The Nauvoo Monument to Women: A Photo Essay


In this age when the woman’s role in society is being questioned and scrutinized, the gospel of Jesus Christ provides a clear and eternal pattern amid the confused and uninspired philosophies of men. In order to depict the Latter-day Saint conception of the role of women in the gospel plan, the Relief Society is creating a monument at the visitors center in Nauvoo, Illinois, that will illustrate the various stewardships and responsibilities of women in a series of thirteen statues placed in a garden setting. As we understand, the monument is not only the largest commission of sculpture anywhere in the world this year, but it is also the largest monument ever constructed to women. Sister Florence Hansen, sculptor of two of the thirteen pieces, believes that the purpose of the monument is to “portray to the world the stand our Church takes concerning women; to honor women and their contributions to society; and to heighten women’s aspirations as they relate to each concept.”

Brother Dennis Smith, designer of the project and sculptor of the other eleven statues, hopes the monument will go beyond mere illustration of a woman’s roles to convey the universal qualities and concepts of womanhood to which all women can relate. The monument should evoke from its visitors a simple, sincere, and somewhat reserved sentiment rather than overworked sentimentality. With the exception of the heroic-sized central figure, the statues will be life-sized and placed on eye level so that viewers can relate face to face.

President Spencer W. Kimball has announced the desire of the Relief Society that the funds drive be completed by 17 March 1977, the anniversary of the creation of the Relief Society. Although the monument is to be funded chiefly through the voluntary contributions of the women of the Church, the president expressed his “hope that some of the brethren might feel inclined to make a contribution to this worthy project.” (See Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 77.)

The monument is scheduled for dedication in March 1978. The sculpture is pictured here in its different stages of creation—from clay models to the finished bronze pieces.

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

I draw from the strength of women of all ages as I seek completeness and perfection. It is not easy to find myself: the world would pull me apart with its myriad voices, but the gospel brings all good together in One—and gives me the chance to become one with Him. Perfection is a gathering, unifying process. “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. … ” (Prov. 31:10.)

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

“I now turn the key in your behalf in the name of the Lord,” said the Prophet. The key to what? Could Relief Society be the key to womanhood itself—to all the complex facets of a woman’s eternal soul? To see the circles of a woman’s influence—in the home, the community, and with individual souls—and to allow her to develop her eternal potential is a vision sought by all the world. But outside the context of the gospel one must inevitably fall short.

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

“She … worketh willingly with her hands. … ” (Prov. 31:13.)

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

“She openeth her mouth with wisdom. … ” (Prov. 31:26.)

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

I think back to our courtship, engagement, and wedding. We thought we could see and understand our future together then; but how our perception has grown through the years of burnt pork chops, symphonies, Christmas Eves, dandelions, Church meetings, four kids—and those quiet times of just you and me. What a wealth there is in the roles of companion, helpmate, mother! The Lord will not waste our mortal learning. The pattern here is the type forever.

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

“She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. … ” (Prov. 31:20.)

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

“A woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Prov. 31:30.)

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

I remember the first time I ever played dress-up. I reached on tiptoe to pull mom’s dress off the hanger and draped it over me, one shoulder on and one off. Then, precariously balanced on size 8 1/2 heels, I wobbled in to where she was sewing. She laughed and said I was beautiful, and never mentioned that my lipstick was on crooked. Did she realize then how much I looked to her example, how I wanted to be like her in every way? It was a special day when I realized that by following her I had been learning to follow someone else’s eternal footsteps.

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

Somehow my dad’s after-dinner walks became more frequent when I started taking piano lessons, but I remember my mom’s voice through the rinse water calling, “I think that’s a B flat, dear,” or “That was just lovely, Paderewski!” I know she always hoped that I’d take ballet like she had, but when I decided to become the world’s first major league second-basewoman she smiled and tolerated that, too.

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

I used to be surprised at Grandma’s eighty-year-old vigor. When we visited her in the summer she was usually out of bed before we were, picking cherries for breakfast (“Don’t be silly, Joyce, I’m not going to fall!”), canning, quilting, or visiting a friend. As I listened to her it seemed she had had enough experiences for a proverbial nine lives. I am only now beginning to understand what she meant when she talked about enduring to the end.

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

I remember our awed joy at Lisa’s birth—to be trusted to raise such a special soul! And though our family grew fast, each child was clearly unique and created a place for himself that no one else could ever fill. Life is everchanging—Todd’s broken tooth is capped now, John’s become “too big for kissin’,” and Lisa is wearing a ring on her fourth finger—but my joy is full in the knowledge that this family can be forever.

The Nauvoo Monument to Women

Todd will be leaving on his mission in a year. I look back to his first day as a deacon passing the sacrament and remember how the water in the cups trembled under his nervous hand. Can this confident, strong priest be the same person? Now it is I who tremble with the realization I’ve gained that the power of God rests in my young sons.