The Homesteaders statue
Backstory and Context
In the 1920s, Kansas City joined other prominent western American cities in erecting monuments to pioneer mothers. After World War II, large cities lost interest in those monuments. But smaller communities turned to local artists to celebrate local history. Those local artists increasingly depicted nuclear families rather than solo white women. Residents of Prairie Village, Kansas selected this sculpture of a strong father, a submissive mother, and young baby, for the town’s new shopping center.
Real estate developers J. C. Nichols Co. sponsored a contest at the Kansas City Art Institute for an original sculpture for its new Prairie Village Shopping Center. Six students entered, and Prairiie Village residents voted for their favorite. The winning design was “Homesteaders” by Anna Belle Campbell. It took nearly a year for Campbell and her friend—and later husband—Joe Cartwright to complete the 12-foot-tall statue. It was cast in stone and marble by Ornamental Casterworks in Kansas City. The completed sculpture was dedicated in June 1952.
The sculptor knew little about frontier clothing and wagon wheels when she designed the “Homesteaders” statue. But her interest in local history persisted, and she later became the curator at the national Frontier Trails Center in nearby Independence, Missouri.
When Highwoods Properties purchased the J. C. Nichols Company in 1999, the statue was donated to the city of Prairie Village. It was placed on a fountain to mark the city’s entrance in 2002.
Howard, Trisha L. “Sculptor of Prairie Village statue remembers its making.” Kansas City Star June 3, 1998.
City of Fountains Kansas City, “Prairie Village Gateway,” accessed August 27, 2015, http://www.kcfountains.com/fountains/details.php?photo=188
Prescott, Cynthia Culver. Pioneer Mother Monuments: Constructing Cultural Memory. University of Oklahoma Press, 2019.