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Sarah M. Kimball, Annual Message, circa December 1868

Sarah M. Kimball, Annual message, [ca. Dec. 1868]; microfilm; three pages; Fifteenth Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Relief Society Minutes and Records, 1868–1968, vol. 5, 1874–1894, CHL (LR 2848 14).

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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

Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward Relief Society hall

Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward Relief Society hall. Construction of this first Relief Society hall was already under way when President Sarah M. Kimball reported on the labors of her ward society’s first year at the close of 1868. Echoing the design of Joseph Smith’s red brick store in Nauvoo, the hall had a cooperative store on the main floor and an assembly room—dedicated to art, science, and worship—upstairs. A report of the August 5, 1869, dedicatory ceremony appears in Document 3.24. Later hall designs primarily accommodated church meetings and social events. The photograph comes from Emmeline B. Wells, ed., Charities and Philanthropies: Woman’s Work in Utah (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon and Sons, 1893), copy at Church History Library, Salt Lake City.

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. [1]]

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. [2]] 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. [3]]


  1. [1]For more information on Kimball and the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society, see Document 3.9.

  2. [2]The source document is three loose pages, undated and unsigned, inserted into volume 5 of the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society minutes next to the minutes for April 30, 1885. The document is available only in the microfilm version of these minutes. Textual clues date it to late 1868 or the first days of 1869. Russell, who often transcribed Kimball’s addresses, served as secretary of the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society from May 21, 1868, to January 6, 1876.

  3. [3]Fifteenth Ward, Riverside Stake, Fifteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, 1868–1968, CHL, vol. 1, July 16, 1868.

  4. [4]Fifteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, vol. 1, Nov. 12, 1868; Document 3.24.

  5. [5]“Co-operation,” Deseret Evening News, Apr. 29, 1869, [3]; Fifteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, vol. 1, Nov. 12, 1868, and Aug. 5, 1869; “Dedication,” Deseret News [weekly], Aug. 11, 1869, 317; see also “Secretary’s Annual Report,” in Fifteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, vol. 1, Feb. 4, 1869.

  6. [6]Jennifer Reeder, “‘To Do Something Extraordinary’: Mormon Women and the Creation of a Usable Past” (PhD diss., George Mason University, 2013), 155–157, 168–170.

  7. [7]The Salt Lake City Fifteenth Ward Relief Society had resumed operations in January 1868 following a ten-year hiatus. (See Document 3.9.)

  8. [8]At one early Fifteenth Ward Relief Society meeting in 1868, one ward priesthood leader, a Brother Bywater, made “some lengthy remarks upon the Good and Evil that would result from Female gatherings and believed that the good that will result from the Female R.S. would overbalance the evil.” Another leader, Brother Pollard, noted that “he had been opposed to Female gatherings untill he met with the Sisters at the Reorganization of the Society, but his Prejudices were now removed and he felt confident it would result in good.” (Fifteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, vol. 1, Jan. 2 and 4, 1868.)

  9. [9]The question of the extent to which women’s engagement in politics would disrupt family life was a perennial point of debate in the movement for women’s rights. More conservative suffragists underscored the importance of home and church as manifest in an 1873 resolution of the American Woman Suffrage Association: “Resolved, That a government of the people must be a government composed equally of men and women, inasmuch as the equal co-operation of the sexes is essential alike to a happy home, a refined society, a Christian church, and a Republican State.” (“Of Course We Will,” Deseret News [weekly], Nov. 12, 1873, 648, italics in original.)

  10. [10]See Matthew 25:14–30.

  11. [11]The omission of the word “female” from the name of the society was a question resolved less than four years later, in the fall of 1872, when Eliza R. Snow formally proposed the change, which was then ratified by local Relief Societies. (“F. R. Society Reports,” Woman’s Exponent, Oct. 15, 1872, 1:74; Nov. 15, 1872, 1:90; Dec. 1, 1872, 1:98; see also Document 3.5.)

  12. [12]Kimball frequently emphasized the importance of partnership between the sexes. For example, in her annual Relief Society message for year-end 1872, she praised the men of the ward for treating the women of the Relief Society as “what we think we should be, coworkers with them in this labor of love and duty.” (Sarah M. Kimball, “Pres. Mrs Kimball’s Annual Message for Jan 1st 1873,” in Fifteenth Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Fifteenth Ward Relief Society Annual Message, 1873, CHL; see also, for example, “Greeting,” Woman’s Exponent, Feb. 15, 1890, 18:139.)

  13. [13]See Acts 20:35.

  14. [14]The Fifteenth Ward Relief Society secretary’s annual report for the year 1868 noted that although the membership list included 182 names, “only a comparatively few answer regularly at Roll call, our weekly meetings do not average near that number.” (“Secretary’s Annual Report,” in Fifteenth Ward Relief Society Minutes and Records, vol. 1, Feb. 4, 1869.)