Historic temperance movement statue the focus of Friday talk

The Little Water Girl, or more officially the Lillian M.N. Stevens Memorial Fountain, will be the subject of a discussion held to kick off Portland’s monthly First Friday Art Walk at 5:30 p.m. at the Portland Public Library.

The talk will be led by Portland Public Arts Committee co-chairwoman Alice Spencer, and the event is part of “Art in Our Front Yard: Portland’s Public Art Collection.”

Here’s a little bit more on the history of the Little Water Girl, as provided in an announcement by City Hall:

The Little Water Girl was donated to the City of Portland by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1917. At the time, the WCTU urged its members to create public fountains to provide “pure drinking water” as an alternative to liquor. The Little Water Girl was given in honor of Lillian Ames Stevens, who was the second president of the WCTU, led efforts with the Anti-Saloon League and prohibition as well as supported the women’s suffrage movement.

Portland’s Little Water Girl is a copy of the original bronze fountain sculpted by English artist George Wade in 1893 for the World’s Fair in Jackson Park, Chicago. Two other copies are located in London, England and Detroit, Michigan. The fountain features a barefoot girl with outstretched hands cradling a small cup with water trickling into a basin below and resembles the Loyal Temperance Union badge.

The Little Water Girl was originally installed in Congress Square and twelve years later was moved to Deering Oaks where she helped horses, dogs and people quench their thirst. She was finally relocated to the Portland Public Library in 1979. An important part of the PPAC’s mission is to preserve and restore the city’s public art collection. In keeping with this charge, two years ago, the Little Water Girl was re-plumbed to a working fountain, cleaned and had her granite base restored and renovated in conjunction with the library renovation. She now stands proudly in the lobby welcoming visitors to the building. While these renovations were underway, the Chicago Parks District recast the bronze statue to replace the original, which had been stolen in the late 1950’s.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.