential Woman Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), was the first woman to take a place in the hallowed hall. Sculpted in white marble by Helen Farnsworth Mears, Willard's statue was a gift from Illinois. Dynamic, charismatic, and a brilliant speaker and lobbyist, Willard had expanded WCTU mission to encompass a broad range of social issues, including the right to vote.
The dedication ceremony started at 1:30 p.m. when a white cloth covering the statue was removed. The head of the statue commission, Anna A. Gordon; current president of WCTU, Lillian M. N. Stevens; and other local women were escorted to stand at the base of the statue. Then came the children who had been gathered in the Capitol's Rotunda—2,000 children, each holding a flower!
Forty 3 to 5 year olds, including a senator's daughter who was dressed "in a bewitching gown and a dainty pink hat,"and eight children holding tiny poles with streaming white ribbons lead the procession. Marching along the base of the statue, each child threw a flower upon the statue. At 3:00 p.m, Congress ceased operations (including an impeachment trial of a federal judge in the House of Representatives who was later acquited) to honor Frances Willard with speeches and eulogies. Visitors crammed in the galleries of both chambers "vigorously applauded."
Fifty-three years passed before another woman's statue was placed in Statuary Hall. Interestingly in 1958, 1959, 1960, three states placed a statue of a woman: Maria L. Sanford also sculpted by a woman, Evelyn Raymond (Minnesota) Florence R. Sabin (Colorado) and Esther Hobart Morris (Wyoming). Two were added in the 1980's: Mother Joseph (Washington, 1980) and Jeannette Rankin (Montana,1985).
In 2000 Congress passed legislation authorizing states to replace a statue. Three states replaced a male, including slave owners and a Confederate general, with a female statue: Sarah WInnemucca (Nevada, 2005), Sakakawea (North Dakota, 2003), Sarah Winnemucca (Nevada, 2005), Helen Keller (Alabama, 2009). In 2020, women comprise 9% of the Statuary Hall Collection. In the future there will be statues of Mary McLeod Bethune (Florida), Willa Cather (Nebraska), Barbara Johns (Virginia), Daisy Bates (Arkansas), Martha Hughes Cannon (Utah), Amelia Earhart (Kansas).
More To See
Although not part of the Statuary Hall Collection, a visitors to the U.S. Capitol can also find a bust of Sojourner Truth (2009), the first honoring an African American woman; a 9' tall seated black granite statue of Rosa Park (2013), and the Portrait Monument (1921), a large hunk of while marble topped with the busts of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.