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P.E.O. was founded on January 21, 1869, by seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. This circle of kindred spirits – bonded by their enthusiasm for women's opportunities – eventually expanded to include women off campus, as well. Today, P.E.O. has grown from that tiny membership of seven to almost a quarter of a million members in chapters throughout the U.S. and Canada, with headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa.
Friendship is the cornerstone of P.E.O. – it is the legacy left by our Founders and it thrives in our unique Sisterhood. P.E.O. exists to be a source of encouragement and support for women to realize their potential in whatever worthwhile endeavor they choose.
True to the mission of promoting educational opportunities for women, education continues to be the primary philanthropy of the P.E.O. Sisterhood. In fact, the P.E.O. Sisterhood proudly sponsors no less than six international philanthropies, or projects, designed to assist women with their educational goals.
As a result, P.E.O. is clearly making a difference in the lives of women all over the world. Nearly 88,000 women have benefited from our organization's educational grants, loans, awards, special projects and stewardship of Cottey College. To date, P.E.O. has awarded Educational Loan Fund dollars totaling almost $136 million, International Peace Scholarships are more than $28 million, Program for Continuing Education grants are almost $40.5 million, Scholar Awards are nearly $15 million and P.E.O. STAR Scholarships are more than $1.9 million. In addition, 8,500 women have graduated from Cottey College.
Grant, loan, and award recipients – as well as Cottey College students – need not be members of P.E.O. With the exception of international students who receive International Peace Scholarships, each recipient is sponsored by a P.E.O. chapter. This allows the chapter members to be a meaningful part of "their" student's life.