Madonna of the Trail
Did you know that our local Madonna of the Trail/Pioneer Mother monument is one of twelve identical statues throughout the US? The idea behind the monuments can be traced back to a group of Missouri Women, who in 1912 were behind a resolution to Congress giving a formal name to the series of trails used by pioneers as they traveled West. It was named "National Old Trails Road." At the urging of then Judge Harry Truman, twelve statues at a cost of $1,000 each were placed in each of the twelve states along the trail.
In 1927 sculptor August Leimback was chosen to design the statues. They feature a pioneer woman clasping a baby with her left arm while clutching a rifle with her right. Her young son clings to her skirt. The first monument was dedicated in 1928.
The route extends from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, California. Our statue (the Bethesda statue) is situated on Wisconsin Avenue between the post office and the Hyatt hotel. Other sites include: Beallsville, Pennsylvania; Wheeling, West Virginia; Springfield, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; Vandalia, Illinois; Lexington, Missouri; Council Grove, Kansas; Lamar, Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Springerville, Arizona and Upland, California.
-Officials of Cumberland, Maryland tried to have the Maryland Madonna of the Trail monument moved to their historic location (at the beginning of the National Road), but Bethesda rejected the request.
-Due to the positions on the site, Maryland's Madonna on Wisconsin Avenue is the only one facing east. The eleven others face west. In December 2004, it was necessary to remove the Madonna temporarily to repair the foundation. An alert reporter for the Washington Post noted that as it was placed on the flatbed truck, the Madonna faced west, believed to be the first time all twelve have done so.
-A longstanding joke about Maryland's Madonna was that she was placed facing east because no sensible American woman would think it a good idea to turn her back on Washington, DC.
For more information on Bethesda, specifically East Bethesda, check out http://ebca.org for up-to-date information and neighborhood happenings.