The Church Historian's Press

Bonus Chapter 4

A Drone in the Hive of Deseret

General Retrenchment Association

Fourteenth Ward Assembly Hall, Salt Lake City, Utah

December 30, 1893

Julia Matilda Cruse Howe (1823–1916) lived a life of quiet service, as she described in a short talk in 1893. She was born in Boxford, England, and was baptized on April 6, 1849, following two older sisters, Mary and Charlotte, who had been baptized in 1847.1 Before Howe left for America in June 1849 with her sisters, her father, who had been baptized soon after his daughters, promised her in a blessing that she would live to do an important work.2 Near the end of her life, a biographer called Howe “an indefatigable worker.”3

Upon arriving in America, Julia and Charlotte Cruse lived in St. Louis, Missouri, where Julia met and married fellow Latter-day Saint Amos Howe, a mechanic. The Howe family lived there and in New York for fourteen years, entertaining missionaries and traveling church leaders in their home as they passed through town.4 When the Howes moved to Salt Lake City in 1864, many old friends warmly received them.

Howe served as a teacher and treasurer in the Seventeenth Ward Relief Society. While the Young Ladies’ association in the ward had been organized in 1870, the group abruptly disbanded from 1871 until 1875. In the interim, Howe coordinated an additional sewing class among young women in the ward, known as the Juvenile Relief Society, to assist the ward Relief Society.5 She served as the Primary president of the Salt Lake City Seventeenth Ward from 1881 to 1895 and taught Sunday School for several years.6

Women in Salt Lake City attended different meetings held by different organizations, which often overlapped in leadership, responsibilities, and purpose.7 One of these was the semimonthly meeting of the General Retrenchment Association, which originated as the Senior Cooperative Retrenchment Association in 1870. The group included women from all wards in the Salt Lake Valley and became an interward exchange to communicate about Relief Society, suffrage, the Deseret Hospital, and silk manufacture.8 While stake Relief Society organizations began in 1877, the general retrenchment semimonthly meeting continued as a separate group and often reported their meeting minutes in the Woman’s Exponent.9

Mary Isabella Horne, who was also the president of the Salt Lake Stake Relief Society, presided over the semimonthly meeting on December 30, 1893. At the time, the Salt Lake Stake Relief Society consisted of more than forty different Relief Societies spread throughout the Salt Lake valley.10 In previous years, leaders from the Relief Society central board and the stake Relief Society presidency traveled to local organizations to speak to and train women there. Because the Salt Lake Temple had been dedicated just eight months before this meeting, many of these leaders were now working in the temple, necessitating a request for assistance in visiting local branches. In the December 30, 1893, meeting, Horne assigned Howe as an aide to the Salt Lake Stake Relief Society, along with secretary Lydia D. Alder. Horne then asked Howe to speak, and Howe expressed her thoughts about this new visiting assignment and about service in general.11

Sister Howe said, “I believe it is customary for the brethren to express their feelings in such cases, and thought it was right so to do. I always felt that I did not wish to be a drone in the hive of Deseret.12

“My experience has taught me that it is not the mighty or educated alone who can do the most good, but those who are willing to be laborers in the vineyard.13 I feel to sustain all those who are called to instruct and go from place to place. I bear my testimony to the good done in these meetings, and much will be required of those who have these opportunities of instruction.14 I feel that this duty to which I am called will be a pleasure, and desire to do all I can.”15 Sister Howe also spoke on charity, explained its meaning, and gave other good instructions.

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A Drone in the Hive of Deseret, At the Pulpit, accessed July 19, 2024