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ROAD TRIPPIN' Mount Pleasant: Pioneer Women's Rights

ROAD TRIPPIN- Pioneer Women's Rights

MOUNT PLEASANT, IA (CBS2/FOX28) - You can almost imagine the hushed voices coming from the upstairs music room that winter evening in 1869. Seven young women, attending the first coed college in the territory at Iowa Wesleyan University didnt meet to play the piano or gaze out the window at the snowy campus. Alice, Hattie, Alice, Franc, Suela, Mary and Ella came to form their own society. After discussing what they stood for and how they wanted their organization to strike a high note for the success and support of women, the P.E.O. sisterhood was born. It was the height of the Suffragette movement and because the rail line ran through Mount Pleasant, influential and outspoken women like Elizabeth Cady-Stanton and Susan B. Anthony stopped in this small town to promote the vote and womens rights. In that climate the women of Wesleyan quietly formed their Philanthropic Educational Organization. In the days following the Civil War they were strong minded, intelligent coeds who knew many did not support their views. For a time, their meetings were held in secret, with a lantern in a window or on a front porch marking the gathering place for those who knew where to look. From those seven members, today P.E.O. boasts more than 6,000 chapters and more than a quarter of a million members in all of the United States and parts of Canada. Some very prominent women including politicians, business leaders and actresses are among the ranks of those who fund scholarships and promote leadership opportunities for women. Many make the pilgrimage to the music room and intimate museum thats now preserved in Old Main for all to see. Far from the secretive beginnings, large portraits of the original members now hang proudly on the walls and the rich history including some of the stylish clothing worn by initiates and memories of social events can be found on display. Its an eye opening look at an exciting time in Iowa and those who were a part of it.

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