When you think about females who were pioneers in their respective fields, the names Rosa Parks, Betsy Ross and Clara Barton come to mind. However, when the Capitol receives its first life-size statue of a woman this summer, it will be a 7-foot bronze sculpture of Nettie Depp.
Depp is a great-great-aunt of actor Johnny Depp and Amanda Matthews, of Prometheus Foundry in Lexington, who is crafting the statue, but that is not her claim to fame.
After teaching school for several years in the early 1900s, Depp became the first female public official in Barren County when she was elected superintendent in 1913 — a full seven years before women were granted the right to vote. During her tenure, Depp created the first four-year high school in Glasgow; constructed seven schoolhouses to serve more students in rural areas; implemented a uniform curriculum; added libraries and a traveling library service; and fined many families for not sending their children to school.
When her term ended, she took over as principal at Cave City School until 1923 when the Republican Party came calling and asked her to run for reelection. Depp turned down the invitation, saying that she would run only in the name of education — not for a political party — and finished out her career as a teacher in Scottsville in 1931.
Matthews got the idea to honor Depp in 2014 after reading in a Louisville newspaper that “the closest thing to a woman honored by a full-scale statue on public property in Kentucky is Carolina, (Civil War) Gen. John Breckinridge Castleman’s horse,” in Louisville.
No taxpayer funds will be used to finance the project and the sculptor’s only request is that the 400-pound piece of art be “physically carried” by women in the military and emergency units into the Capitol prior to the Aug. 22 unveiling, which will cap off a women’s march from downtown Frankfort to the Capitol. Slated from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., the march is being sponsored by the City of Frankfort to mark the Kentucky Women’s Suffrage centennial.
The Depp statue will remain in the Rotunda for several weeks before finding a permanent home on the west side of the Capitol building.
After 228 years without female representation, we say it is about time we honor the contributions of women.