Art & Life

Statue sculpted by first female artist commissioned by U.S. govt.

Many have seen the statue of Samuel J. Kirkwood standing proudly in the roundabout in front of Linn Hall but few may know the history of the sculpture.  

Library Technical Specialist Sarah Young said according to the Architect of the Capitol website, the statue was created by Vinnie Ream, the first female artist to be commissioned to create a work of art at the United States government. The site states, “In 1866, at the age of 18, Vinnie Ream was selected by the U.S. Congress to sculpt a memorial statue of President Abraham Lincoln. This made her the first female artist commissioned to create a work of art for the United States government.” 

Kirkwood was the fifth and ninth governor of Iowa. There are two duplicates of the Kirkwood statue, one at the state capitol in Des Moines and one located in front of Linn Hall. 

Young added the statue of Kirkwood was originally located in the Old Capitol building, now part of the University of Iowa campus. The college was renamed from Area 10 to Kirkwood Community College in 1969. Then, in 1974, the U of I gave Kirkwood the statue as a gift to fit the new name. It was located inside Linn Hall before being relocated to its current position in 2012.

Categories: Art & Life