RICHMOND – Sculpting has begun on a statute of Mary Draper Ingles, one of the New River Valley’s most famous frontier heroines, to be placed at the state capitol among other notable women from the Commonwealth’s history.
“Just in time to celebrate Women’s History Month in March, the statues of Laura Copenhaver, Mary Draper Ingles and Elizabeth Keckly have been fully funded and commissioned to be sculpted into bronze statues for Voices from the Garden: The Virginia Women’s Monument,” according to information released by the Virginia Capitol Foundation.
The Virginia Women’s Monument is the first of its kind, billed as the “nation’s first monument created to showcase the remarkable women who made significant, but often unrecognized, contributions in a variety of fields and endeavors over the 400-year history of Virginia.”
Once completed, the monument will include 12 bronze statues, along with a Wall of Honor inscribed with the names of 230 women, and “will help tell the whole story about the diversity of achievement, ethnicity and thought that has shaped the Commonwealth,” according to the Foundation.
“As a society, we have a responsibility to ensure that women’s stories are embedded into the narrative of Virginia history,” said Mary Margaret Whipple, vice chair of the Women’s Monument Commission. “The Virginia Women’s Monument will provide a unique opportunity to explore and experience the powerful role that these female trailblazers played in the past, serving as an inspiration for current and future generations to find their own voice.”
The first four statues of Cockacoeske, Anne Burras Laydon, Virginia Randolph and Adèle Clark were commissioned last year and now the likenesses of Copenhaver, Ingles and Keckly are underway. Ingles and her cohorts were significant figures in the state’s history.
Ingles is known as one of Virginia’s most famous frontierswomen and has significant ties to the New River Valley, specifically the Blacksburg and Radford areas. She lived in Draper’s Meadow, now Blacksburg, and in 1755, she was “captured by Shawnee Indians and taken to Ohio where she was forced to sew shirts for the men of the tribe,” according to the Virginia Capitol Foundation. “ She eventually escaped and traveled five or six hundred miles back to her home, much of it by walking across the rugged, mountainous landscape. Her brave, inspiring story is still shared and reenacted to this day.”
Ingles resided in the City of Radford following her return home and operated Ingles Ferry and Ingles Tavern along the banks of the New River along with her husband. A replica of the couple’s log home is on the private property of a direct Ingles descendant in Radford and the origial tavern building still exists, also on the private property of another direct Ingles decendant, on the Pulaski COuntry side of the New River. The ferry operated between the two properties.
Copenhaver was an entrepreneur from Smyth County in Southwest Virginia and was an early leader within the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.
“Working from her home, Rosemont, she coordinated the production of coverlets, rugs and other household items that were made with wool from area farms and crafted by local women,” states the Foundation. “Rosemont’s popular textiles attracted customers from throughout the U.S., as well as Asia, Europe and South America.”
The Virginia Farm Bureau Federation has contributed $100,000 to support Copenhaver’s statue, and Altria Group contributed $50,000.
Keckly was born enslaved in Dinwiddie County and was a talented seamstress who bought her freedom in 1855 with the help of patrons.
“After moving to Washington, D.C., she developed a clientele of prominent women and came to the attention of Mary Todd Lincoln, eventually becoming the First Lady’s personal dressmaker and confidante,” according to the Foundation. “She wrote a book of her experiences in the White House. In the 1890s, she taught sewing and domestic arts at Wilberforce University in Ohio. Keckly died at the National Home for Destitute Colored Women and Children in Washington, D.C., an entity that she helped establish.”
Each statue required a financial investment of $200,000 in order to proceed to the sculpting phase, which is being completed by a team of artisans at StudioEIS in Brooklyn, N.Y. The remaining five statues are partially funded and will be commissioned as contributions become available.
The Virginia Women’s Monument is scheduled to have a formal dedication on Oct. 14, 2019. Most of the bronze statues will be installed by that time, and the granite plaza and the Wall of Honor were unveiled in October 2018. The Wall of Honor includes significant space available for the names of more historically-notable women to be added in the future.
“We are so excited that more than half of the statues in the Virginia Women’s Monument have been commissioned and it won’t be long before these remarkable women take their rightful place on Capitol Square,” said Susan Clarke Schaar, Clerk of the Senate and a member of the Women’s Monument Commission. “No other state in the country has recognized women’s contributions in such an engaging and compelling manner. We appreciate the generous support of individuals, corporations and foundations that are making this monument possible.”
For more information or to make a contribution to the Virginia Women’s Monument, visit www.virginiacapitol.gov. Contributions can be designated for a particular statue by making a note in the Additional Comments box.
The Virginia Capitol Foundation is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan, tax-exempt organization supporting the ongoing restoration, preservation, and interpretation of the Virginia Capitol, Capitol Square and Executive Mansion. For more information about the Virginia Capitol Foundation or the Virginia Women’s Monument, visit www.virginiacapitol.gov.