SPECIAL | feature
On a June day during Iowa Wesleyan’s Commencement Week, 1922, the founding site of P.E.O., now to be honored as the Memory Room, was first opened to guests. On a June evening 100 years later, P.E.O. sisters gathered again to celebrate its centennial. Both the picnic dinner and the program that followed echoed the original events. Celebrating the MEMORY ROOM’S CENTENNIAL
The place for both 1922 and 2022 was the lawn in front of Old Main. As bright sunlight filtered through the towering old pines and sycamores, guests arrived to be greeted by members of Chapter NZ, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, who hosted this special gathering of Henry County sisters. In tribute to the anniversary, NZ sisters had trimmed and donned straw hats and put on summer frocks with longer hemlines—all very appropriate for a festive occasion in 1922. The picnic dinner enjoyed by members of the four Henry County chapters and their special guests, Iowa State Chapter president Carrie Wilkinson and organizer Lisa Reindl and past state president Sue Aanes, followed closely the menu served in 1922: fried chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, bread and butter sandwiches, pickles and olives. Tables were covered with red-and-white checked tablecloths; vases of daisies and vintage photographs of the Memory Room adorned each table. After dinner, Chapter NZ president Jan Lange invited guests to imagine their way back to 1922, noting the surrounding college buildings that stood much as we see them today. In addition, she shared some recent events in the news. Iowa’s
first radio station, WOC in Davenport, had recently begun to broadcast. Farther afield, in Washington, D.C., the recently completed Lincoln Memorial was dedicated—of great local interest in Mount Pleasant, where Robert Todd Lincoln owned property and visited his Harlan in-laws often. And around the globe, Russia made news – imagine that! – in this instance by joining in the Soviet Union. Just then...all present heard, then saw a car rounding the corner of Old Main. As the new model 1923 Dodge pulled to a stop, Past President of International Chapter Elizabeth E. Garrels stepped out and walked to the podium. After thanking her driver, she segued to remarks honoring Florence Johnson McKibbin, longtime conservator and curator of the Memory Room. In 1922, Florence McKibbin was already a 30-year member of Chapter Original A and appreciated the purpose and significance of P.E.O. As a librarian, she had served both the city of Mount Pleasant and Iowa Wesleyan, so she was well-equipped to identify important documents and artifacts. She understood their value in telling stories of historical importance.
THE P.E.O. RECORD | September–October 2022
Women helping women reach for the stars
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