For more than a century, American communities erected monuments to
western pioneers. Although many of these statues receive little
attention today, the images they depict - sturdy white men, saintly
mothers, and wholesome pioneer families - enshrine prevailing
notions of American exceptionalism, race relations, and gender
identity. Pioneer Mother Monuments is the first book to delve into
the long and complex history of remembering, forgetting, and
rediscovering pioneer monuments. In this book, historian Cynthia
Culver Prescott combines visual analysis with a close reading of
primary-source documents. Examining some two hundred monuments
erected in the United States from the late nineteenth century to
the present, Prescott begins her survey by focusing on the earliest
pioneer statues, which celebrated the strong white men who settled
- and conquered - the West. By the 1930s, she explains, when gender
roles began shifting, new monuments came forth to honor the Pioneer
Mother. The angelic woman in a sunbonnet, armed with a rifle or a
Bible as she carried civilization forward - an iconic figure -
resonated particularly with Mormon audiences. While interest in
these traditional monuments began to wane in the postwar period,
according to Prescott, a new wave of pioneer monuments emerged in
smaller communities during the late twentieth century. Inspired by
rural nostalgia, these statues helped promote heritage tourism. In
recent years, Americans have engaged in heated debates about
Confederate Civil War monuments and their implicit racism. Should
these statues be removed or reinterpreted? Far less attention,
however, has been paid to pioneer monuments, which, Prescott
argues, also enshrine white cultural superiority - as well as
gender stereotypes. Only a few western communities have reexamined
these values and erected statues with more inclusive imagery.
Blending western history, visual culture, and memory studies,
Prescott's pathbreaking analysis is enhanced by a rich selection of
color and black-and-white photographs depicting the statues along
with detailed maps that chronologically chart the emergence of
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