The “Molly Marine” statue, located at the corner of Elk Place and Canal Street, has the distinction of being the first monument in the U.S., depicting a woman in military uniform. At her base are the words “Free a Marine to Fight;” she represents the wartime contribution women made during World War II, which allowed more male soldiers to serve in combat. Standing proudly, she was dedicated on November 10, 1943.

Mexican-born sculptor Enrique Alferez, who moved to New Orleans in 1929, and remained working and living in the Irish Channel until his death in ’99, cast the statue in donated marble chips and granite, as wartime restrictions on metals prevented him from using bronze. Alferez, who served as director of the WPA sculpture program for the city of New Orleans during the ’30s, has numerous other sculptures around New Orleans, most notably at the Botanical Gardens.

In 1966 and then again in ’98, Molly was almost removed because of continuing deterioration but successful campaigns kept her here and provided funds for refurbishment, which included a bronze wash and a marble pedestal. The latest campaign, led by an ex-Marine, has provided for periodic refurbishments which will keep Molly here in New Orleans, secure in the little area that in 2000 was renamed Molly Marine Plaza.

This Memorial Day (May 26) would be a great time to stop by and see Molly Marine and to pay respect to the men and women who’ve served and are currently serving in our nation’s armed forces and thank them for the sacrifices they have made.