Bess Truman is the only First Lady who was a member of the P.E.O. Sisterhood. Her husband, President Harry Truman was considered a B.I.L. (brothers-in-law), the name given to the spouses and significant others of P.E.O. members. However, the organization has a connection another American President, Abraham Lincoln.
President Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, about four years before P.E.O. was founded at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. However, Mount Pleasant plays an important role in this connection.
Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’s son, married Mary Eunice Harlan in Mount Pleasant. She was the daughter of James Harlan. Early in his career, Harlan was President of Iowa Wesleyan University from 1853-55. He went on to serve as U.S. Senator and member of President Andrew Johnson’s cabinet.
Robert and Mary had three children, Mary “Mamie” (Isham), Abraham “Jack,” and Jessie (Beckwith Johnson Randolph). Mamie and Jessie were initiated into the P.E.O. chapter at Mount Pleasant during visits to the home of their grandparents. Mamie was initiated in 1884 at the age of 15. Jessie was initiated on December 31, 1895.
Visitors to Mount Pleasant can tour the Harlan-Lincoln House at 601 N. Main Street on the north side of campus and take selfies with a larger than life size sculpture of James Harlan that sits on the Iowa Wesleyan campus.