The Pioneer Woman statue at Texas Woman’s University — affectionately known as Minerva (Roman goddess of wisdom) by students — made her debut on the Denton campus Dec. 5, 1938. The statue pays tribute to the spirit of the pioneer women of Texas.
Her journey began in 1936 as Texas was approaching its centennial. The state set aside $3 million to restore historic forts and buildings. The money also would be used to create 15 new monuments that represented Texas history. L.H. Hubbard, president of what then was the Texas State College for Women, proposed a statue honoring the state’s pioneer women.
Artist Leo Friedlander designed the statue, which stands 15 feet tall and is carved from Georgia white Cherokee marble. The project cost $25,000 and took three years to complete.
The statue’s 1938 unveiling drew a large crowd to what now is known as Pioneer Circle. Pat M. Neff, president of Baylor University and former governor of Texas, paid tribute to the state’s pioneer women, and Jessie H. Humphries, a founding faculty member and associate dean of the college, read the words she had written that are inscribed on the base of the statue:
“Marking a trail in a pathless wilderness, pressing forward with unswerving courage, she met each untried situation with resourcefulness equal to the need; with a glad heart, she brought to her frontier her homeland’s cultural heritage; with delicate spiritual sensitiveness, she illumed the dullness of routine and the loneliness of isolation with beauty; and with life abundant and withal, she lived with casual unawareness of her value to civilization. Such was the Pioneer Woman, the unsung saint of the nation’s immortals.”