This column by Jamie Lucke was published Sunday, Dec. 26, 1993. Since then portraits of historic Kentucky women have been added to the Capitol's first floor. But the place of honor in the Rotunda remains the exclusive domain of white men, although Confederate president Jefferson Davis appears to be on his way out.
By Jamie Lucke
It might be bad form to grouse about dolls the day after they spread so much delight under so many Christmas trees.
But maybe someone, full of holiday spirit, will be inspired to put up a little money for a statue.
Never miss a local story.
You see, there's not a single woman among the five larger-than-life, marble (correction: Abe Lincoln is bronze) figures that inhabit the rotunda of Kentucky's Capitol.
The closest thing, a plaque honoring Lt. Gov. Thelma Stovall, is in the same distant corner as Col. Harlan Sanders' bust.
At the Capitol's center, women are represented by rows of identical dolls, housed in glass cases and outfitted in the inaugural gowns of each Kentucky first lady.
Even Gov. Martha Layne Collins has been shrunk to mini-Stepford Wife status.
The discrepancy in how men and women are portrayed might not matter except thousands of schoolchildren troop through the Capitol every year.
The message is not even subtle: Men are remembered for their accomplishments; women for whom they marry and what they wear.
This is not meant to demean the lovely needlework, donated by Kentucky Women's Clubs, that went into reproducing the gowns. The fashions, especially those from the 18th and 19th centuries, including inaugural bonnets, are worth seeing.
But Kentucky women deserve a statue, and here are just a few candidates.
Cora Wilson Stuart founded the moonlight schools that taught adults at night and nearly eliminated illiteracy in Rowan County in the early part of this century. Her statue also would honor the generations of ambitious, intelligent women whose only professional opportunity was schoolteaching.
Carrie Nation, whose ax-wielding crusade against saloons was also a plea to protect families from the ravages of alcoholism, was from Garrard County.
Bluegrass blueblood Madeline McDowell Breckinridge was a woman ahead of her time, agitating for women's suffrage, expanded education and better treatment of children.
Mary Breckinridge of Lexington founded Frontier Nursing Services in 1925 to bring medical care to remote areas of Eastern Kentucky.
(Since writing this in 1993, I discovered Dr. Mary Britton, a Berea graduate and Lexington's first female black physician, also an activist, schoolteacher and journalist who wrote against segregation laws. )
All these women would be worthy. But perhaps the woman who most belongs at the Capitol is Emma Guy Cromwell.
Elected secretary of state in 1924, four years after women got the vote, she later was elected state treasurer, the first woman in the nation to fill that post. Her investment policies served the state well after the 1929 crash.
She continued in appointed posts for many years, attracting federal money to state parks, preserving historic documents that had been relegated to musty cellars and espousing a life of public service.
Getting Emma Guy into the rotunda would require moving one of the men (Jefferson Davis comes to mind; after all, Kentucky never seceded.)
But moving the Confederate president would cause too much of a flap. So Marsha Weinstein, director of the Kentucky Commission on Women, says it would be fine for Emma to stand just outside the Capitol.
After all, in many ways, that's where women still are.
Memo: Frozen in time
The men immortalized in Capitol statues: Abraham Lincoln, Henry Clay, Ephraim McDowell, Alben Barkley, Jefferson Davis