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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

PEO Sisterhood Chapter BE Collection, 1933-1994

Page address:

Minnesota State University, Mankato,
Memorial Library, Southern Minnesota Historical Center
P.E.O. Sisterhood, Chapter BE. Collection, 1933-1994.
SMHC Manuscript Collection 177

P.E.O. Sisterhood, Chapter BE. Collection, 1933-1994. SMHC Manuscript Collection 177. 1 half Hollinger box, 3 scrapbook size archives boxes, 1.5 Cubic Feet.


The P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) is a national social service organization for women founded in 1869. This collection contains the records of the BE Chapter of Mankato which was formed in 1933. The records consist of scrapbooks, photographs, newspaper clippings and a video. The content of these records reflect the organization's services and gives some biographical background of the women who led the organization.

Scope and Content:

The collection of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, BE Chapter dates from 1933-1994 with most of the collection covering 1933-1990. The collection contains: early correspondence that documents the formation of the chapter, scrapbooks documenting the activities of the organization, president's letters describing annual activities and a video explaining the founding of the P.E.O. Sisterhood in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

The correspondence from the formative years documents the dialogue between chapter founder Grace Northrop and the state organization. This correspondence shows the reasons for the chapter's founding and the personalities of the state and chapter presidents.

The president's letters document the annual activities of the organization. They cover 1938-1992 and summarize the year's activities in the president's own words.

The scrapbooks contain a variety of materials, some of which have been separated into folders. The scrapbooks are in chronological order by presidents. Organizational documents such as by-laws and informational documents such as annual meeting programs are included. The newspaper clippings pertain to chapter members and their families. The photographs are of chapter activities such as initiations and annual events, like the Christmas House.

The videotape was made in 1994 and documents a 1991 trip made by two BE chapter members to Mount Pleasant, Iowa. During the trip the members interviewed the original chapter A curator. They gathered information from her and used it to describe the foundation of the organization. The tape consists of still color slides narrated by a BE chapter member, with piano music played by another chapter member. Tape-recorded segments of Enola Carter, chapter A curator are included. A script of the tape, which is a good guide, but is not verbatim, is also included. The tape is 32 minutes long.

Historical Note:

The National P.E.O. Sisterhood began in 1869 in Mount Pleasant, Iowa at Wesleyan College. Seven women formed the organization as a sorority because an existing campus sorority excluded some of the women. Originally on a college campus, the organization branched out as its members grew older and became a national organization for women. The P.E.O. now runs Cottey College, in Nevada, Missouri. It also funds various scholarships for women. The P.E.O. educational fund provides low interest loans and scholarships for female international, continuing, and advanced degree students. Membership is by invitation only and the headquarters for the P.E.O. is in Des Moines, Iowa.

The P.E.O. started in Mankato with the formation of the U Chapter in 1922. By 1933 there were 51 members in Chapter U and some members of the chapter felt there were enough P.E.O. members in Mankato to form a new chapter. Grace Northrop, BE's first president, wrote to the state chapter suggesting that a new chapter in Mankato be formed. The state organizer supported the idea because she felt that individuals could be more involved in smaller chapters. While not every member of U was interested in forming or joining a new chapter enough support was gathered and Chapter BE was approved.

On March 31, 1933, eighteen women became charter members of Chapter BE. By 1938 there were 28 members of Chapter BE and it was busy doing charitable things for the community. They sent a girl to camp every year, furnished food and clothing for needy families and sponsored a Christmas for a family every year.

Chapter BE also supported education, sponsoring its first "loan girl" in 1939. A low interest loan was given to the "loan girl" who was later referred to as the Education Fund Student. In 1940 the BE Chapter had grown to 32 members and by 1941 the Chapter was able to support two "loan girls."

During the Second World War, Chapter BE supported the war effort by raising money. It did so by putting on a "Victory Stampede" for which $1000 in war stamps were sold. Money was also raised for the Red Cross by selling donated articles of clothing. The P.E.O. was praised on a national level for its support of the war effort.

In the 1950s the number of P.E.O. members in the Mankato area increased and new chapters were formed. In 1950, Chapter BE, which had 37 members, sponsored the formation of Chapter CN of St. Peter. In 1954, Mankato received it third chapter, DA.

In 1952 Chapter BE expanded its sponsorship of young women's education by helping international students. In 1952 two cousins from Guam were able to attend Mankato State College with financial assistance from Chapter BE.

By 1960 the BE Chapter had 50 members. One of the most active members was Marion Mason. She was the only female lawyer in town and at the time had her own radio show. In 1964 Mason was BE Chapter president and she pushed for a reform of the national P.E.O. Education Fund. Through her investigation Mason discovered that money was being wasted on the administrative aspects of the Fund. With the support of Chapters BE and U, Mason brought her grievances to the state chapter. With her reform actions and other activities, Mason took her presidency beyond that of average Chapter presidents.

