From the Original Exponent: A President’s Address
Eliza Roxcy Snow, first lady of Mormon letters, was widely heralded in her time as Zion’s poetess and embraced the titles of priestess, mother in Israel, and prophetess. Arguably the most influential LDS woman of her time, she was the second president of the Relief Society; she organized the Young Women’s Association and the Primary; she was president of the Deseret Hospital Association; she was the plural wife of two prophets; and she wrote the great doctrinal hymn about Heavenly Mother (“O My Father”). This address, published in the September 1873 Women’s Exponent, expounds upon the theme: “Our sphere of action will continually widen, and no woman in Zion need to mourn because her sphere is too narrow.” Enjoy!
. . . [W]e my sisters . . . should be a shining light to the nations of the earth. But I often say to myself, are we what we should be? . . . We are to be progressing, and growing better. If we have done well to-day, we must do still better tomorrow. We believe in eternal progression. It will not do to say that we have so much to do that we cannot do any more, because the works and duties of the women of Zion are constantly increasing. No where on the earth has woman so broad a sphere of labor and duty, of responsibility and action, as in Utah . . . To be sure we have many of the crosses of life, but what do we meet the for? Are they for our own good and benefit or do we meet them all as for Zion’s sake? Do we let Zion take full possession of our desire, our ambition? . . .
We have self all absorbed in the interest of the work of God. We are here to perform duties, and to do our part towards establishing God’s Kingdom. We, my sisters, have as much to do as our brethren have. We are to work in union with them. . .
Paul the Apostle anciently spoke of holy women. It is the duty of each one of us to be a holy woman. We shall have elevated aims, if we are holy women. We shall feel that we are called to perform important duties. No one is exempt from them. There is no sister so isolated, and her sphere so narrow but what she can do a great deal towards establishing the Kingdom of God upon the earth.
I am proud to see so many young ladies associated with the Relief Society in Ogden. There should be an association in every settlement, and in every ward in Salt Lake City. . . . If you associate together, your minds are improved, you are gaining intelligence, and you are retrenching from ignorance. The Spirit of God will impart instruction to your minds, and you will impart it to each other . . .
Now, in Salt Lake City President Young counseled Sister Horne and myself, and Sister Smoot to organize the Young girls . . . There was cold water thrown on the efforts made. It was turned to ridicule by many. They said `what is the use of the girls meeting together, and praying, and talking?’ And I would ask what is the use of our brethren meeting together? If the young girls and the boys do not need the Spirit of the Gospel, there does not any person need it . . . [Y]ou can feel that you have a mission in Zion. Study the principles of the Gospel, converse on them, understand them, so that you may be able to cope with any of the wisest of the world. . . . I see the Relief Society here has no house of its own—no house that it can control. I know the sisters are accommodated. But each Society needs a house at its own disposal. And if the sisters in Ogden, with the sanction of the brethren, undertake to build a house, the brethren will help them. It is said that God helps those who help themselves. . . .
There is another thing I want to mention before I sit down. President Young is requiring the sisters to get students of Medicine. He wants a good many to get a classical education, and then get a degree for Medicine. So far as getting the degree is concerned, there would be no advantage, but in connection with the degree, the female practitioner stands on the same grounds a man does. Are there here, now, any sisters who have ambition enough, and who realize the necessity of it, for Zion’s sake, to take up this study. There are some who are naturally inclined to be nurses; and such ones would do well to study Medicine, if they are inclined to do so. If they cannot meet their own expenses, we have means of doing so. It is proposed that the sisters, instead of expending means to emigrate foreign Saints, spend that means in educating young women . . . there are many branches you need to study before going to the expense of being boarded abroad to study. You need to study Physiology, Anatomy, and other kindred branches.
Then, another class of women is wanted more advanced in age, who are natural nurses, and would be willing to study obstetrics . . . We are waiting to get up as large a class as we can . . . so that we can have our own practitioners, instead of having gentlemen practitioners. In ancient times we know that women officiated in this department, and why should it not be so now? The difficulty is in getting the sisters to feel like undertaking it.
Now if there are any who will attend through all of these classes, their expenses will be met . . . Don’t you see that our sphere is increasing? Our sphere of action will continually widen, and no woman in Zion need to mourn because her sphere is too narrow.
God bless you, my sisters, and encourage you, that you may be filled with light . . . inasmuch as you are wise stewards, you will find time for social duties, because these are incumbent upon us as daughters and mothers in Zion. By seeking to perform every duty you will find that your capacity will increase, and you will be astonished at what you can accomplish . . . You, my sisters, if you are faithful will become Queens of Queens, and Priestesses unto the Most High God. These are your callings. We have only to discharge our duties. By and by our labors will be past, and our names will be crowned with everlasting honor, and be had in everlasting remembrance among the Saints of the Most High God.
(Note: I am grateful to Signature Books for putting parts of “Women and Authority” on line – including a chapter which contains with several excerpts from both Exponents. This talk was included in that chapter.)