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The three paragraphs below are meant to serve as a short monthly chapter report for your Sesquicentennial committee. These are just random thoughts of happenings in the past 150 years of P.E.O. internationally and in Alabama.
The legislation or “Constitution” that governed P.E.O. until Grand Chapter was organized in 1883, developed section by section. Interestingly, quoting from Out of the Heart, “the badge of this Society shall be a golden star with P.E.O. in black enameled letters in the center. This star, although it may be worn at other places, will find its properly acknowledged place on the left shoulder and when in that place may be touched at times as a signal of distress.” When the Constitution was revised and adopted in 1881, the term “signal of distress” was still included.
During the eighty eight years that P.E.O. has been in Alabama, growth has been sporadic. It took twenty-eight years before the first ten chapters could then become the Alabama State Chapter. Twenty-two more years passed while the second ten chapters came into being. During the following twenty-one years, ten more chapters were organized and now, with the organization of our fortieth chapter, these past ten chapters only took seventeen years. Maybe growth is becoming easier.
Have you thought of the overall impact of P.E.O. in this past 150 years? We have given over $321 million in financial assistance to more than 105,000 women. P.E.O. Educational Loan Fund loans are $195.4 million since 1907. International Peace Scholarships are $37.9 million since 1949. PCE grans total $55.3 million since 1973. Scholar Awards are $24.5 million since 1991 and STAR Scholarships are $8.5 million since 2009. Also, P.E.O. has owned and supported Cottey College since 1927. What will we do in the next 150 years?
Now that we have celebrated Founders’ Day 2018, P.E.O. has entered its 150th year leading up to the “big” birthday year in 2019. A new chapter year is beginning and as you make plans for your yearbook and programs, make this a celebratory P.E.O. year. Resources and programs are available on the peointernational.org web site that will help in the planning of programs and other activities for your chapter’s use. Look under the Sesquicentennial heading. As you plan, remember to also celebrate the beginnings of P.E.O. in Alabama and the birthday of your own chapter as well as the stories behind the establishment of each of the philanthropies. On the Alabama web site, look for ideas under What’s New and see what some of our chapters have already done to commemorate the upcoming 150th.
Happy 150th Anniversary P.E.O.
Our sisterhood began in 1869 with a small group of girls, who wanted to celebrate their friendship and values. They wanted to organize a society that would include all their seven friends, Alice Bird Babb, Hattie Briggs Bousquet, Alice Virginia Coffin, Franc Roads Elliott, Ella Stewart, Mary Ellen Stafford and Suela Pearson Penfield. Little did they know that their amazing maturity and foresight would lay the foundation for our International P.E.O. Sisterhood. P.E.O. has grown and changed over the years. Today, P.E.O. continues to grow with commitment by helping and empowering women through education.
P.E.O will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2019 locally, state wide and internationally. We hope you take time to look back to our seven founders and reflect on our humble beginnings and celebrate our sesquicentennial in your own chapter. Each chapter is asked to contribute one hundred and fifty dollars as a tribute to the anniversary of our sisterhood. Chapters wishing to give more should send donations in increments of $150 dollars.
As we prepare to celebrate 150 years of PEO we should pause and reflect on the lives of the young women that started a secret society in 1869 with the object and aims of general improvement. What was life like in 1869? This was a challenging time for our country with the Civil War coming to a close just 6 years earlier. Women had very little rights in our society, no voting rights, no property rights, very few educational opportunities. What were the hopes and dreams of our founders?
There is an excellent video posted on the PEO International website that gives insight into the lives of our founders. https://members.peointernational.org/resource-library/sesquicentennial-celebration
How about the young women who started the first chapter of PEO in Alabama? On March 24, 1930 in Auburn, Alabama Chapter A was born. This was the beginning of the Great Depression and World War II was looming in their future.
What was life like for the women of Chapter A? What pressures did they feel from society, from cultural mores? What were their ambitions? What were their fears?
As we reflect on the women that came before us we realize they lived in a different world from us today. Even so, we as PEOs in 2017 are not so different from those young ladies desiring friendship, sisterhood, and a better future for all women. During our Sesquicentennial, let’s not only celebrate our past but, take time to reflect on why PEO is relevant today.