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Expect to see someone new at the Idaho Capitol. But why does she have so many shoes?

Posted at 5:02 PM, Dec 13, 2022

BOISE, Idaho — Those walking by the Idaho Capitol should expect to see a new resident out on the lawn. She’s brought along a lot of shoes and even more history. The bronze statue, dubbed the “Spirit of Idaho Women,” is intended to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

The 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote was adopted on Aug. 18, 1920, though Idaho historians at the event reminded the crowd that Idaho was 24 years ahead of the curve when it became the fourth state to give women voting rights in 1896. The statue was unveiled at a ceremony Monday afternoon that began with speeches in the Idaho Capitol and ended on the front lawn. Government officials, Idaho State Historical Society leaders and others involved in the project pulled a sheet off to reveal the artwork to the public for the first time.

Idaho Capitol Suffrage Statue

The speakers detailed the history of female voting rights in Idaho. First Lady Teresa Little noted that when Lewis and Clark asked their expedition party to decide where they should camp for the winter of 1805, Sacajawea was given an equal vote.

“Sacajawea’s birthplace was in Lemhi County and thus I submit that, especially in terms of the vote, Idaho women have been leading since 1805,” said Teresa Little, whose great-great-grandfather voted in favor of women’s suffrage in the Idaho Legislature. “The efforts of women have truly made Idaho and the entire nation a better place to live,” Brad Little said.

The Idaho State Historical Society, in partnership with the Foundation for Idaho History and the Idaho Commission on the Arts, spent more than two years working to make this moment happen. They raised $160,000 in private donations from nearly 200 people.

WHAT DOES THE STATUE REPRESENT?

The artwork was created by local artist Irene Deely, who said the statue depicts a nameless woman who represents the past, present and future generations of Idaho women. The statue’s hair and clothes are fashioned in a Hellenistic style similar to that of the woman depicted on the Idaho seal. Designed by Boisean Emma Edwards Green in 1891, it is the only state seal created by a woman. Around her hips is a steel belt, which Deely said is a nod to Proverbs 31:17: “She girds her loins with strength.” The woman walks in the footsteps of all the women who have come before, symbolized by a line of 12 shoes stretching behind her.

Each shoe is a bronze cast of a pair in the Idaho State Historical Society’s collection. The line begins with a pair of beaded moccasins and ends with a pair of Converse. The woman is shown holding one of her own shoes in an outstretched hand as she offers it to future generations. “Though the shoes we are given may cause a few blisters at the start, I for one am grateful I didn’t cast mine aside too soon,” Deely said. “What will you do?” Donations are still being accepted through the end of the year and a plaque with donors’ names will be added to the statue in the spring.