Some Cheyenne residents are questioning a decision to remove a statue of the nation’s first female justice of the peace from in front of the newly refurbished Capitol.
The statue of Esther Hobart Morris, which stood in front of the Capitol for 60 years, has been moved to a space in the hallway between the Capitol and the Herschler Building.
The Capitol Oversight Committee, which has overseen the multi-year effort to renovate both the Capitol and adjacent Herschler Building, voted recently to permanently put the two statues in the hallway, which is to become a gallery and interpretive center in the future.
But longtime Cheyenne resident Mary Ostlund said Morris’ statue has become a fixture people expect to see when they visit the Capitol.
“I don’t know how people can think that she belongs inside,” she said. “She’s more visible and accessible where she is and she’s been there for 60 years. People are there all the time taking pictures of her and the (Capitol’s) golden dome. That’s what they remember about this complex, the golden dome and Esther.”
Cheyenne attorney Mike Rosenthal said Morris’ place in state history as a symbol of Wyoming being the first state to grant women the right to vote makes it important to leave her in front of the Capitol.
“Maybe Wyoming’s greatest achievement in history was granting women the right to vote,” he said. “And to bury Esther Hobart Morris … in the bowels of the Capitol is offensive.”
But Tony Ross, a former legislator who chairs the Oversight Committee, said the move was hoped to give Morris and Chief Washakie even more visibility.
Ross said the hallway will become part of an interpretive center that will feature static and digital displays about both individuals and the state.
“Actually, Esther and Chief Washakie are in a place of great importance,” he said. “We in no way ever thought that moving her to the (hallway) was in some way diminishing her importance. In fact, we believed it raised her prominence.”
Ross noted the State Museum recommended the statues be moved inside in the interests of preservation and said that throughout the discussions on the Capitol renovation, no one opposed moving the statues inside.
The State Building Commission, made up of the state’s top five elected officials, will now decide whether the statues will remain inside the Capitol.