Human Flower Project
Justice in Mississippi’s state capitol wears the state flower over both ears. But did justice have a part in choosing the magnolia?
The magnolia blossom, chosen by Mississippi schoolchildren, was officially adopted as the state flower in 1952.
This painting, entitled Keeping Secrets, is by Edward Loedding
Image: All Posters
With an endless, complicated job to do, Justice reasonably has lots of equipment. Bare necessities seem to be a sword, a helmet, scales, and a blindfold. (We never understood how the last two worked in tandem. Eyes covered, how was Lady Justice to see if or when the scales balanced?...)
To these tools, the State of Mississippi has added a pair of beautiful magnolia blossoms, one over each of the deity’s ears. This bas relief carving (sculptor unknown) is a much admired ornament beneath the dome of the state capitol, built 1901-1903, in Jackson.
Adding this lush, local floral element to the depiction of Justice is entirely in keeping with the building’s beaux-arts style. “She’s so good lookin’, she looks like a man!” John Lennon would have exclaimed!
She’s also illuminated by “750 lights” bringing to mind the wonderful carvings of carousels and circus wagons around this time, the turn of the 20th century.
Mississippi’s Lady Justice, at the state capitol in Jackson
Mississippi’s Lady Justice was news too. For in 1900, right as the capitol’s construction began, 23,278 Mississippi schoolchidren had “overwhelmingly” chosen the magnolia as the state’s flower.
“The magnolia blossom received over half of these votes. The cotton blossom, promoted by the Mississippi Federation of Women’s Clubs, placed second and the cape jasmine placed third. Other flowers, including yellow jasmine, received votes as well; a total of 42 varieties received votes.
Magnolia blossom - 12,745 votes.
Cotton blossom - 4,171 votes.
Cape jasmine - 2,484 votes.
Other varieties - 3,878 votes among them.”
There’s already too much irony in this world, but we must take note of a bit more right here. Mississippi’s population was 1,551,270 at the time of the 1900 Census. We don’t know the number of school-age children in the state in 1900 but we’re sure it was a whale of a lot more than 1.5%—23,278 state-flower “voters.”
The state legislature adopted the magnolia as the official state flower in 1952. But Blind Justice had no part in that verdict.