Through decades of leadership and sacrifice, women of the Church have made amazing strides in improving the lives of both men and women.
As the world today champions women’s rights, some people feel that the Church trails behind in providing opportunities for women. However, Kate Holbrook’s Church History article “Society with a Purpose” explores just how much women have accomplished in the 175 years since the organization of the Relief Society. The purpose of this women’s society is to help others both physically and spiritually, enabling women to extend their influence far beyond any worldly barriers.
Emma Smith, the first president of the Relief Society, said that the object of the society is “to seek out and relieve the distressed.” Throughout the years, women in the Relief Society have exemplified this mission through their many selfless acts of service, both small and large. Women of the Church lobbied for women’s right to vote, gathered and stored wheat to relieve people in China from a famine in 1907, and taught courses on social work. Holbrook shares that members of the Relief Society educated “on topics such as nutrition and breast feeding, funded clinics for pregnant women and young children, sponsored health care education classes for the public, and stockpiled clean bedding and supplies for giving birth.” During World War II, women of the Relief Society assisted with aid efforts by working with organizations like the Red Cross.
If we ever doubt the strength and influence of women within the Church, we can look to women like Amy Brown Lyman, who served in the Relief Society and as a congressional representative in the Utah House of Representatives in 1923. We can remember Belle S. Spafford, who was president of the National Council of Women from 1968 to 1970, while also serving as the Relief Society General President (1945–1974). And we can remember the countless women who have given of their time and talents to help in seemingly small ways, changing the world through their goodness.
Read Holbrook’s “Society with a Purpose” to learn more about the past 175 years of the Relief Society and see how the strength and influence of the women of the Church continues today.
Source: Church History
—Rebecca Cazanave, Mormon Insights
feature image courtesy of lds media library
Find more insights
Read about the purpose of the Relief Society by checking out the Church’s Relief Society page “The Purpose of Relief Society.”
Learn more about the history of the Relief Society by downloading the free book Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society.
Check out the Mormon Insights article “A Woman’s Potential: What God Sees,” by Sophia Parry.
Find out more about Belle S. Spafford and her legacy by reading “Making a Difference for Women: Belle S. Spafford,” by Janet Peterson and Connie Lewis.