Goddess of Liberty

Who better to represent Women's History Month?

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by Tom Wancho, Exhibit Planner

March is Women’s History Month, an appropriate time to pay tribute to a woman who has given Texas more than a century of public service.

Though elderly, her presence is still formidable. Gazing over the Bullock Museum’s three floors of exhibitions with steely eyes, she continues her streak of seeing everything. “She” is the Goddess of Liberty, once a fixture atop the Texas Capitol for nearly a century who found a new, climate-controlled home in the southwest corner of the Museum’s second floor exhibit area in 2001.

During the 19th century, architects of official and stately buildings often turned to the ancient Greeks and Romans, then seen as the authors of great governments. The architects of Renaissance Revival buildings of the late 19th century, like the Texas Capitol, carried on a Greek artistic tradition that featured women as the embodiment of desirable societal qualities. The statue is thought to represent Zeus' daughter, Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, justice, and arts and crafts and a fierce warrior, defender of the state. 

The Texas Goddess was preceded by other famous women icons, including the Statue of Freedom, who has looked out triumphantly from her permanent residence atop the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. since 1863. The Statue of Liberty followed in 1886, arriving in New York Harbor as a gift of friendship from France. Two years later, in February 1888, the Goddess of Liberty was assembled atop the new Texas capitol building, where she resided proudly until 1985. An aluminum alloy replica replaced her atop the Capitol in 1986. The iron and zinc original was restored for display at the Bullock Museum where it can be seen today, gazing down from its prominent location on the second floor.

Now in her third century of public service, the Goddess continues to represent the liberties of all Texans, including those who came before her, those present now, and those who will share our landscape in the future.

Banner image courtesy Texas State Library and Archives Commission, 1989/090-1.

2017 Conservation Project

The original 1888 Goddess of Liberty statue that graced the top of the Texas State Capitol Building dome for nearly 100 years is one of the most significant and prominent artifacts in the Bullock Museum. A Texas treasure, it is part of the State Preservation Board's Capitol Historical Artifact Collection and is on permanent exhibition, towering over the Bullock Museum's main galleries. In 2017, a generous grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project provided funds for a specialized, comprehensive cleaning and minor repairs to the exterior paint layer by a nationally recognized art conservator. Work performed during public hours meant visitors were able to see the science and care that goes into artifact care at the Museum. Digital mapping of the statue is being used to create a three-dimensional, detailed archival record of the Goddess.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Goddess of Liberty Artifact from Austin, Texas
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