Pig Lady of Hollywood
Edith Hughes was a big city, little city girl. She was born as Edith Wakeman in New York state, but she was raised in Bismarck. When she was older, in 1930, she took her parents to California, and they made their home in Los Angeles. Until 1941, she made it her custom to visit her home city at least once a year.
In the early 1940s, however, Edith began to lose her sight. One Easter Sunday before World War II began, she described her worsening vision as the way the stage looks "when they lower a gauze curtain between the scene and the audience." Her condition grew worse, and all the doctors she went to disagreed on a solution.
But she was a go-getter, and after Pearl Harbor, she reported to a volunteer agency to offer her services. Sightless or not, she was determined to help as best she could. She proposed collecting small donations from people. The director of the agency did not go for the idea, but Edith persisted on her own. Her charitable efforts focused on the issue of blindness, in hopes that the war would improve medical knowledge in that area. Later, she said, "I humiliated everybody by starting a penny a day campaign." She chose the slogan, "A penny a day drives the darkness away."
Her vision continued to worsen, but she turned her energy to other worthwhile causes. Soon, she began circulating Mexican piggy banks to collect funds for the Braille Institute. But she wanted a better design, so she bought a live pig (for ten dollars) and commissioned a sculpture of a life-size pig seated on a pedestal, it's front hooves folded in a porcelain plea for funds. She christened this statue "Aurora, goddess of dawn and foe of darkness." This new, large piggy bank was placed in the Los Angeles Farmers' Market, to make its plea to the thousands of people who passed through the gates daily.
She was known as "the pig lady of Hollywood," and for good reason; she pushed people to donate their pennies to her piggy banks.
On this date in 1950, it was reported that Edith Wakeman Hughes was blind no longer. She had undergone surgery by a San Francisco surgeon who restored her sight. She could now see!
Nonetheless, even in its absence, her blindness inspired her, and she continued to push forward and even increase her efforts. This "pig lady" was a business woman and a humanitarian, a go-getter and an inspiration.
By Sarah Walker
The Bismarck Capitol, Thursday, March 28, 1950, p.4