Mesa Pioneer Monument

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Pioneers in Mesa’s Pioneer Park

Update! I was recently sent some information about this sculpture by the artist’s grandchild. I’m going to add what the grandchild told me at the end of the post. I’ll put the new info in italics.

The last time I lived in Mesa, AZ (Spring 2016), I visited the city’s Pioneer Park at 26 E Main Street. Near the southern entrance to the park is the Pioneer Monument.

In an article on the website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints titled “Statue Honoring Arizona Pioneers Dedicated,” the history of the statue is told. In the mid-80s, sculptor Claude Pomeroy was in Pioneer Park and heard someone suggest its name be changed to Rose Garden Park. Pomeroy

decided to make sure Mesa’s residents didn’t forget their colorful pioneer heritage.

[T]he four leaders of the First Mesa Company of 1878 [are] depicted by the statue.

Charles I. Robson, George W. Sirrine, Charles Crismon, and the sculptor’s grandfather, Francis Martin Pomeroy, were portrayed holding the tools they labored with: a shovel, a gun, a spirit level, and a map of the townsite.

A woman and a boy, referred to in the article as well as on the plaque on display with the sculpture only as “mother and child” are behind the male settlers. I suppose this means the women and the children present during this time in Mesa’s history are not real pioneers, they’re more of an afterthought, those whose places are behind the real (male) pioneers. I supppose this means only the men and their work were important.

Did the sculptor not know of any real women and children of the time to base his work on? Perhaps he could have used his own grandmother as a pioneer model, as he used his grandfather.

Surely Pomeroy could have included female pioneers in his work if he had chosen to. The women could have been portrayed holding the tools they labored with: a butter churn perhaps, an iron, a spoon and cooking pot, a needle and thread. Women’s work has always been important and it’s terrible that history and artists like Pomeroy have ignored that work.

I apologize to the unnamed pioneer woman pictured here for relegating her to the shadows. My arm placement was rather unfortunate in light of my desire to have the pioneer women of Mesa given their due.

Am I surprised that a piece of public art made by a artist who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and depicting people of the same religion relegate a woman and child to the back of the crowd? Am I surprised that female ancestors are not given the same respect as male ancestors? Am I surprised the ratio of men to women in the statue is 4 to 1? Am I surprised that women and their work are mostly ignored? I’m not surprised by any of those facts, but I am still disappointed.

A second plaque on display with the sculpture does a better job of being inclusive. It states,

This monument is dedicated to the founding men, women, and children of Mesa whose efforts, with others of all races, religions, and cultures, changed a harsh desert land into this vibrant cit of today.

I would like to see another artist come along and get a grant from the city to make a second monument for the park. In the new monument, women would stand tall and proud next to their husbands and sons, fathers and brothers. The new statue could be called Women Were Pioneers Too, and the women depicted could stand with a butter churn, a spoon and cooking pot, a needle and thread, and an iron.

While I’m wishing, I’d also like to see a third piece of art, this one depicting the men and women native to the area, as well as the

others of all races, religions, and cultures, [who] changed a harsh desert land into this vibrant cit of today…

mentioned earlier. It’s time to stop honoring only the white people (usually men) who came into an area and made it their own. If we’re going to honor people, we need to be diverse and inclusive.

Yikes! Judgy much, Blaize Sun? While I do think we need to be diverse and inclusive in honoring people, I see now that I took a negative attitude in this post, especially against the artist who I assumed created this sculpture all by himself, with no input from anyone else. That’s what my research led me me to believe, anyway. (Also, if my father were alive, he would remind us that assuming “makes an ass of you and me.”)

In August 2021, the artist’s grandchild left a comment on this post. I wanted to share the comment in the body of this post to make it more likely that anyone who reads this learns about the artist’s true intentions.

The following quote if from Brandy Pomeroy Abernethy:

I agree with you 110% about the depiction of women in history. As a history teacher, this is a particular thorn in my side. I endeavor to shift the focus as much as possible.

With regard to this particular statue, I can tell you know that the Mormon church commissioned this art work. My grandfather was the sculptor you speak of. They (both of my grandparents) had to fight to have a woman included in the depiction, as the church wanted only the 4 founding fathers. As you may or may not know, the Mormon church is solidly based on patriarchal values.

My grandfather was a devoted husband, father and Mormon. If it were his choice, there definitely would have been more women depicted. As it was not completely his choice, please give him some grace. He did what he could.

I absolutely appreciate this additional information about the artist and his intentions. I enjoy having behind-the-scenes knowledge, but in this case, knowing the rest of the story is very important. I’m glad to know Claude Pomeroy wanted to be more inclusive. I’m sorry that his church (which commissioned this piece of art) didn’t allow him to do so. I’m happy to do my part in letting my readers know that his intentions were different from the outcome.

I took the photos in this post.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

4 Responses »

  1. It’s mind boggling that an artist would create a sculpture in the 1980s and put the female figure in such a hidden and submissive position. We need more “Fearless Girls”! 🙂

    • I know, right? Karen, you make a very good point. Not only is the woman hidden, she is a submissive position as well. I guess it’s easy to think the 80s was modern history, but I think women were just making strides back then. Heck, there’s still a lot of work to do to eradicate sexism. Things are better than they once were for women, but there is still such a LONG way to go. Yes, bring in the Fearless Girls!

  2. I agree with you 110% about the depiction of women in history. As a history teacher, this is a particular thorn in my side. I endeavor to shift the focus as much as possible.

    With regard to this particular statue, I can tell you know that the Mormon church commissioned this art work. My grandfather was the sculptor you speak of. They (both of my grandparents) had to fight to have a woman included in the depiction, as the church wanted only the 4 founding fathers. As you may or may not know, the Mormon church is solidly based on patriarchal values.

    My grandfather was a devoted husband, father and Mormon. If it were his choice, there definitely would have been more women depicted. As it was not completely his choice, please give him some grace. He did what he could.

    • Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this information! I appreciate it greatly. I enjoy behind-the-scenes history, but I particularly like knowing that your grandparents fought to have a woman depicted in this statue and wanted even more women represented. That is so great! I’m sorry they didn’t get their wish, but at least they tried!

      How wonderful that this piece of your grandfather lives on and you can visit it and see his craftsmanship.

      Thanks for sharing the information, and I’m going to work it in to the post so people will know that you grandfather (and grandmother) were fighting the good fight for inclusion.

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