The boll weevil pest originates in in Mexico and is widely feared throughout agriculturally based regions of North America. In 1892, the boll weevil migrated north across the Rio Grande River into cotton growing areas in Texas. The insect moves quickly and is known for its ability to fly large distances quickly. Boll weevils have been found 150 miles from where they were originally tagged. By 1909, the boll weevil had reached western Alabama. By 1915 the pest was infecting Coffee County, where the city of Enterprise is located. Almost 60 percent of the cotton crop for that year was destroyed and pesticides were useless to stop the destructive boll weevil. The cotton crop was a way of life for southern farmers and to see it destroyed so quickly was a death sentence for their culture.
Alabama farmers in the area looked desperately for a solution to the boll weevil that had destroyed an important facet of the local economy. Warren Hinds, a state employee in the field of entomology, began distributing pamphlets directing farmers on the best ways to save their crops from the pest. Hinds advocated for the immediate diversification of crops. The area around Enterprise had two types of soil: black soil and wiregrass. The black soil was where the cotton was grown, as the wiregrass did not have sufficient nutrients necessary for cotton. The wiregrass was perfect for another type of crop, however: peanuts. George Washington Carver was the head of the agriculture department at the Tuskegee Institute at the time and encouraged the growth of peanuts as the new cash crop of the region. He claimed that even if there was too high a supply of peanuts, the farmers could turn the excess into feed for livestock as well as milk, butter, and lard. Farmers were still skeptical of how this new crop could save their livelihoods.
In 1916, farmer C. W. Baston owed money to a banker in Enterprise, and as his cotton crop was destroyed, he gave peanuts a try in the wiregrass soil. He turned that experiment into eight thousand dollars from the banker and soon become the stuff of local legend. The crops grown in the area switched from almost exclusively cotton to peanuts overnight. The wiregrass soil, thought useless for years, had come to save the livelihoods of the Enterprise farmers in the end. As other farmers in the area struggled, Enterprise had beaten the threat of the boll weevil with diversification of the crops they grew. Cotton went back to making up a predominant amount of the town’s crop yield, but from then on, the farmers did not rely solely on cotton and instead farmed a variety of crops that diversified the area’s economic output. The monument in Enterprise is not a monument to the boll weevil, rather it is a reminder of the people of Enterprise’s resolve and unwillingness to fold to the boll weevil’s destructive path.
In the beginning, the statue was just the woman with her arms above her head. In 1949 the boll weevil statue was added. For years, the statue was the target of frequent vandalism. The original versions of both the woman and the boll weevil are no longer there. The original boll weevil was stolen by a rival football team, although some sources have suggested it was stolen by soldiers who took it with them to Korea. The woman was damaged irreversibly in 1998 by vandals. Both features in Enterprise today are replicas of the original versions. Today the fountain the woman stands in is frequently overloaded with laundry detergent by rival sports teams.