Pioneer Woman Statue

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  • Executed in 1929 by English-born sculptor Bryant Baker (1881-70), the Pioneer Woman Statue is located at 14th and Highland, adjacent to the Pioneer Woman Museum in Ponca City. According to its dedicatory plaque, Pioneer Woman was created “in appreciation of the heroic character of the women who braved the dangers and endured the hardships incident to the daily life of the pioneer and homesteader in this country.” The twelve-thousand-pound, seventeen-foot-tall, cast-bronze statue stands atop pyramidal Silverdale, KS. quarry-stone base. The entire presentation rises to forty feet. Depicted are a woman, Bible under her arm, leading her young son bravely, confidently into the future.

    In 1926-30 E. W. Marland, wealthy oil man and future governor of Oklahoma (1935-39), developed the project. In 1926-27 Marland, in cooperation with a New York gallery, held a competition for the statue’s design. Twelve prominent sculptors, including A. Stirling Calder, James Earle Fraser, Maurice Sterne, and H. A. MacNeil, were invited to prepare models. Each received a brief, written description of the concept, two authentic sunbonnets, and a $10,000 fee. In 1927 the gallery unveiled the models and toured them to New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Dallas, Fort Worth, Oklahoma City, and Ponca City; at all venues the public voted. More than 750,000 votes were cast, and Bryant Baker’s model, titled “Confidence,” won the commission and a $100,000 prize (MacNeil’s entry scored second place).

    Lydie and E.W. Marland admire the Pioneer Woman Statue prior to its installation on the stone base.

    On April 22, 1930, Pioneer Woman was dedicated at its permanent site in Ponca City. Forty thousand guests listened to humorist Will Rogers pay tribute to all pioneers, but especially those of Oklahoma. President Herbert Hoover and Oklahoma-born Secretary of War Patrick J. Hurley spoke by broadcast from the nation’s capital.

    Marland presented the Pioneer Woman Statue and the land surrounding it to the State of Oklahoma and her people.

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