Bronze statue of Nettie Depp, Kentucky’s first elected woman public servant, dedicated at the State Capitol

By Tom Latek
kentucky today

The first statue of a woman to grace the state capitol was unveiled this week in a ceremony honoring Nettie Depp, Kentucky’s first elected female public servant.

“Nettie Depp was a pioneer in public education in Kentucky, serving as an elected school principal in Barren County, years before women won the right to vote,” said the Governor Andy Beshear during the ceremony. “She is a distinguished Kentucky public figure, and we are proud to honor her with Kentucky’s first woman’s monument installed in the State House.”

Nettie Depp’s statue was unveiled at the State Capitol. She was the first woman to be elected to public office. (Kentucky Today/Tom Latek)

First Lady Britainy Beshear said: “As the mother of two young public school pupils, I am aware that who and what we choose to recognize and honor can influence the perspective of our children. I am so honored to be part of this historic unveiling of a monument to a Kentucky educator. And while this statue honors Nettie Depp and all she stood for and accomplished, it also marks a small step in honoring the contributions of women throughout Kentucky’s history.

Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman, a teacher, coach and school administrator whose office is just steps from the statue, said: “As a young girl, I often came to Frankfurt with my father to visit the Capitol and , even when young, I was struck by the absence of women among those who were chosen to be honored with a statue. My young daughter and others like her will not remember a time when the Capitol did not include a permanent monument honoring a woman from Kentucky. And as a teacher myself, I also think it’s fortuitous that his dedication comes just as we prepare to celebrate American Education Week.

Born in Barren County in 1874, Depp received her degree in education from Western Kentucky State Normal School, now known as Western Kentucky University in 1908.

Throughout her professional career as an educator, Depp has supported fair pay for teachers and been a tireless advocate for public education.

In 1914, she took over as head of schools in Barren County, becoming the county’s first elected woman official, six years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

She then served as principal of Cave City School until 1923. While principal of Scottsville High School in Allen County, her career in public education was cut short due to a illness in 1931. Depp died of breast cancer in 1932 at the age of 57.

The nearly 7-foot bronze statue of Depp now stands in the vestibule of the Capitol’s west entrance. It is adjacent to the hallway that displays the more than 60 portraits that make up the Kentucky Women Remembered exhibit, which was installed in the West Wing of the Capitol in 1996.

So far, the only other permanently installed marker in the Capitol honoring a woman is a plaque of the late Thelma Stovall, who in 1975 was Kentucky’s first female lieutenant governor.

The Nettie Depp project started in 2014.

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