WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Female Activism Honored with New Statue

Sep 13, 2015

Chandler Park in downtown Macomb contains numerous statues honoring those who have served in the military.  Now it also has a memorial dedicated to the pioneering women of social activism in McDonough County.

“Facing the Storm” was unveiled on a breezy but comfortable Saturday afternoon during a nearly two hour ceremony attended by several hundred people. 

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“Love it. Love it. We’re very proud of it,” said Tina Belz, who co-chaired the Women’s Memorial Committee with Marilyn Pastorelli.

The committee is part of the GFWC Macomb Women’s Club, which worked on the project with assistance from the Western Illinois Museum.  The dedication event was held nearly one year after the groundbreaking ceremony, and Belz said it took a total of eight years of work to reach this point.

Artist Jaci Willis (center) after the dedication ceremony.
Credit Rich Egger

“Four of that was active fundraising and four were trying to decide how we go about doing this,” Belz said.

The statue depicts a woman with a girl who is holding a cat. They're dressed in clothing from the early 1900s, which was a time when women fought for and gained more rights. The bronze statue was created by Peoria-based artist Jaci Willis, who in a 2012 interview with Tri States Public Radio said the piece includes many bits of symbolism, such as swirls to represent the wind.

“She (the woman) is defiant that she's going to get through it and she's going to protect the young one behind her,” said Willis. 

The statue memorializes the contributions of eight women with brief biographies explaining their work:

  • Josie Westfall, who raised money to create, expand, and operate the McDonough County Orphanage, serving as matron for 30 years, ultimately caring for some 500 children;
  • Dr. Ruth Tunnicliff, a published medical researcher on diseases like scarlet fever, diphtheria, and meningitis, discovered the cause of measles and created the first serum for its prevention;
  • Sadie “Mother” Moon, who continually reached out to provide food for the homeless, helped mothers care for their sick children, wrote regularly to local servicemen, and became an icon of neighborly concern;
  • Dr. Elizabeth Miner, the county’s first female physician, treated impoverished patients, promoted safe childbirth practices, and became a leader in the Illinois Medical Society;
  • Keynote speaker John Hallwas told audience members they should be proud to live in a place that honors female social activists. He said few other places in the U.S. do so.
    Credit Rich Egger
  • Rose Jolly, who organized and led the county’s first social organization, the McDonough County Humane Society, devoted to the protection of children and animals;
  • Rebecca Everly, who established a trust to build the county’s first retirement facility for the elderly with funds from the trust helping pay expenses. Funds were also provided to acquire land for Everly Park;
  • Lida Crabb, who used her newspaper column, “A Day at a Time,” to promote sympathetic appreciation for others and to foster a sense of belonging while also supporting a variety of community causes;
  • Clara Bayliss, who crusaded for improved parenting and better home lives for children through writings, talks, and organizational work, and raised funds for the county orphanage.
  • Members of the GFWC Macomb Women’s Club pose with the statue after the dedication ceremony.
    Credit Rich Egger