William A. Cox, "The Goddess of Freedom How Lofty She" (1927)

Click here to read the full text of the poem.

On a routine day in the House of Representatives in 1928, a congressman from Tennessee asked to take the floor. He had just received a paper written by a long-time civil servant named William A. Cox, a Tennesseean who cherished and admired the statue of Lady Freedom atop the U.S. Capitol so much that he had decided to record her "true history" for the sake of prosperity and in memory of his wife. In addition to chronicling Lady Freedom's history, Cox penned a poem glorifying his favorite monument hoping to engrave her image in the minds of all Americans. The poem and Cox's historical document achieved permanence in the 1928 Congressional Record.

For more details regarding Cox's history of the construction of Lady Liberty, see the final paragraphs of Journeys: Tracing the Paths of Our Lady Liberties

Today, Cox's poem may not be regarded as particularly innovative or breathtaking verse, but the sentiments pouring from its lines deserve attention as an example of the sincere significance that Lady Freedom held for hundreds of Americans, particularly in the early 20th century. Cox imagined Lady Freedom as more than a governmental monument. A goddess gleaming in the sunlight, Freedom radiated promise. "Kissed by the sun's first crimson ray," and "showered with heaven's blue," Freedom was blessed by God above, sheer proof of her destiny-- and the destiny of America--to be a vehicle of goodness, "peace and joy" (ll. 11, 13, 48).

Standing with permanence as the days rise and fall, "Through winter winds, through summer climes," Freedom also reverberates security and comfort. Looking down at us from her watchful perch, Freedom "bids/all dark contentions cease" (ll. 43, 35). As a beacon similar to the Statue of Liberty guiding ships through New York Harbor, Freedom guides her followers "through stormy night" to a state of peace and happiness (l. 47).

While today's Americans might take a more cynical view of such a monument, Cox was not alone in the early half of the century in seeing Lady Freedom, or the Statue of Liberty, as a sincere symbol of comfort and hope. The cartoon below, depicting the Statue of Liberty as a soothing mother-figure, illustrates again the degree to which Americans venerated their lady liberties. In fact, as Roger A. Fischer argues in an article on the Statue of Liberty in cartoon art, Liberty was considered a sacred image in the public mind until the 1950s, which may explain why most political cartoonists did not dare parody her until later in the 20th century (Fischer, 74).

Americans All! by Arthur Poinier, 1941 (Fischer, 71).

For more in-depth coverage of American cartoons, see Ian Finseth, Rita Dove, "Lady Freedom Among Us" (1993)