LDS women's stories and lives are on display at BYU

Published: Monday, April 26 2004 8:37 a.m. MDT

Jenny Reeder, left, and Connie Lamb show a quilt given to Hattie Nye by the Relief Society after Nye finished a mission to San Francisco in 1899. The quilt is in an exhibit at BYU recognizing LDS women.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News

PROVO — The display on LDS women at BYU features such luminaries as Eliza R. Snow and artist Minerva Teichert, but there are also plenty of ordinary ladies included in the mix.

One is Claudia Bushman, who in 1855 described falling in love as "I was wooed and won. I just lapse into pink and lavender revelries when thinking of my man and what life will bring."

Her love story is part of the digital show in the "Courtship Accounts" section.

In the "Sister Missionaries" section, there's a quilt stitched together by Relief Society sisters in San Francisco in 1899 who simply wanted to be remembered by the women who served there.

In the "Everyday Life" section, there are thimbles, pin cushions and a book of patterns.

"We wanted to bring these women to life, not only the well-known but the lesser-known. We want people to understand the LDS women's past and their role in history, make connections of faith across the miles and the years," said Jennifer Reeder, research historian and document editor for the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute.

Reeder and Connie Lamb, the curator for the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at the Harold B. Lee Library, spent a year poring through the library's collections and putting together the "To Tell the Tale" exhibit that will be on display through June 4.

"We wanted to show people what's accessible here and to become aware that we want their contributions," Lamb said. "I'm interested in collecting more, and they (the donors) don't have to be famous."

"We just want to encourage women to preserve their histories," Reeder said.

Because women in the past have kept their old checkbooks, recorded their thoughts in their journals, saved their MTC daily schedule pages and packed away various receipts, passports and travel brochures, Reeder and Lamb were able to piece together an interesting tableau that includes a hand-stitched wedding dress, a letter from Ernest L. Wilkinson promising $100 to Stella Oaks' political campaign and pictures taken in 1922 of the Armenian Relief Society sisters.

There's a velvet banner from the Relief Society in Meeker, Idaho, that has every sister's name embroidered on it, and Elaine Cannon's typewriter.

There are the scholarly works of women authors and writers and a copy of the "Nauvoo Minutes" from meetings where the Prophet Joseph Smith made appearances and gave the women instruction.

There is a newspaper account about the all-woman City Council appointed to serve in Kanab in 1911 after the men got tired of all the complaining.

There are pictures of Viola McFarlane, the opera singer, right next to pictures from ward roadshows and a 70-year-old ward accompanist at her piano.

"It's interesting to see the blend of the simple and the famous," Lamb said.

"I love these women. I just love them. They're so great," Reeder said.

So far, the exhibit — which is free and open every day the library is open — has drawn a large number of visitors and received a good response, said the two women.

They're hoping to make a virtual copy of the exhibit so it can be shared long after it's taken down and pieces returned to the library and to the Church's Museum of History and others.

They also hope to inspire women across the church to record what happens in their lives.

"Everyone has an interesting story," Lamb said.


E-mail: haddoc@desnews.com

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