Friday, March 25, 2011

Pioneer Woman at Texas Women's University

I release the contents of this article under the CC-By-SA and GFDL licenses, initially to be used in wikipedia, but also anywhere else. I am going to leave my references in, formatted for wikipedia and let us see what happens. I would like to thank Ann Barton, librarian, archivist and friend for her help on the article.

Pioneer Woman (Friedlander)
The '''Pioneer Woman''' statue is a significant work of art created by sculptor Leo Friedlander. It is located at the Texas Woman's University (TWU) in Denton, Texas and was commissioned as part of the the Texas Centenary celebrations.

On June 3, 1935 the Board of Regents at TWU passed a resolution stating that it urged "the Centennial Commission of Control to allocate the sum of $30,000 for the erection of a statue to the Pioneer Women of Texas to be erected on the campus as a part of the Centennial celebration. The idea for this statue originated with this institution, and . . . . . . the erection of this statue on the cam,pus will serve the women of the entire State, and will inspire their daughters to continued reference for the heroism and sacrifice of the pioneer women of the past who helped to make the Texas of the present." Board of Regents meeting, June 3, 1935, Book 32, page 44

University President L.H. Hubbard, proposed the a statue to the Centennial Commission who agreed and responded by announcing an open competition for sculptors to design the statue. However "the design of the statue, including the choice of the sculptor, the design, etc, were to be handled under the direction of the State Board of Control, and that the College had nothing whatever to do with the matter." The Board at that time had to be satisfied with recommending a site on campus where the statue would be placed. Board of Regents meeting, November 14, 1935, Book 33, page 18
In June of 1936 the TWU Board of Regents passed a motion requesting that the Texas Centennial Commission "erect a Memorial Chapel to Pioneer Women on the campus instead of the Statue as proposed at the present time." Had either the Regents or the members of the Centennial Commission known what lay ahead they might well have agreed to this request, and as it turned out, the university did eventually get its chapel, the Little Chapel in the Woods, designed by architect O'Neil Ford. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt spoke at its dedication in 1939. By October 1936 plans for the statue were moving forward by "inviting a group of leading American sculptors, about 80 in number, to submit photographs of their of their work and from this group several sculptors are to be chosen who will be required to submit models of the proposed statue to the Centennial Commission of Control and if the first model submitted is not acceptable other models will be submitted until an accepted group is submitted." Board of Regents meeting, October 3, 1936, Book 34, page 4 Foreshadowing if ever there was.

Among the artists who entered the competition was the Texas sculptor Waldine Tauch, who entered seven different competitions conducted by the Commission. She was to win three of them (memorials to Moses Austin, Isaac and Frances Van Zandt and First Shot Fired For Texas Independence monument) but she was not able to garner the Pioneer Woman statue. However she was to play a part in the ensuing drama.

One of the unique things about Tauch's model is it is the only Pioneer Woman statue I've identified where what appears to be the oldest or only child of the Pioneer is a girl.

It is not yet clear how many plaster models were submitted, but a "jury of professionals" unanimously chose the one submitted by William Zorach, a sculptor from New York, which included not just a pioneer woman, or a woman and child as did Tauch's model, but the entire family, mother, father, son and daughter. And they were all nude. Thurman, Nita, ''Original TWU pioneer statue caused a statewide hoopla'', Denton Record-Chronicle, February 15, 2006

Nudity was seen, by some, as being appropriate for Classical, allegorical or symbolical portrayals but was unacceptable for Texas pioneer women. Upon learning of the commission's decision Tauch "wasted no time telephoning and writing letters to many friends throughout the state to report the incident." Hutson, Alice, ‘’From Chalk to Bronze: A Biography of Waldine Tauch,’’ Shoal Creek Publishers, Austin, TX 1978 pp. 96-97
"Anguished protests from Texans swelled into a controversy dwarfing all previous ones (in Zorach's career). One astute observer noted the woman had no wedding ring .... while a chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas declared it, 'the greatest insult that could be offered to these women who believed and practiced the virtue of modesty' ."Baur, John I., ‘’William Zorach’’, Published for the Whitney Museum of American Art by Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 1959 p.33

Zorach wrote "The newspapers said that if a Texas pioneer had gone around in such a state of nudity he would have been strung to the nearest tree. ... Gutzon Borglum was down there at the time and I was told that he said my figures looked like a bunch of apes,'' a remark that was widely quoted by opponents of the statue at the time.
Richard Foster Howard, then director of the Dallas Museum of Art defended Zorach Baur, John I., ‘’William Zorach’’, Published for the Whitney Museum of American Art by Frederick A. Praeger, New York, 1959 p. 33 and the sculptor went so far as to revise his model so that the figures were clothed ''Here's What All the Row Was About'', Lasso, August 5, 1938 , but the damage had been done.
It did not take long for the public outcry to induce the commission to reverse its decision, to declare that there was no winner of the competition. "The commission was given quietly and without publicity to Leo Friedlander, a sculptor who had not ever entered the competition. " Hutson, Alice, ‘’From Chalk to Bronze: A Biography of Waldine Tauch,’’ Shoal Creek Publishers, Austin, TX 1978 pp. 96-97

The statue was modeled, and then following it's approval by the various committee's in Texas, carved by the Piccirilli Brothers in New York City. Little, Carol Morris, ‘’A Comprehensive Guide to Outdoor Sculpture in Texas’’, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas 1996 p. 195 At some point in the carving process someone, either Friedlander or the Piccirilli carvers became concerned that the statues right hand and her right thumb and fore finger might be too weak to be self-supporting, so a small block of marble was left to add strength. Often such aids are removed in the works final carving, they were not in this case.

On another side of the base the carvers included Leo Friedlander's name.

For the base of the statue the Dean of Women, Jessie H. Humphries, composed the following inscription:

"Marking a trail in a pathless wilderness pressing forward with unswerving courage she met each untried situation with a resourcefulness equal to the need. With a glad heart she brought to her frontier family her homelands cultural heritage. With delicate spiritual sensitiveness she illuminated the dullness of routine and the loneliness of isolation with beauty and with life abundant and with all she lived with casual unawareness of her value to civilization. Such was the pioneer woman. The unsung saint of the nations immortals." Jones, William Moses, ‘’Texas History: Carved in Stone’’, Monument Publishing Co., Houston Texas, 1958 p. 75

Years later Zorach's statue, still without clothes was cast in bronze and obtained by a Colorado bank. I "discovered" it in a courtyard of the bank's branch in Pueblo, Colorado. Later it was moved to Denver and now (2010) resides in front of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.


Dorothy said...

I stumbled upon your blog this evening when I was searching for some images of the TWU Pioneer Woman. Being an alumnus from this university I have always had a great curiosity and admiration for our statue (despite the digs that many students have about her appearance!), but never had the time to begin the research to learn more about her story. Your post (and your blog as a whole) is absolutely intriguing and informative! I've noted that I need see Zorach's work of art in Colorado in my next venture westward. Additionally, Tauch's model was beautiful! Thank you for the enlightenment!

Einar said...

You are more than welcome. And now that you know about my work, feel free to alert me to any other Pioneer Women that you happen to run into. Because they are out there.

Anonymous said...

I know i am all late but this was very helpful. Thank you.

Cynthia Prescott said...

For mothers with female children, see Avard T. Fairbanks' _Pioneer Mother_ in Vancouver, Washington, and (much more recent) _American Motherhood_ in Provo, Utah.