By Nancy Guthrie, Mary B. Guthrie, and Rosalind Routt Schliske
This year, three noteworthy events occurred in Wyoming—the celebration of the 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the designation of 2019 as the “Year of Wyoming Women,” and the reopening of the newly renovated Wyoming Capitol.
The July 10 celebration of the reopening of the Wyoming Capitol was an extraordinary event. Wyoming residents are rightfully proud of the fine work done on that special building.
However, the project is not finished because the heroic bronze statue of Esther Hobart Morris, the “Mother of Women’s Suffrage in Wyoming” and first woman justice of the peace in the world, has been banished to the basement connector between the Capitol and Herschler Building.
It is unfortunate that the statue was not restored to its proper place in front of the Capitol.
Since 1963, the large statue of Mrs. Morris has been a reminder to all who visited the Capitol that Wyoming was the first governmental entity in the world to grant women the right to vote and to hold public office.
We have driven by the Capitol thousands of times and have been thrilled to see the statue of Morris, an important reminder of Wyoming’s history and the strong women who settled this state. Regardless of the time of day or weather conditions, visitors posed with and took photos of the imposing statue while marveling at the historic 1869 decision to give women the right to vote.
The state is missing an opportunity to educate visitors about our history and the accomplishments of Esther Hobart Morris and other Wyoming women pioneers. It is shortsighted to consign her statue and all it symbolizes to the basement of a state office building that is only open during business hours on weekdays.
We respect the hard work and dedication of the members of the committee that oversaw the Capitol renovation. Indeed, they are to be commended. But the decision to remove our Esther from the front of the Capitol should be revisited.
While we have heard several reasons for the statue’s removal, including fear of vandalism and aesthetics, these concerns can be addressed by experts.
In this “Year of Wyoming Women,” it would be fitting to celebrate Wyoming women by moving Esther back outside the Capitol where she belongs so that everyone who sees her would be reminded about Wyoming’s contribution to women’s rights.
We are not the only people who would like to see the statue moved outside. Many have expressed the view to us that Esther should be visible to all at all times.
The Capitol is lovingly referred to as “the People’s House.” State leaders should listen to and address the concerns of Wyoming people who treasure its rich history.
LET’S BRING ESTHER HOME.
(Note: Nancy Guthrie, a retired state district court judge, was Wyoming’s first female county attorney. Mary B. Guthrie was the first woman to serve as Cheyenne City Attorney. Rosalind Routt Schliske is professor emeritus of mass media at Laramie County Community College, where she taught journalism for 40 years. As members of the Cheyenne League of Women Voters, Mary and Rosalind co-wrote the play marking Wyoming’s 150th anniversary of women’s suffrage and performed it at the grand reopening of the Wyoming Capitol on July 10.)