Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of May Easton (Mrs. P.J.) Mills, 1861-1953
By Carrie Dunham-LaGree, professor, Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa
May Easton was born May 21, 1860 in Cleveland, Ohio to John Salem Easton, Sr. and Sarah Augusta Cook Easton. The family moved to Iowa when May was 6. She graduated from Grinnell College in 1882. On November 8, 1882, she married Pleasant Jacob Mills. They had one daughter, Margaret Adelia Mills (1887-1974). P.J. died in 1933. May died on her 93rd birthday in 1953.
Mrs. P.J. Mills was a very active speaker and leader in the Iowa suffrage movement. For years, "she and her cohorts rode on mud roads all over Iowa to make speeches, lead parades, create interest." Mrs. Mills had the means, time, and skills to plan automobile tours for suffragists to connect with rural men and women. One inventive fundraising strategy Mills devised was to share an eggless, butterless, milkless cake recipe she developed with all those who donated ten cents to the suffrage campaign Mrs. Mills was regularly mentioned and featured in newspaper articles across Iowa from 1913-1919. Some of this coverage is due to her tireless work sharing their stops with media, as well as having a journalist, Bert Mills of the Des Moines Capital, ride with the suffragists. At the 1915 Iowa Equal Suffrage Association (IESA) convention, Mrs. P.J. Mills was elected to the association's executive board. She was also listed as a large financial contributor with a gift of $100. That year one of the association's initiatives was to put out a 16-page special edition of the Des Moines Register and Leader to create interest in the suffrage amendment. In 1916, she was elected president of the Votes for Women League.
Mrs. Mills's suffrage work continued after women received the vote. In 1930, Mrs. P.J. Mills hosted the first group meeting of the Des Moines League of Women Voters. The League's priorities were fundraising for the Carrie Chapman Catt memorial fund. In 1950, Mrs. Mills, along with her daughter and granddaughter, were featured in a photo essay and story in the Des Moines Register highlighting the history of the women's suffrage movement in Iowa. Upon her death, she willed her home to the Episcopal diocese of Iowa.
Egge, Sara, "The grassroots diffusion of the woman suffrage movement in Iowa: the IESA, rural women, and the right to vote" (2009). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 10489.
"It Took 50 Years—But Women 'Got the Vote.' Des Moines Register, 5 Nov. 1950, p. 61.
"Mrs. Mills, Civic Leader, Is Dead at 93." Des Moines Tribune, 21 May 1953, p. 1.
"Wills Home to Church." Des Moines Tribune, 27 May 1953, p. 12.