The P.E.O. Sisterhood is a philanthropic organization whose primary mission is to promote educational opportunities for women through the support of various scholarships, grants and loans.

Originally founded in 1869 by seven young college women from Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, P.E.O. is one of the oldest women’s organizations in North America.

Today, P.E.O. has grown into an international organization with more than 500,000 members with chapters in the United States and Canada. Kern County’s oldest P.E.O. Chapter is Chapter DE, which was organized in the City of Delano in 1923.

Philanthropies (Scholarships, grants, loans and Cottey College)

P.E.O. International currently sponsors several philanthropies including one loan program and four scholarships: Education Loan Fund, International Peace Scholarship, Program for Continuing Education, P.E.O. Scholar Awards and STAR Scholarship.

P.E.O. also owns and administers Cottey College, a private women's college in Nevada, Mo. It is not required that grant or loan recipients, or Cottey College students, be members of P.E.O.

All recipients, except for International Peace Scholarship recipients, must be sponsored by a local P.E.O chapter. This requirement allows for chapter members to be a meaningful part of "their" students’ lives.

P.E.O. International Philanthropies: Benefit Summary

As of April 2021, 116,149 women have benefited from $383,100,000 in P.E.O. International loans, grants and special project funds, as well as from its stewardship of Cottey College.

As of April 2021, P.E.O. had awarded the following funds: $229.5 million in Educational Loan Funds; $43.5 million in International Peace Scholarships; $65.1 million in Continuing Education Grants, $30.1 million in Scholar Awards, and $14.9 million in Star Scholarships.

The P.E.O. California State Chapter supports several philanthropies which specifically benefit women who reside within California. Many of these philanthropies are targeted to a specific field of study such as law or medicine or provide short term assistance to Californians in need.

P.E.O California State Chapter Philanthropies: Benefit Summary

As of April 2021, 4,564 women have benefited from $11,642,208 in California State Chapter philanthropy funds: Cottey College Scholarship ($5.1 million); Dorothy L. Weller ($584,140); Ethel Gardner (1.8 million); Ruth G. White ($2.1 million); and the Scholarship Selection Committee ($1.7 million).

P.E.O. Membership

The P.E.O. Sisterhood provides a source of lifetime friendship, personal growth and support to its members; similarly, local chapters are the foundation of P.E.O. and help support its International and State philanthropies.

Currently, there are six P.E.O. chapters in Kern County with a total of approximately 235 members: Four chapters in the city of Bakersfield; one chapter in the city of Delano; and one chapter in the city of Wasco.

Any woman over age 18 can be considered for membership in P.E.O. after being invited by members of a local chapter. While a prospective member must affirm her belief in God, P.E.O. does not discriminate based on age, ethnicity, politics or education.

To learn more about P.E.O. and its philanthropies, go to www.peointernational.org.

For more information about the P.E.O. chapters here in Kern County, philanthropies, membership, or activities, contact Grace Coan, P.E.O.- Chapter HY at scoan0279@sbcglobal.net.