Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Clarissa S. Williams, RS General President 1921-1928

Excerpt from LDS.org's biographies of past Relief Society Presidencies:

Clarissa S. Williams was a schoolteacher and a woman of humility and exceptional executive ability. Her presidency witnessed an increase of Relief Society involvement in the community. At her recommendation the interest accrued from the Relief Society wheat fund was used for health, maternity, and child welfare projects. The Relief Society Social Services Department, established in 1919, trained social workers, found employment for women, and offered adoption services. The Relief Society also trained nurses, aided refugees, and established a maternity home as part of an emphasis on maternity and health issues. Sister Williams considered the success of health care efforts one of the highlights of her presidency. She and her husband, William N. Williams, had eleven children.

As I was researching Clarissa S. Williams, I kept finding myself wishing I could go to Utah and comb through the archives for records on this woman. The online information I could find was thin. Most of what I've found from here came from an article by Nola Redd; she didn't list her sources, so if something is off, I apologize (the librarian in me hates using undocumented sources).

Clarissa Williams graduated from the University of Deseret (now University of Utah) with a teaching certificate. After graduation, she started her own school. Her love of education lasted throughout her life, and she felt that education for women was a necessity, not a luxury. She married her husband, William, the day before he left for a 2-year mission to Wales, and they eventually had a large family.

Before becoming the general RS president, she'd served in stake leadership, and under the administration of Emmeline Wells and Bathsheeba Smith. As the general RS president, she is praised for her administrative ability and social programs. She instituted modern accounting procedures for Relief Society funds. She instituted a wide range of social programs, including maternity hospitals and funds, women's employment agencies, adoption programs, nursing training, support of refugees, training in welfare tasks for thousands of LDS women, youth camps for underprivileged children, courses in home hygiene and care of the sick, a free milk fund, and health examinations for preschoolers. That's a big list.

I am grateful for the concrete work she did to help women with the issues they were facing, and to improve the world she lived in. Her administrative abilities were strong, and she used them to serve others.


Stephen said...

Wonderful stuff, Erin.

Could you maybe shoot me an email when you get the chance? steve (dot) evans at gmail. Thanks!

Caroline said...


This is Caroline from London study abroad 2003! (You know, that Asian girl whom Sister Genealogy always picked on because I didn't have any British ancestry. I forget her name. Yet I still remember the words to Jerusalem...) I don't think there are too many Erins out there who met their husbands on London study abroad so I'm hoping you are the one that I know! If not...I'm apologize... :o)

Anyway, I found your blog through a BCC link and I think this is so awesome! The role of women in the Church is vast yet we garner so little attention. Thank you for putting this together!

How are you and Rob doing?

Erin said...

Caroline!! You do have the right Erin - small world. I cracked up at the Jerusalem reference. I still remember Emily's impersonation.

Rob and I are doing well. We're both excited to be finishing our masters in the near future, and enjoying the prospect of getting real jobs. And we're the world's cheesiest newlyweds (so much for all my insisting I wasn't interested in him in London).

Great to hear from you!