When I first saw The Little Water Girl statue, she was tucked in a corner of a gated entry to the library, most often littered with leaves and bits of trash that spun around her on windy days.
She's now located inside, in a prominent position, fully restored to be the water fountain she was designed to be.
But what does she stand for?
I was curious.
This is one of a handful of statues I researched in Portland ... because I was curious. It became a hobby and with each statue, I created a poster and wrote a short essay.
This is what I found:
Barefoot with outstretched arms, The Little Water Girl is a fitting tribute to the legacy of Lillian Stevens, a dedicated advocate for women and children and third president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).
Founded in 1874, to “combat the destructive powers of alcohol and the problems it was causing their families and society,” the WCTU banded together in prayer, protest, and pledge—a pledge of total abstinence from alcohol.
Battling saloon owners and eager to curb temptation facing their husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers, the organization encouraged members to install public drinking fountains in their communities.
Drinking fountains where “men could get a drink of water without entering saloons and staying for stronger drinks.”
A committed and independent Stevens traveled by carriage (along with her horse Madge) some 50,000 miles lobbying for the WCTU and Prohibition.
Ratified five years after Stevens’s death Prohibition was not to last.
But still, 100 years after Prohibition was enacted, the WCTU continues to advocate for total abstinence of alcohol, illegal drugs, pornography, and gambling.
The Little Water Girl by British sculptor George E. Wade was commissioned by the WCTU for display at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.
More than 70 fountains inspired by the WCTU initiative remain standing across the United States, Canada, England, and Australia.
Copies of The Little Water Girl can be found in Chicago, Detroit, and London.
People want to know.
Like The Little Water Girl, people are interested in your story.
But if you don't tell them, how will they know how you did it, why it matters, or how it happened?
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