Biographical Database of NAWSA Suffragists, 1890-1920
Biography of Eleanor Chafin Stockman, 1856-1924
By Pat Schultz, Nora Springs, Iowa, retired educator, author of Amazing Women of Early Mason City
In 1900, Eleanor Stockman traveled from Mason City, Iowa, to Minneapolis to attend the convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. At the end of the meetings, the delegates were asked to go home and bring to the bazaar at the next convention something to be sold to raise funds for the cause. On the train ride home, Eleanor's mind busied itself trying to think what might best represent Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. Suddenly, it came to her: pigs!
At home she set out driving the dirt country roads asking farmers to donate market hogs to be taken by rail to New York, the site of the 1901 convention. Many did. Some who had no hogs ready for market gave corn; some contributed money; one gave her a litter of piglets. She sold the corn at the local elevator and auctioned the little pigs off on the corner of Mason City's two main streets. News of her work spread and other Iowans added contributions. In total, she raised $460 and 95 hogs. Checking out how to ship the hogs, she found it too expensive to send them to New York, so to Chicago went the train car bedecked with a huge banner bearing the suffrage logo and a picture of a frolicking pig. Big letters declared, "This little pig went to market!" Eleanor sent or took the banner and the money she had raised to New York. The result? Iowa was the second largest donor to the national suffrage cause.
The national superintendent of press work for the Association wrote Eleanor: "Your state has had plenty of advertising through the carload of hogs contributed to the National Bazaar. I think every paper in the United States made mention of it several times from the clippings I have received. The immense orange banner was conspicuously displayed at the bazaar and attracted much attention." She was honored at home with a reception at which she was given a set of Browning books. (The banner was actually yellow, the color chosen to represent the movement.)
Eleanor Chafin Stockman, the wife of Mason City physician George Stockman, was one of 13 children raised in the Samuel Chafin farm family near Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Eleanor, born April 16, 1856, graduated from the Whitewater Normal School in 1879
Two of Eleanor's passions were suffrage work and the promotion of temperance. Her brother Eugene campaigned for the Presidency on the Temperance ticket; she ran for the office of State Superintendent of Schools on the same ticket. She also served on the local school board and in 1918 was chairman of the committee which planned the dedication of the city's new high school.
Eleanor's efforts to raise money for the 1901 convention were just a small part of her work to gain the vote for women. In 1887, Carrie Lane Chapman was in Mason City working to get women to sign a petition to allow women to vote on municipal issues. The bill proposing that failed; however, it was passed in 1894, and Eleanor was the first woman in Mason City to vote in the next election.
In 1901 Eleanor was secretary of the state suffrage organization, and in 1903 she read a paper at the national convention in New Orleans. A member of the local Women's Civic Club, in 1906 Eleanor was the primary leader in the effort to change the club's title to the Women's Suffrage Club. After two hours of debate, the motion passed. At the same time, Eleanor was serving as a member of the state legislative committee of the Iowa Women's Suffrage Association.
Over the years, it is certain Eleanor did much more for women's rights; however, not all of it is recorded or yet found. She was also a member of and leader in a number of other local organizations: the Monday Club, the public library association, and the Young Women's Christian Association, helping raise funds for YWCA to be built in Mason City. During the work to establish Memorial University in Mason City in honor of veterans, she traveled the county and the state and raised a considerable sum for its construction.
In 1920 after the passage of the 19th amendment, Eleanor was chair of the Iowa 4th district's committee to encourage women to vote and attended the national convention of the Democratic Party and the last meeting of the National American Woman Suffrage Association in San Francisco.
Eleanor and George were married in Wisconsin in 1878. They moved to Mason City in 1888 and lived for a time in a home designed for them by Frank Lloyd Wright and completed in 1908. The couple had one daughter, Ruth Stockman Johnson, and three grandchildren. Eleanor suffered throughout her life from asthma. As she aged, she moved to California for a better climate for her condition. She died there in 1924.
In 1931, the League of Women Voters acknowledged the women who had done so much to attain suffrage by placing names of the leaders on a bronze plaque. National leaders were recognized, and under the name of each state were listed the names of the women in that state who were leaders. Eleanor was one of the 24 Iowans so honored. The plaque was revealed at the headquarters of the National League of Women Voters in Washington, D.C.
1. "Anti Gilmore School Board Ticket Chosen." Mason City Globe Gazette, 12 Mar. 1914, p. 7. NEWSPAPERARCHIVE.com.
2. Buehner, Kristin. "Pioneering Women." Based on interview with researcher Dr. Bob McCoy. Mason City Globe Gazette, 20 June 1999, S1 p. 33 and S7- p. 39.Newspapers.com.
3. "Busy Days at Minneapolis." Des Moines Daily News, 5 June 1901, p. 4.
4. Egge,Sara. "The Grassroots Diffusion of the Woman Suffrage Movement in Iowa; The Equal Suffrage Association (IESA), Rural Women and the Right to Vote." An Iowa State University Graduate Thesis, 2009.
4. "Eleanor Stockman Memorial is Received by Y.W.C.A." Mason City Globe Gazette, 30 April 1928, p.12. NEWSPAPERARCHIVE.com
5. "Equal Suffragists Adjourn." Mason City Globe Gazette, 7 Nov. 1902, p. 2.
6. Letters of Eleanor Chapin Stockman, compiled in book form by her daughter Ruth in 1924. Available at the Mason City Public Library and at the Stockman House Museum, Mason City, Iowa.
7. "Mason City Woman on Democratic Committee." Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette, 14 Feb. 1920, p. 3. NEWSPAPERARCHIVE.com.
8. "Mrs. Stockman Dies in California." Mason City Globe Gazette, 19 June 1924.
9. Stockman, Eleanor. Personal Scrapbook. Held at the Iowa State Historical Society
10. Stockman House. www.flwright.org/researchexplore/wrightbuildings/stockmanhouse.
11. "Tenth Anniversary Woman's Suffrage Recalls Many Iowa Women Active in Campaign." Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette and Republican, Aug. 1930, p.2. NEWSPAPERARCHIVE.com
12. "Two Candidates in School Election Race." Mason City Globe Gazette, 15 Mar. 1917, p. 7. NEWSPAPERARCHIVE.com.