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Kentucky unveils statue of Nettie Depp, the first woman to have a permanent large-scale monument inside the Capitol

By Aya Elamroussi and Amy Simonson, CNN

Kentucky state officials on Thursday unveiled a sculpture of public education trailblazer Nettie Depp, the first woman from the state to have a large-scale monument dedicated to her inside the Capitol.

“Nettie Depp was a pioneer in the field of public education in Kentucky, serving as an elected school superintendent in Barren County seven years before women were given the right to vote,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a news release.

The unveiling of the nearly 7-foot-tall bronze statue of Depp on Thursday at the statehouse drew the governor, the first lady and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman as well as members of the Monumental Women of Kentucky Committee.

“We join each other to celebrate a long-awaited and much-needed change in our Capitol,” Beshear said.

During the early 1900s, Depp advocated for fair pay for teachers and public education. Her work led her to become the first woman elected to public office in Barren County as superintendent of schools in 1913, seven years before women were allowed to vote. Depp died from breast cancer in 1932 when was she 57.

“Depp is worthy of the pedestal upon which she literally has been placed, but she also symbolizes the significant contribution of so many other important women in Kentucky’s history,” Beshear said. “She is a distinguished Kentucky public figure, and we are proud to honor her with the first monument of a Kentucky woman installed in the statehouse.”

First Lady Britainy Beshear pointed out that for too long thousands of people have visited the capitol and have seen statues that have represented Kentucky history.

“But never was one a woman,” she said. “We correct this today. … Her presence in the capitol is significant, not only for what she accomplished in her lifetime but what she represents for all of Kentucky’s women who have come after her, standing on her shoulders to become the women they want to be, not the women they were told they could only be.”

The development of the statue has been underway since 2014, and the installation was approved in 2017 by the Historic Properties Advisory Commission. The statue was sculpted by artist Amanda Matthews from Lexington, Kentucky.

“My hope is that this sculpture not only honors Depp, but serves as a proxy for other unsung Kentucky heroes who dedicate their lives to their communities in service to others,” Matthews said in the news release.

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