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Our P.E.O. History

New Jersey P.E.O. History

Until 1917, P.E.O.s moving to New Jersey found the closest chapter to be Chapter C, New York. New Jersey residents traveled to meetings all over the metropolitan area. It was wartime, and the Red Cross and other wartime activities made heavy demands on their time. One of the New Jersey residents said to her friend, “Let’s form a chapter in Newark.”

That’s how it began. In the spring of 1917, Chapter A, Newark, was organized. For thirteen years, Chapter A was the only P.E.O. chapter in New Jersey. All sisters coming to the state were welcomed to its meetings and extended invitations to membership. Franc Roads Elliott, one of the seven Founders, was a guest at Chapter A’s Founders’ Day program on January 21, 1921. In 1930, Chapter B was organized with eleven members from Chapter A. In the next six years, Chapters C, D, E, and F were organized, to which Chapter A gave fifty members. In 1938 Chapter G was the first chapter formed in New Jersey without a grant of dispensation from Chapter A. In 1939, Chapter H formed an evening chapter of business and professional women. Chapters I and J were organized in 1941. Because of restrictions on travel in 1942, three chapters were formed: K, L, and M.

With the organization of Chapter M, the requirements for a state chapter were fulfilled, and on June 23rd, 1942, the convocation of the New Jersey Chapter of P.E.O. was held. New Jersey received its charter at convention of Supreme Chapter held in Detroit in 1943. [From “P.E.O. in New Jersey 1917-1967” and “History of P.E.O. in New Jersey”]

The Convocation of the New Jersey Chapters of P.E.O. met June 22-23, 1942, for the purpose of organizing the New Jersey State Chapter, the thirty-second such organization in P.E.O. The meetings were held in the ballroom of the Robert Treat Hotel, Newark, with Chapter A, Newark, as the entertaining chapter.

Bessie R. Raney, Organizer of Supreme Chapter, presided in all sessions. The convocation agenda was similar to our current convention agenda. The convocation began with a salute to Flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, The Star Spangled Banner, the Objects and Aims and Devotions. Twenty-six delegates bearing credentials were present. Charters were presented to Chapters K, Nutley; J, Milburn; and M, Westwood. Mrs. Blanche D. Walker, President of Supreme Chapter, welcomed the chapters into the Sisterhood. The resolution to form a state chapter was presented and adopted. Thus, formally, New Jersey became a state chapter.

At the formal dinner that evening, Mrs. Raney, Organizer of Supreme Chapter, gave an address entitled “What Is This P.E.O.?” She told much about P.E.O. so that the men were wise concerning it, but still their question “What does it mean?” went unanswered. The evening closed with the singing of “Blest Be the Tie.”

On the second morning, the officers were elected and installed: President, Nina T. Hughes, B; First Vice President, Elizabeth S. Butcher, A; Second Vice President, Cleo Scott Findley, I; Organizer, Uretta A. Hinkhouse, C; Recording Secretary, Virginia B. Cliff, L; Corresponding Secretary, Florence S. Anderson, H; and Treasurer, Lois G. Lippitt, M. Then Mrs. Walker, President of Supreme Chapter, answered, to the satisfaction of both inquirers and listeners, the questions in the question box. Visitors registered totaled 133 from eleven states.

The state bylaws and standing rules were adopted. Some of the provisions were: The state convention shall be held annually on Friday and Saturday of the third week in April. All local chapters shall be entitled to two delegates. The annual dues shall be $2.00, $1.15 of which is Supreme Chapter dues. Provisions were made for the appointment of a state historian.

With the gavel in the hand of Mrs. Hughes, the able president, the convocation was adjourned and New Jersey’s first year as a state chapter had begun. [From “The New Jersey Convocation,” THE P.E.O. RECORD, August 1942].

New Jersey State Chapter was organized in 1942. However, it wasn’t until the Convention of Supreme Chapter in 1943 (now called International Chapter) that the charter was presented. This convention in Detroit was called an “unusual” convention since wartime restrictions limited the number of attendees. New Jersey was entitled to four delegates but could send only one. Mrs. Ruth Coy, D, was selected to represent New Jersey. What an honor that must have been.

At Convention of Supreme Chapter, Mrs. Blanche D. Walker, president, in her greeting said, “We deeply regret the absence of all those entitled to be in this convention, but a small convention does have advantages. We, who are privileged to be present, can make this an extraordinary convention.”

In 1943 at the first Convention of New Jersey State Chapter the Welfare Fund was established for the purpose of giving financial aid when necessary to members of New Jersey chapters. It was maintained through contributions from chapters. It wasn’t until 1958, fifteen years after it had been established, that the first loan was granted. In 1967 the Welfare Fund was amended to conform to tax exempt status by including assistance to nonmembers. In 1975 the Welfare Fund was renamed the New Jersey P.E.O. Special Assistance Fund.

In 1948 the Welfare Committee declared that “uppermost in their hearts and minds is the thought to establish a regional or national P.E.O. Home.” In 1949 the Welfare Committee announced with great pride the establishment of the P.E.O. Home Fund, with the initial gifts from officers of Supreme Chapter amounting to $105.00. In 1971 when the cost of building or buying property was deemed impractical, the fund was liquidated. In 1974 the Home Fund was reestablished when another bequest was received. This fund was established to provide assistance to members or nonmembers when entering or now living in an established retirement or nursing home. When not used for the purpose of the fund, interest can be used for other P.E.O. projects. In 1993, paying the dues of members unable to do so was added to the purpose of the Home Fund. [From “P.E.O. in New Jersey 1917-1967” and “History of P.E.O. in New Jersey”]

A Brief History of New Jersey P.E.O. Reciprocity

Reciprocity is almost as old as P.E.O. in New Jersey. Soon after Chapter A was organized in 1917 meetings were established for the purpose of continuing association with their mother Chapter C in New York. Included in these gatherings were New Jersey unaffiliates. The first meetings were held in the home of Hartie Carle, the first president of Chapter A. Originally, the Reciprocity meeting was a yearly affair held in April in conjunction with New York Chapters. Founders’ Day celebrations and Ways and Means activities were often a part of these meetings which lasted all afternoon and into the evening when BILs were included. The proceeds would go to the projects of the Sisterhood. By 1922 they were meeting monthly at Bamberger’s in Newark and continued to do so for two years, after which meetings at Bamberger’s were discontinued until 1931. During these years meetings were again held at the home of Hartie Carle and members of Chapter A.

There are no minutes of the early meetings, but by 1939 Reciprocity was a well-organized group and monthly meetings were again being held at Bamberger’s. The average attendance per meeting was twenty.  Following the organization of the state chapter a depository for Reciprocity Papers was established, thus laying the foundation for our present Program File which is shared by all chapters.

During the third annual business session of the state chapter in 1945 the bylaws were amended making the second vice-president of the state chapter chairman of Reciprocity. This plan continued until 1955 when bylaws were again amended, this time allowing a board to be elected annually from members oflocal chapters with the second vice president of the state chapter acting as adviser. At this time the meeting place was changed from Bamberger’s in Newark, because dining room facilities were no longer available, to Graulich’s in Orange, where it remained until 1967 when it was moved to the Suburban Hotel in East Orange. Currently there are three Reciprocity meetings a year at different locations in the state.

Throughout its long history Reciprocity has exemplified its purpose, “to promote friendship among P.E.O. members and to welcome all unaffiliated members of P.E.O. in New Jersey.” [From “P.E.O. in New Jersey 1917-1967” and “History of P.E.O. in New Jersey”.



Hattie Briggs