P.E.O. was founded January 21, 1869 in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
- Emblem: Gold Star
- Flower: Marguerite
- Colors: Yellow and White
Seven Sisters Follow a Star
The seven friends who started P.E.O. were: Franc Roads, Hattie Briggs, Mary Allen, Alice Coffin, Ella Stewart, Alice Bird and Suela Pearson at Iowa Wesleyan University. At their second meeting, the girls decided they did not want to become strictly a social club or college sorority but something with greater meaning. From these humble beginnings came the good deeds known today as P.E.O. Philantrophies: Cottey College, Educational Loan Fund, Program for Continuing Education, International Peace Scholarship, and P.E.O Scholar Awards.
The seven young women were a diversified but tightly woven group. Franc Roads and Hattie Briggs are the two who proposed the idea of P.E.O. Hattie Briggs, Franc Roads and Mary Allen were such close friends they were referred to as the "Triamese Twins." Hattie had "Mother Hen" tendencies and took care of her friends. Mary was the parliamentarian of the original group, stressing the proper procedure in conducting business meetings and the necessity for good order. It is said that P.E.O. received its poise from her. Alice Bird was considered the intellectual of the group with a passion for writing. She wrote the P.E.O. oath and the constitution. The youngest of the founders, Franc Roads entered the University at age 14. She was an early feminist and counted as her friends Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, Frances Willard, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and many others in the Feminist Movement. The socialite of the group was Suela Pearson. Ella Stewart was the only founder who did not graduate from Iowa Wesleyan. She had to leave school due to family financial difficulties. Her star pin is the only one of the original pins left in existence. Alice Coffin's family tree was long and distinquished. One of her ancestors was one of the ten men who bought Nantucket Island in 1660 and established a settlement there. She was intrigued by the vastness of the sky and universe. It was her decision to make the star the P.E.O. emblem.
It is well to remember other historical events occuring during this period when these seven young women were beginning what is now an international organization for women. The typewriter was being invented. Sewing machines, patented in 1846, came into common usage in the 60s. The corset cover was beginning to replace the chemise. Aniline (synthetic) dye introduced a broad range of vibrant colors in ladies fashions. Modern shoe manufacture began.
Today, P.E.O. has grown from that tiny membership of seven to almost a quarter of a million members in chapters throughout the United States and Canada, with headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa.