The Star-News


A sisterhood of generosity

Sat, Aug 11 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Richard Pena

I would suppose that if we looked and studied carefully we would find countless numbers of agencies and units devoted to helping women. They are out there and they are undoubtedly doing some good, else why exist? I bring this up because the other day I ran across one group of women who have been in existence for some time and are still going strong in their goal of assisting women. I am referring to the P.E.O.

The P.E.O. Sisterhood is a philanthropic educational organization that promotes educational opportunities for women.

It was founded in January of 1869 as a seven member sorority at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant,  Iowa.  It has the distinction of being the second sorority to be founded in the U.S.

They tell me that today there are more than 600 chapters that exist in California alone.  The other day I met with three members of the Bonita Chapter, known as O.J., at one of our local restaurants.  Lois Masterson, Kay Barthel and

Marie Buttita not only bought my breakfast but brought me up to date on the organization and what is being done locally.

This meeting had been arranged by Masterson, a lady that I have known for quite a few years.  She is active in many South Bay organizations, the Salvation Army and the Bonita Museum to name a couple.  She is one of the principal docents at the latter and is well versed in community lore.

The ladies, all in agreement, are quick to tell me that P.E.O is strictly a volunteer outfit. There is one paid employee in the organization and she is based at the unit’s headquarters in Iowa.  The local chapter, for example, has monthly meetings but they are always at member’s homes.  There are no monies allocated for such things as meeting halls, luncheons, travel or any of those other things that are generally associated with some organizations. Most of us rue the financial state of some organizations, that raise funds for some charity, but find that much of it goes toadministrative or other in-house costs.

The P.E.O, unlike other organizations for women has many projects which they oversee.  There is, for example, Cottey College.

Cottey is a school founded and run by the sisterhood. It had its start in 1884. It is located in Nevada, Mo. It offers two year associate degrees and also selected four year baccalaureate degrees.   It has been owned and operated by the sisterhood since 1927.

In 1907 the PEO instituted an educational loan fund that is available to qualified American and Canadian women with financial need as they further their education.

We also have learned that the sisterhood has also established a program for continuing education that gives need-based grants to women in the U.S. and Canada whose education was interrupted because of the lack of funds. 

This is a program that assists those women who are trying to raise a family while continuing their college studies. 

There is also a scholar award for those seeking a major degree, that is, those enrolled in a doctoral program.

In all of the material and information I had on P.E.O I wondered if men ever figured in the equation.  A little bit of research answered my question. They have such an entity known as B.I.L. which is the initials of “Brother In Law.” 

These are the husbands, brothers or other male members of the family who lend support to the ladies, who are the actual workers.

The Bonita Chapter has many members who also belong to other organizations either of the global type or simply local.

P.E.O, however, seems to be the favorite among most members.  There is something in the camaraderie that ladies have with one another, particularly when it is for the good of other ladies.  P.E.O is certainly a positive unit in the community.


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