Commissioned by oilman E. W. Marland and erected in 1930, the Pioneer Woman statue stands at the center of Ponca City’s civic life. The result of a sculptural competition, twelve of the world’s leading artists each produced a three foot bronze of their conception of the Pioneer Woman. The bronzes toured the United States and were a sensation in New York City where they were viewed by hundreds of thousands of people at the Reinhardt Galleries and written up in Time Magazine and by the New York Times. Over 750,000 cast votes for their favorite and Bryant Baker’s “Confident” was the selection of the people. The twelve original bronzes from the competition are still in existence and since 1940 have been at Woolaroc Museum located near Bartlesville, 75 miles from Ponca City.
Three years ago, in July, 2007, I published a story on the web about the Models of the Pioneer Woman Statue that are housed at Woolaroc Museum and why "The Pioneer Woman Models Should Return to Ponca City." This year through the efforts of Carl and Carolyn Renfro in Ponca City, Bob Fraser in Bartlesville, and many others, copies of the models came home to Ponca City and were unveiled on April 22, 2010 - the 80th anniversary of the unveiling of the original Pioneer Woman Statue - and are now on display in the Marland Mansion.
When I found out a year ago that the models would be returning to Ponca City, I decided to expand on the article I wrote in 2007 and do some additional research on the history of the sculptural competiiton that E. W. Marland set in motion in 1926 to select which one of the twelve models would become the Pioneer Woman Statue. In addition to researching over 20 primary sources about the competition, another part of my research process included doing in-depth interviews with the principal partipants who brought the models home to Ponca City so I was very pleased that Carl Renfro, Bob Fraser, and John Free each had a lengthy interview with me. After all the effort at research, writing and placing the finished article, I am now at last happy to report that the article I wrote in February, 2010 about the Pioneer Woman Models has been published as a 10-page feature story in the August issue of "Oklahoma Magazine."
The article, published by the Oklahoma Heritage Association, is called "The Pioneer Woman Models Come Home" and the magazine's editor, Gini Moore Campbell, did an outstanding job of editing and laying out the story. If you would like to read the story and don't have access to the magazine, I have put a copy of the article up on the web. Just click on the link above to read it. Again thanks to Carl and Carolyn Renfro, Bob Fraser, John Free, TL Walker, David Keathly, Tom Muchmore, Louise Abercrombie, and Gini Moore Campbell who so graciously and selflessly provided me their invaluable assistance in writing the article and to everyone else who had a hand in bringing the Pioneer Woman Models back to Ponca City. Follow the link and read my article published in the Oklahoma Magazine.
Photos: Cover of the "Oklahoma Magazine" and inside story from the "Oklahoma Magazine"