In late 1868 or early 1869, Sarah M. Kimball, president of the Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward Relief Society, summarized her organization’s labors of the prior year in an annual message. Kimball had resumed her position as president when the ward Relief Society was reorganized in January 1868 following a ten-year hiatus.1 Her annual message, inscribed by ward Relief Society secretary Sarah Eliza (Sallie) Russell on loose pages later inserted into the Fifteenth Ward minutes, is an example of the annual reports and messages that ward Relief Societies often used to report on their yearly progress.2
One of the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society’s significant accomplishments during the year was beginning construction of a “storehouse.” In summer 1868 the ward society purchased a lot located within ward boundaries on which to construct a building to be used as a store.3 Construction of a two-story frame building commenced following a cornerstone-laying ceremony held November 12, 1868.4 The ground floor housed a cooperative store devoted “to commerce and trade” that opened for business in April 1869. The upper level, completed in July 1869, was used as an assembly hall “dedicated to worship, to Art and to Science” where Relief Society meetings and other public functions were held. The building was officially dedicated August 5, 1869.5 The Fifteenth Ward Relief Society hall was the first of its kind in the church.6
The first anniversary of the organization of this society has not yet arrived,7 whether our efforts have been a success or a failure we leave those who are acquainted with our works and the means we have had in our hands to judge. We know there is a strong prejudice existing in the minds of many against female organizations, and we regret to acknowledge there is cause for their prejudice. We have had to meet and contend with it and we hope with the aid of our Father and God to be able to live it down.8
The class of women who haven [have given?] rise to this feeling are those who have rushed from the extreme of inactivity and helplessness to the opposite one and now call for a place in the senate and all public offices and responeibilities neglecting her first and highest duty, that of making home happy.9
We thought much upon this subject upon the pain of having our best feeling and endeavors misunderstood and centured [censured] perhaps by those whose judgement and good will we prized the most, the thoughts of all this and of our inability to fight the battle and gain the victory. [p. ]
Then the doom of the unprofitable servant arose before us,10 and with a prayer for strength and wisdom we entered the list of female laborers for the cause of universal good, under the protecting banner of the holy priesthood, armed with such delegated powers and aided by such helps as we are proud to acknowledge from the Gentlemen of the ward, should we fail to accomplish much, we should prove ourselves unworthy of the trust you have confided to our care.
When we think upon the magnitude of the work before the little handfull of men and women here in the mountains, we sometimes tremble for the result. We are so slow to understand the ways of God and to obey his commandments.
In relation to the storehouse being erected, the echo has reached our ears that the society wished, the brethren to do the work, and for them to have the credit of it. We do not know where the sound originated, but we wish to inform all present that it is entirely a mistake.
We feel to give much credit to all who have aided us both with means and words of encouragement, and we feel to strike out the word female and call this the Relief Society11 [p. ] for we do not wish to be exclusive but to go hand in hand with you in the accomplishment of all that is good true and noble.12
To our sisters who have met with us both in sunshine and storm, and to all whose hearts are with us in this cause we feel that the blessings of heaven are upon you. You know by the feelings of peace and joy that you have experienced after performing some act of kindness that it is “more blessed to give and to do good than it is to receive.[”]13 We would encourage you to continue in well doing, and 〈we〉 extend an invitation to all the Sisters of the ward who can come to meet with us,14 we know that we are benefitted by meeting together and that you would be likewise.
With feelings of good will for all we wish you a happy New Year. [p. ]