HARTFORD, Conn. U.S.A. – With the help of a determined group of students, Connecticut state heroine Prudence Crandall took her rightful place in the Capitol last week.
A new statue of Crandall, a white teacher who faced racist attacks after she opened her school for girls to black students in 1832, honors her bravery and dedication.
It was a long time coming.
“I don’t think there’s been a statue put in the Capitol for more than 100 years,” said state Rep. Betty Boukus. “This is a very historic day at the Capitol.”
Until the sculpture of Crandall and a student was placed, Connecticut’s capitol building held just two statues, both of them more than 100 years old, and both of men.
The Crandall statue is in the Capitol today because a group of kids demanded it.
About 10 years ago, elementary school students at Hubbell School in Bristol asked Boukus, who was their state representative, to show them Crandall’s statue when they visited the Capitol.
Boukus said she could show them the statue of the state hero, Nathan Hale, but told them that there wasn’t a statue of Crandall.
“They wanted to do something about it,” said Boukus.
Boukus told them she couldn’t do it alone. She urged them to write letters and invited them to testify at hearings.
Leo Rausch, now a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., was part of the Hubbell School fourth grade class that first asked Boukus about the statue.
It “was important that the heroine deserved a statue,” Rausch said recently.
Rausch remembered that he was “very interested” in helping get the statue and did what he could to help. He and other students raised money in a campaign called “Pennies for Prudence.”
Boukus said she wanted the Pennies for Prudence campaign to be “an investment” for the students. She said she didn’t want them to raise more than 10 cents each toward the cause.
In the end, Pennies for Prudence raised more than $3,000, according to Boukus.
“It’s amazing,” she said.
When he learned that the statue was finished, Rausch said, “I was really happy about it.”
The statue, made by sculptor Gabriel Koren, depicts Crandall holding a book, standing with one of her black students.
The statue has two people in it, Boukus said, to make a connection with young people.
Made of bronze, the statue is hollow, said Koren, and only about ¼ inch thick. She said it is very heavy.
It is only a few inches off the floor.
Koren said if a statue is at eye level, it is easier to identify with the figure.
“I don’t want to put any sculpture up high,” said Koren, who said tall pedestals are old fashioned. “You can never be somebody like that, up in the sky.”
Gabi Smith-Rosario and Mary Majerus-Collins are Junior Reporters for Youth Journalism International.