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Susan Cuthbertson, Application to Nauvoo Female Relief Society, circa September 1843

Susan Cuthbertson, Application, [ca. Sept.] 1843; one page; Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT (WA MSS S-1644 F349).

See image of the original document at brbl-dl.library.yale.edu.


At the third meeting of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, on March 31, 1842, Joseph Smith expressed concern that the society was growing “too fast” and advised “that none should be received into the Society but those who were worthy— propos’d that the Society go into a close examination of every candidate.”1 On June 9, 1842, he suggested a formal process for application: “henceforth no person shall be admitted but by presenting regular petition signed by two or three members in good standing in the Society— whoever comes in must be of good report.”2 As Eliza R. Snow later explained, “The Society soon became so popular that even those of doubtful character in several instances applied for admission, and to prevent imposition by extending membership to such ones inadvertently, stricter rules were adopted than seemed requisite at first. Each one wishing to join the Society was required to present a certificate of her good moral character, signed by two or more responsible persons.”3

Following this pattern, Susan McGee Cuthbertson (or Cuthbert) applied for admission to the Relief Society circa September 1843 and was accepted as a new member on October 14, 1843.4 A native of Ireland, she emigrated to the United States likely between 1841 and early 1843 and then married Edward Cuthbertson (or Cuthbert) on July 21, 1843, in Nauvoo.5 Cuthbertson’s application was signed by Rebecca Reed and her daughter Lydia R. Reed. The application was apparently retained for some time by Phebe M. Bartholomew Wheeler, the assistant secretary of the Relief Society.6


Navoo the 21 [illegible] 1843

Ladies

I Susan Cuthbertson Desires to Join the friendly famel [female] Society in Navoo if it meets your minds

Misses Rabaca Reed

Miss Lady [Lydia] R Reed7

Footnotes

  1. [1]Document 1.2, entry for Mar. 31, 1842.

  2. [2]Document 1.2, entry for June 9, 1842.

  3. [3]Eliza R. Snow, “The Female Relief Society,” Woman’s Exponent, June 15, 1872, 1:10. In addition, Snow stated, a “commission was appointed to go and inquire into the character of all applicants” who desired to live righteously and prepare themselves to become “holy women.” (Gunnison Ward, Gunnison Stake, Relief Society Minutes and Records, 1872–1949, Sept. 30, 1872, vol. 1, p. 27.)

  4. [4]Document 1.2, entry for Oct. 14, 1843.

  5. [5]She was living with her parents and three women in Lanarkshire, Ireland, in 1841. (1841 Scotland Census, Lanarkshire, Barony Middle Carlton, 14, p. 9.)

  6. [6]Wheeler’s second husband, Oliver Olney (whom she married in October 1843), evidently later made various inscriptions on the same sheet on which Cuthbertson had written her application.

  7. [7]text: The second signature appears to be in the same handwriting as the first signature.