Golden Gate Park
Near the Sharon Art Center
This memorial to Sarah B. Cooper was placed in the park by the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association in 1923. This area sits on the other side of the carousel from the Koret Childrens Playground.
Sarah Cooper was instrumental in the Kindergarten Movement of San Francisco. Here, from John Sweet in Public Education In California, Its Origin and Development, With Personal Reminiscences of Half a Century. American Book Company: 1911. Excerpts, Chapter XIII, pages 224-226.
Mrs. Cooper entered on the free kindergarten work with her whole soul. She was a woman of marked literary ability. For many years she earned enough with her pen to aid in the support of her family and in the education of her sister’s children in Memphis, Tennessee. She had no money to contribute to the kindergarten cause, but she gave what was needed more than money, —the wealth of her clear intellect, her winning manner, and her devoted Christian philanthropy. It was through her influence that Mrs. Leland Stanford became interested in the work and finally endowed three kindergarten schools with one hundred thousand dollars for their support. Mrs. Phoebe Hearst was induced by Mrs. Cooper’s persuasive power to endow another kindergarten school. A large number of citizens subscribed five dollars a month, each, for the support of other classes. The Golden Gate Kindergarten Association was organized, and in ten years there were forty-six kindergarten classes supported entirely by endowments and subscriptions. Mrs. Cooper’s annual reports were distributed and read wherever the English language is spoken.
After the death of Mrs. Cooper’s husband, she still continued her management of the kindergarten schools, her daughter Hattie meanwhile supporting the family by giving music lessons. Mrs. Cooper steadily refused to receive a dollar for services, though persistently urged by the officers of the association to accept a salary. Once when I urged her to yield to the wishes of the association, she replied, “This is the Lord’s work, and I feel it would not be blessed if I received pay for it.” She held frequent consultations with me about any new undertakings, and is no person living who knows more fully than myself the extent of her labors, and the wealth of philanthropic devotion and Christian self-sacrifice that she brought to the work of training, reforming, and educating the children of the poor in San Francisco. Her sad and sudden death cast a gloom over the city in which her great work was accomplished.
This sculpture is of a small child with a squirrel and cat at her feet. It was carved by Jack Moxom. According to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park by Christopher Pollock:
“A rainy spring day in 1923 witnessed the dedication of a cast-concrete pool with inlaid bronze lettering dedicated to Sarah B. Cooper, creator of the first kindergarten of the West and one of the most influential women of her time. Retailer Raphael Weill, owner of the White House department store, had spearheaded a memorial effort in 1912 when he met Cooper’s cousin by chance on a steamer trip, but the project lay dormant for several years until the Golden Gate Kindergarten Association accomplished the good deed.
The subject of the original statue, by native San Franciscan Enid Foster, was a child standing by a pool. A newer figure (shown here) was carved of red sandstone. Proposed in 1934, the replacement figure was sculpted in 1939 by WPA sponsored artist Jack Moxom, a Canadian by birth who was an architect and a painter.
“Moxom’s life-size sculpture of a naked girl with a cat and a squirrel at her ankles was modeled after Moxom’s younger sister. Moxom had no sculpting experience and in an interview for the Archives of American Art New Deal and the Arts project Moxom recalls the challenge of creating his first sculpture. “But one of the errors, beside the kindness of hiring me, was that I bought a type of sandstone that darkened to a bloody red when the water hit it and while it was beautifully flesh colored in the studio or in the shed, it wasn’t the moment the water hit it. I kind of pretend it wasn’t that bad, you know, but this little girl of six looked kind of pregnant too. And it had the typical square noses, remember in those days every nose was square. I thought there was a law about noses. Noses just came down with a good flat bridge on them. Now who did we get that from or was it my own … ?” (SF Uncovered)
Now neglected, the pool is filled in with dirt. One can still read around the rim, In Memory of Sarah B. Cooper.
This badly neglected sculpture is administered by the San Francisco Art Commission.