It may seem like a new idea: A group of women of diverse ages and occupations who support each other in their accomplishments, as well as seek out other women with a desire to better themselves. A society of women such as this actually began over 140 years ago.
P.E.O. is a philanthropic organization founded on January 21, 1869. The seven founders were students at Iowa Wesleyan College. These women, all teenagers, envisioned undying support for one another and a tie that would strengthen over time.
The society that was formed from this friendship has grown has grown to over 252,000 members in the United States and Canada. Their mission is, quite simply, to promote educational opportunities for women. The organization boasts ownership of Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri as well as five philanthropies used to carry out their mission.
Each of these programs are tailored to meet the needs of a variety of women in different stages of their lives. Cottey College has graduated over 8,600 women from over 85 countries since its first class in 1887. The five other philanthropies have given $235 million to 90,400 recipients.
As a member of P.E.O. for over 20 years, I’m so grateful our seven founders had the ambition and determination to form such unique society. Our mission is clear, yet our group is based on friendship. Throughout the difficult stages of my life, P.E.O. has been there to support me and see me through, stronger and more determined than before.
Identifying women in our community that can benefit from our awards is especially gratifying. Seeing a recipient receive an award, actively pursue her goal and, ultimately, achieve her goal is a road that is strengthened with support and friendship. Each chapter embraces the women they sponsor for an award and celebrate together. What a unique experience to be so openly welcomed into such a loving group of women, whether as a member or a recipient.
P.E.O. is where women celebrate the advancement of women; educate women through scholarships, grants, awards, loans and stewardship of Cottey College; and motivate women to achieve their highest aspirations.