The story of Eleanor Stockman and the pigs has been told many times, but it so unique and speaks so strongly of her determination to earn the right to vote, it deserves to be told again. The wife of Dr. George Stockman, who fully supported her suffrage work, she had come to Mason City in 1888, already deeply devoted to the cause.
In 1900, she was the Iowa delegate to the National Suffrage Convention in Minneapolis. At that gathering, the delegates from each state were charged with bringing something to New York for the 1901 national meeting’s bazaar to raise money for their work. What each brought was to be representative of her state. On the train on the way home, Eleanor stewed over what might best represent Iowa. In her letter to her daughter, she wrote, “It finally came to me – pigs”. Yes, pigs.
Eleanor set out to get farmers in Iowa to donate enough market hogs to fill a train car and be marketed in New York with the sales income to go to the cause. She drove to area farms – likely on bad dirt roads – in addition to collecting money from various sources to allow her to purchase more pigs. Farmers did indeed donate – not just market-ready hogs, but also money, corn, and in one case a litter of baby pigs.
Eleanor had the corn sold locally with the money raised to go with the hogs. The piglets she had auctioned off one day on the street corner of Main and State, the busiest intersection in the city. However, when she learned how much it would cost to send the hogs by rail to New York, she changed her plan. The two-thirds full livestock car took them to Chicago instead. She had the car decorated with a huge yellow banner with the image of a scampering little pig alongside the words “This little pig went to market” and the logo for women’s suffrage.
Her efforts paid off: based on the funds she had collected, Iowa was the second largest donor at the 1901 convention. The livestock car banner itself was displayed throughout the meetings. Afterwards, the woman who headed the association’s public relations wrote Eleanor, telling her that her pig story had been the most often told story of the convention with what she called “almost every major newspaper in the country” featuring a photo of the banner and relating the contribution of the pigs.
Eleanor was a strong force locally for the suffrage movement and was often an office holder for the state association. She attended several national conventions. A talented speaker, she was in frequent demand by various groups. When women won the right to vote in municipal elections, she was the first female to do so and kept working for the national cause.
ABOUT THIS SERIES: To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, Visit Mason City is sharing a 5-part series of articles about the Mason City women who made many contributions to the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Many thanks to Pat Schulz for sharing these stories.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pat Schultz, former executive director of Wright on the Park, found her interest in women in Mason City sparked when she was researching Mary Emsley Adams. Mrs. Adams was the president of the City National Bank when its board hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new building. She was also, as Pat discovered, an ardent suffragist, so active that she was recognized as one of the 24 Iowa women honored for their outstanding efforts when the 19th amendment was ratified. Pat’s continued research found that Mary was not the only local woman deeply involved in getting the vote for women. Her book “Amazing Women of Early Mason City” tells their stories as well as those of other women. Pat began her work with Wright on the Park after she retired from teaching in the language arts department at Clear Lake High School for 29 years. She has also taught communication skills for North Iowa Area Community College and currently teaches in NIACC’s Life Long Learning Program. A widow, she lives on an acreage northeast of Mason City with her feline friends, Katzanova and Charles Dickens. She also continues to be a member of WOTP’s Education Committee.