Board votes to help fund WHT sculpture

Plaques celebrating women’s contributions in Macon County have been placed all over downtown Franklin. Guides to the Women’s History Trail can be obtained at the Historical Museum on West Main Street. Photo by Vickie Carpenter

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

Anne Hyder said she was “thrilled” that monies were allocated to help pay for the Women’s History Trail (WHT) sculpture that will eventually be installed near the bridges at the entrance of Franklin on Main Street.  Hyder is the chairperson of the Folk Heritage Association of Macon County, the 501c3 nonprofit that serves as the umbrella organization for the Women’s History Trail.

At the March 9 meeting of the Macon County Commissioners, a motion made by Commissioner Ronnie Beale and seconded by Gary Shields resulted in a decision to allocate $19,000 out of the county’s contingency fund to make a payment for the sculpture. 

“The contribution was made in memory of Barbara McRae,” said Hyder. “She established Women’s History Trail and worked tirelessly on that effort. McRae, former vice mayor for Town of Franklin and a local historian, passed away March 2 after a long battle with cancer. “We had gone to them in November to ask for $15,000, which would have been a match with what the Town of Franklin had given. So we were very pleased to receive not $15,000 but $19,000. They were very supportive and the dedication in memory of Barbara meant even more.”

World-renowned sculptor Wesley Wofford, who resides in Cashiers, has been at work on the various stages of the sculpture. Last March, models were selected to represent three important figures in the sculpture: artist Angela Cunningham for Timoxena Siler Sloan, a white woman; local singer Delphine Kirkland for Salley (last name unknown), a slave; and, Wahlalah Brown of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians for Rebecca Morris, a Cherokee woman.

“The [WHT] is about focusing on the contributions of women in Macon County,” Barbara McRae told The Macon County News in 2018, when Wofford began the process for what will eventually be a seven-foot bronze sculpture. “We fell in love with a story we learned about through our research that includes three matriarchal figures.”

Wofford’s name for the sculpture, “Sowing Seeds for the Future,” shows the Cherokee figure, Rebecca, pouring corn into the hands of Timoxena as a child, and the grown Timoxena taking a basket of corn and apples from Salley, the African American.

According to Wofford, the one-third scale maquette of the sculpture was approved by the WHT committee last Sunday. 

“This initiates the 3D scan of the maquette and the digital enlargement to seven feet in foam,” he said. “In about a month, we should have the seven-foot foam figures in the studio to begin the monumental portion. The foam pieces will be put together and have strong armatures inside the foam before the clay starts. We are aiming for the completion of the full size clay at the end of this year in December. Then the mold and bronzing process will be next.”

“Over the next year or so, an additional $200,000 will need to be raised to fund the completion of the sculpture,” said Hyder. “We’re feeling very, very positive about the process and how it’s progressing. When it becomes real, we will all know it was Barbara’s dream realized.”

Odyssey Wofford, Wesley’s wife and the studio director for Wofford Sculpture Studio commented.

“We were so saddened and truly devastated to hear of Barbara’s passing,” she said. “What a truly amazing and inspirational woman she was. We were able to spend time with her on the Saturday before she passed to show her pictures and video of the final 1/3 scale maquette and to get her final approval. She smiled and gave a thumbs up so we feel like she gave her final blessings to move on. Barbara was the vision for this monument. She came to us years ago and sat down with us in the studio with nothing but an incredible story to share … the story of three women who all shared a time in history on the same land in Franklin.

“The sculpture evolved so much through dialogue between Wesley and Barbara and in turn the maquette continued to get better as their vision for the piece came together. The messaging is so beautiful and that came from Barbara’s inspiration and knowledge of the history of the area. We are so sad that she won’t be there physically to see the final installed sculpture but we know deep down she will be there, celebrating with all of us in spirit.”

Launched in October 2018, WHT is a free and open-to-the-public walking tour that takes participants throughout the Town of Franklin to learn about historically significant women who have made contributions to and/or have had an impact on the community. Women recognized on the WHT represent education, entrepreneurship, the arts, social work, and much more. Plaques at various sites provide information about the women, and guides can be picked up at the Macon County Historical Society and Museum on West Main Street. 

Hyder added that throughout 2021 and in the future, additional women will be recognized and sites added to WHT.