Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Emmeline Wells, Part 6 of 6: Later Years/Relief Society

Emmeline Wells had made important contributions to Relief Society throughout her life. In 1876, Brigham Young gave her the responsibility for organizing the church's grain storage program, which would become so successful that it sold over 200,000 bushels of wheat to the U.S. government in 1918 to help with the war-time effort (after the war, president Woodrow Wilson and his wife personally visited Emmeline to thank her for her efforts). She served as general secretary to the Relief Society for 20 years. She headed committees, organized celebrations, and was involved in the legal incorporation of the Relief Society.

In 1910, Emmeline Wells became the 5th general president of the Relief Society. She would serve from 1910 to 1921. It was a period filled with triumphs and trials for Emmeline. In 1912, the Relief Society took on responsibility for burial and temple clothing. Despite her best efforts to keep it going, the Relief Society Board would not pick up the tab for the Exponent, and it ceased publication in 1914. Also in 1914, the Relief Society issued a standard curriculum. Among the issues Emmeline emphasized during her presidency were motherhood, women's and children's legal rights, welfare, and elevating the minds and spirits of LDS women. Her executive capabilities were constantly utilized for the good of LDS women.

In 1921, Emmeline was released as general Relief Society president, which hurt her deeply, as the past three presidents served until their deaths. Emmeline only lived 3 weeks past that date.

I kept trying to cut these posts down so I could write about more than one woman this month, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I admire Emmeline's strength, her commitment to improving the status of women and providing them a voice, and her ability to trust in the Lord (even when it hurts to do so). The more I learn about her, the more I admire her. Her life was not what she would have chosen for herself, and she was often disappointed, but her faith in the Mormon religion was unshakable, and her trials truly made her strong and a force for good. I'm grateful for her example.

Emmeline B. Wells Biographical Sketch,
Emmeline B. Wells: A Fine Soul Who Served, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Ensign, July 2003


Jon W. said...

So did the church after that did they release RS Presidents as I know they are not permenant callings

Erin said...

Correct, when Sister Wells was released, the RS president stopped being a life calling. Terms became much shorter after that. Belle Spafford served for about 30 years (1945-1974), but 5-10 years has been the norm.