Monday, March 17, 2008

Louise Yates Robison, RS General President 1928-1939

At first glance, Louise Yates Robison hardly seems like a boundary breaker for women. Don't get me wrong - her contributions were highly valuable. She led the Relief Society during the great depression, which was a time when the church leaned heavily on the Welfare efforts of the Relief Society. That is no small accomplishment. She emphasized the importance of voluntary and personal service to others. But she didn't have the passionate gusto and women's rights enthusiasm of many of her predecessors. She was described as quiet, unassuming, and down-to-earth. One of the things she is most remembered for is her love of music, and the fact she dubbed the many Relief Society choirs "singing mothers." She is also remembered for starting "Mormon Handicraft," a shop which allowed Relief Society sisters to sell homemade gift items. Her resourcefulness and dedication to the value of mothers inspires me. Though these were certainly valuable accomplishments, she struck me as more traditional.

So I was surprised to learn that she was the first woman to address the church at a regular session of General Conference in the capacity of General Relief Society President, and as near as I can tell, the first woman to speak at a general session of conference in over 70 years. The only woman prior to that time that I could find was Lucy Mack Smith addressing the church in 1845 (correct me if I'm wrong, history buffs!). The fact that we as Mormons are able to learn from each other, male and female, black and white, 12 years old or 92 years old, is one of my favorite parts about the way we worship. I love that she started the trend of hearing inspired words from men and women alike at general conference.

I also relate to President Robison because we share a love of the history of LDS women. In 1933, she instigated the building of a Relief Society monument in Nauvoo on the location of its founding. It is thought to be the first effort of the LDS church to mark its historic places in Nauvoo.

Sources:
Louise Y. Robison Biographical Sketch, lds.org.
Louise Yates Robison, Encyclopedia of Mormonism

5 comments:

Justin said...

Lucy Mack Smith actually spoke at the General Conference in October 1845. FWIW, I posted on this subject some time ago here.

Erin said...

Thanks, Justin. I've updated the post accordingly.

Term Papers said...
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Cherie Guiremand said...

This is my great-great grandmother, not by blood, but my biological great-grandmother, married once before very very early, was converted to the church and subsequently sealed to the son of Louise Yates Robison, and my grandfather was sealed his mother and stepfather, her son, Lyman Robison, and on down the line. I want so much to know more about her and I love this posting. Thank you!