In the 1970's the organization had 42 members and the Chapter continued its support of education and philanthropy. Some members became volunteers for Meals on Wheels in its formative years and continued to support the program into the 1980s. Inflation caused problems with the Chapter's budget but it continued to support local causes as well as national ones like Cottey College.

The 1980s brought the reality of working women to Chapter BE. Although the Chapter had almost 70 members in 1989, many of them did not make it to meetings and some had to declare themselves inactive because they were too busy to participate. In the early 1980s, the state organization asked the Chapter to be a Golden Anniversary Fund Chapter. (The Golden Anniversary Fund was a super fund to provide money for Cottey College.) Considering how busy it members were, the Chapter had to decline becoming a GAFC. This changed in 1985 when Chapter BE started the Christmas House. A Chapter member allowed local merchants to decorate the first floor of her home and then charged admission for the public to view it. It was an instant success and generated more income each year, as it became better known. This activity allowed the BE Chapter to become a GAFC for Cottey College.

In the 1990's, the chapter has continued to use the Christmas house to fund local programs like Hospice and the Lutheran Home Building Fund. Despite the hectic lifestyle of the 1990s, the chapter has continued to support its members and the Mankato community.


There are no restrictions on use of this collection for research purposes. The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property and libel laws as they apply.

Collection Citation:

P.E.O. Sisterhood, Chapter BE. Collection, 1933-1992. SMHC Manuscript Collection 177, Southern Minnesota Historical Center, Memorial Library, Minnesota State University, Mankato.


Donated by Marcia Mason, 28 October 1997.

Processed By:

Ian Stade processed this collection in January 2000.

Related Collections:

It has been determined that there are no similar manuscript collections about the BE Chapter of the P.E.O. Sisterhood available elsewhere.

LCSH Subject Headings:

Women - Minnesota - Societies and Clubs
Women in community organization.
P.E.O. Sisterhood. Chapter BE (Mankato, Minn.)
Marion Mason
Grace Northrop

Presidents of the BE Chapter

1933-34 Grace Northrop
1934-36 Helen McLaughlin
1936-37 Marie Adams
1937-38 Anne Nelson
1938-39 Thelma Babcock
1939-40 Bernice Strom
1940-41 Alice Hughes
1941-42 Huberta Smith
1942-43 Helen Nelson
1943-45 Harriet Kleinschmidt
1945-46 Florence McGrew
1946-47 France Curry
1947-48 Marion Mason
1948-49 Dorothy Treloar
1949-51 Anne Kough
1951-52 Mary Dunlop
1952-53 Lillian Crawford
1953-54 Margaret Rice
1954-55 Harriet Lee
1955-57 Harriet Cox
1957-58 Marguerite Hesla
1958-59 Alberta Marshall
1959-60 Beneta Just
1960-61 Edna Owen
1961-62 Marjorie Thomas
1962-63 Dorothy Otto
1963-65 Marion Mason
1965-66 Margaret Lewellyn
1966-67 Mary Taggart
1967-68 Luella Shellhorn
1968-69 Mavis Dickoff
1969-70 Barbara Jones
1970-72 Sheryl Barnes
1972-73 Donna Dunlop
1973-74 Arlene Brunsvold
1974-75 Dolores Warren
1975-77 Yvonne Todtleben
1977-78 Linda Berkland
1978-79 Marcia Mason
1979-80 Sue Scott
1980-81 Mary Huntley
1981-82 Sandy Smith
1982-83 Phyllis Johnson
1983-84 Donna Roskens
1984-85 Ruth Germundson
1985-87 Barb Lindenberg
1987-88 Ginny Danish
1988-89 Sheryl Barnes
1989-90 Lenore Fonda
1990-91 Betty Hauser
1991-92 Ann Erickson

SMHC Manuscript Collection #



Correspondence: Formative Years, 1933-1934



Correspondence: President’s Letters, 1938-1978



Correspondence: President’s Letters, 1970-1992



Directory: Minnesota P.E.O., 1951



Program: Minnesota State Chapter Convention, 1951



Scrapbook #1



Scrapbook #1: Miscellaneous, 1933-1955



Scrapbook #1: Newspaper Clippings, 1944-1961



Scrapbook #1: Photographs, 1933-1979



Scrapbook #2



Scrapbook #2: Miscellaneous, 1933-1983



Scrapbook #2: Newspaper Clippings, 1954-1982



Scrapbook #2: Photographs, 1979



Scrapbook #3



Scrapbook #3: Miscellaneous, 1982-1988



Scrapbook #3: Newspaper Clippings, 1989-1990



Scrapbook #3: Photographs, 1987-1988



Video Script: “From a Stile to a Sisterhood,” 1994



VHS Video: “From a Stile to a Sisterhood,” 1994



DVD Video: “From a Stile to a Sisterhood,” 1994