5. Under Brigham Young’s direction, Louisa Lula Greene started the Woman’s Exponent magazine, one of the first newspapers in the country written and published by women. Although it was never an official LDS Church publication, it was the voice of the Relief Society for 50 years with the masthead bearing the subtitle "Organ of the Relief Society." Wells succeeded Greene and edited the newspaper for 39 years. Wells and her contributors used this publication as a forum to teach, motivate and advertise items of interest to the local women, such as gatherings for woman's suffrage, minutes from the Retrenchment meetings, that focused on spiritual cultivation, "Wheat Project" information, medical classes, obituaries and life histories of many beloved sisters.
When Wells was called as Relief Society general president, the magazine was closed down and the church began publishing The Relief Society Magazine, with Gates as its first editor. For another 50 years, lessons, stories and instruction were published each month.
6. As soon as Joseph Smith began teaching about doing the work of salvation for the dead, women traveled back East, visiting family and collecting information on their relatives in order to do temple work in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City, and later in dedicated temples (see "Provoking the Brethren to Good Works," by James B. Allen and Jessie L. Embry, BYU Studies). In 1894, the Genealogical Society of Utah was formed. Gates began working exclusively on genealogy, and by 1912, she was writing lessons and weekly newspaper articles, and had organized the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. When the World's Fair in San Francisco opened in 1915, hundreds of Relief Society sisters, who saved up money for an entire year, attended just to visit the International Congress of Genealogy exhibit and see Wells, the Relief Society president, receive a bronze medal for efforts made by the Relief Society in genealogy work. Wells said, “The work of the Relief Society is so closely connected with that of the Genealogical Society that membership in the one practically implies interest in the other.”
7. Sister Amy Lyman, the eighth Relief Society general president, once said, “Relief Society should work for the abolishment of poverty.” The purpose of the Relief Society Social Services Department was to restore the individual, or family, to a self-sufficient life (see "This Decade was Different: RS Social Services Department, 1919-1929," by Loretta L. Hefner, Dialogue Magazine, September 1982). Women were sent to New York, Chicago and Denver for training in social work, and a social services lesson was given every month. Topics included health and sanitation, child welfare and family life.
8. When the women complained about wanting finer clothing items, Brigham Young came up with the idea of growing silk worms and manufacturing the fine fabric themselves. Zina D.H. Young became the first and only president of the 50-year Deseret Silk Association. The women raised the worms, fed them mulberry leaves, spun the silk and weaved the cloth. It was such a distateful and intensive project, the next generation refused to continue the labor (see "Finest of Fabrics: Mormon Women and the Silk Industry," by Chris Rigby Arrington, Utah Historical Quarterly, Fall 1978).
9. Humanitarian hygiene, school and newborn kits were developed in 1990 by Rose Ann Gunther, a stake Young Women president in American Fork, Utah, and her committee that wanted young women to learn how to serve. They arranged to have the church building open once a week so ward members could come and help them with their projects (see "Service Project for a Small Community Grows into Relief for the World" on mormonnewsroom.org). This now has became a church-wide effort.
10. In 1937, Robison, the seventh Relief Society president, promoted self-sufficiency in the sisters by opening the first Mormon Handicraft store (see "Mormon Handicraft," by Carol L. Clark, "Encyclopedia of Mormonism"). Women were able to sell handmade items to provide extra money for their families. Later, this store became a valued resource center for the Homemaking Department Work Day.
Jan Tolman writes about the Relief Society, its history, purpose and destiny at www.ldswomenofgod.com.
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