It all started when two of seven best friends forever were invited to join a sorority and the other five were not.

As close as biological sisters, they could not bear the idea of some of them joining another sisterhood while leaving the others behind. Of course, the two women declined the membership invitation.

Instead, these seven students at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, founded a new women's organization on January 21, 1869.

Sharing an enthusiasm for women's opportunities and rights, their new group called P.E.O. addressed these issues.

Initially, their philosophy stemmed from that of the United Methodist Church, but is now non-sectarian.

P.E.O. flourished and, in 1902, they shifted from a collegiate organization to a community based one.

P.E.O. became international in 1911 when it opened a chapter in Vancouver, Canada.

Headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, this association, which emphasizes philanthropy, has grown to 230,000 members with nearly 6,000 chapters all over the U.S. and Canada.

P.E.O. sponsors six projects which assist women in their educational endeavors through grants, loans, awards and scholarships. Since P.E.O.'s inception, they have given over $322 million.

Until 2005, they were low-key about the good works they performed. That year they unveiled a new logo and "It's OK to Talk About P.E.O." campaign.

During that campaign they said P.E.O. publically stands for "Philanthropic Educational Organization," though the letters "P.E.O." originally had a different secret meaning.

On their founders day, Jan. 21, all members are encouraged to wear their membership pins.

P.E.O. offers scholarships to women from high school seniors to doctoral candidates. Their premier project is the stewardship of all-women Cottey College.

This institution is an independent, four-year baccalaureate women's liberal arts and sciences college in Nevada, Missouri. Founded by Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard in 1884, it is the only nonsectarian college in the United States owned and supported by women for women.

P.E.O. began in Kansas in 1888 with the founding of the Meade Chapter, and is now the sixth largest state in P.E.O with more than 10,400 members and 250 chapters.

Another early Chapter in this area is Ashland founded in 1918. Cimarron was not far behind being started in 1924. There are two Chapters in Dodge City, one founded in 1935 and the other in 1975.

Conforming with the International organization, P.E.O. in Kansas commits itself to providing educational support for women, from graduating high school seniors to doctoral candidates.

In addition to the six international philanthropic projects, Kansas P.E.O. sponsors two Kansas projects.

One of these projects is the Sunflower Grant which bestows one-time grants to Kansas residents in financial distress.

Intended to fulfill the spirit of compassion, these grants are available to children and men as well as women.