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Cool Things - Agnes the Frog Costume

Agnes T. Frog costume

A fictitious amphibian named Agnes T. Frog threw her hat into the political ring in 1986. Her mission was to stop the destruction of the Haskell-Baker Wetlands.

Events leading to the creation of Agnes began in 1971, when the State Highway Commission recommended the construction of a bypass around the south edge of Lawrence, Kansas. Situated between Topeka and Kansas City, Lawrence had a high volume of commuter traffic. The new bypass was to provide a quicker route between the cities and reduce traffic on Lawrence's streets. In 1985 the city's Transportation Committee and the County Commission held private meetings to determine the route and cost of the bypass. During a subsequent public meeting, the County Commission then approved the southern-route bypass, known as the South Lawrence Trafficway.

Save the Wetlands

Though it seemed a solution to Lawrence's traffic woes, the road had a problem: it ran through the heart of the Haskell-Baker Wetlands, a roughly 700-acre plot of moisture-rich land on the south edge of the city. According to biologists at Baker University, hundreds of plant and animal species, some of them endangered, called the land home. It was part of the last remaining 10 percent of wetlands in Kansas, and contained 50 acres of undisturbed native prairie. As a rare ecosystem, the Wetlands were considered a resource for teaching area students about the environment. Environmentalists felt that a road would disrupt the ecosystem and reduce its usefulness as an educational tool.

Committee to Elect a True Amphibian

Enter Agnes T. Frog. In 1986 a group of environmentalists learned that Nancy Hiebert, a Douglas County Commissioner, was running for re-election unopposed. Hiebert was a member of the Commission when it approved the bypass route and was a supporter of the trafficway. The environmentalists formed the Committee to Elect a True Amphibian (CETA) in response to Hiebert's campaign. They endorsed Agnes T. Frog, a CETA member dressed in the frog costume shown here, as their write-in candidate. Agnes was a representation of a northern crawfish frog, an endangered species living in the Wetlands. CETA's goal was not to win the election, but to raise awareness of the trafficway's effects on the environment.

Agnes attending a county commission meeting

On Election Day, Agnes garnered nearly thirty percent of the vote. While she did not win, she was successful in meeting the group's objective. Her campaign drew international attention, including a mention in the New York Times. Decades later, the bypass remains unfinished, due in part to concerns over its environmental impact. Debate continues between government officials and concerned organizations over the route the trafficway should take. Members of the Committee to Elect a True Amphibian went on to form Save the Wetlands, and are still involved in protecting Agnes' homeland.

In 1995, the treasurer of the Committee to Elect a True Amphibian donated Agnes' costume to the Kansas Museum of History. It is now part of the museum's collections.

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Entry: Cool Things - Agnes the Frog Costume

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: September 2006

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.