Ordinarily a post like this would attempt to unlock the mystery of the marker. In this case, the letters P.E.O. are to remain a secret, the members of the organization are not to devulge what the letters stand for. After some research on several Websites and blogs several theories were floated. One blogger wrote that her mother’s P.E.O. meetings were on Wednesday nights and because her father had to cook on those nights, her father handily nicknamed the organization “Papa Eats Out“. Other bloggers suggested less tongue-in-cheek names, such as, “Protect Each Other” and “People Educating Others“.
Though the meaning of the letters isn’t clear, what is known is that P.E.O is a philanthropic educational organization that was founded by seven Iowa Wesleyn College women students–Mary Allen Stafford, Ella Stewart, Alice Bird Babb, Hattie Briggs Bousquet, Franc Roads Elliott, Alice Virginia Coffin, and Suela Pearson Penfield–at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, on January 21, 1869. P.E.O was the second sorority established in the United States.
P.E.O. has grown to 250,000 members with chapters around the United States and Canada now headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa. The P.E.O. International Website lists six endeavors that the organization funds, as their Website states, to help “women reach for the stars“.
P.E.O. funds the Educational Loan Fund for women who need financial assistance; International Peace Scholarship for women from around the world pursuing an higher education degree who want to study in the United States or Canada; Program for Continuing Education to provide need-based grants to women the who have had their education interrupted and are returning to support themselves and their families; Scholar Awards to provide merit-based scholarships for women pursuing doctorial degrees or post-doctoral research; Star Scholarships which grants $2,500 awards to graduating women on their way to college; and Cottey College, a liberal arts college established by P.E.O in 1927, at Nevada, Missouri.