We’re celebrating Women’s History Month by featuring some of the most influential and noteworthy women who have played a role in making our parks system the best in the country. This week, we take a closer look at the Pioneer Mother Memorial in Golden Gate Park, the only sculpture of a woman in the park.
Created for the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition (which celebrates its centennial this year) the bronze Pioneer Mother monument pays homage to the strength and resiliency of the matriarchs who watched over their families as they traveled west along the Oregon and California trails.
Located at the Pioneer Meadow near Stow Lake, the Pioneer Mother Memorial was created by artist Charles Grafly, a renowned American sculptor and educator who taught at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1892 to 1929.
In his book, “The Sculpture and Mural Decorations of the Exposition,” A. Stirling Calder described the statue in these glowing terms:
“The strong guiding hands, the firmly set feet, the clear, broad brow of the Mother and the uncompromisingly simple, sculpturally pure lines of figure and garments are honest and commanding in beauty. The children, too, are modeled with affectionate sincerity and are a realistic interpretation of childish charm. Oxen skulls, pine cones, leaves and cacti decorate the base; the panels show the old sailing vessel, the Golden Gate and the trans-continental trails.”
After being featured prominently at the Panama Pacific International Exposition, and later at the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939, the monument was placed in its permanent home in the park in 1940. In 1999, the Pioneer Mother Memorial was restored by California Questers, a group dedicated to preserving historic landmarks.
Read more about the Pioneer Mother statue here.