A little-known Kentucky woman will soon receive some of the credit she deserves.
Pioneer educator Nettie Depp was a teacher and principal in Barren County; she was elected school superintendent in 1913, seven years before women won the right to vote. The win made her the first woman to be elected to public office in Kentucky.
Officials announced Wednesday a new statue would be installed at the state capital to honor Depp.
The statue will be created by sculptor Amanda Matthews, who has worked to make the statue a reality for years. It is expected to be installed on Aug. 21, 2021.
“It’s a wonderful moment for all women and girls in Kentucky because this is going to be brand new for the state of Kentucky,” Matthews said. “I think (Depp) has been overlooked, but more importantly I think she serves a proxy for a lot of other women who have also been overlooked.”
As school superintendent, Depp oversaw nearly 100 segregated community school districts in Barren County. Her responsibilities went beyond curricula and managing teachers to include constructing and maintaining facilites, coping with poor roads, managing resources and public relations.
She also advocated for fair teacher pay, writing in her regular newspaper column:
“Now, I can tell you why I place the schools first. It is this: We teachers take the children and teach them twenty days in the month for a little more than fifty-five cents each. Shame on you and all the rest of that class that would place higher value upon the sheep industry than you do upon the education of your people!”
Depp also worked to improve the living conditions of black children in her county and advocated for women’s suffrage.
At a time when much of the news is negative, the prospect of erecting a statue to honor a hard-working, ground-breaking Kentucky woman is uplifting. The move shows Kentucky is willing to acknowledge the contributions of its women and to hold them up as an inspiration and example to future generations of women in the commonwealth.