During the nine-day interim between the first meeting of the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Society1 and this second meeting held on February 19, 1870, Utah’s acting territorial governor, Stephen A. Mann, signed into law a woman suffrage bill.2 When women from various ward Relief Societies gathered for their second retrenchment meeting, they discussed the developing movement for table retrenchment formally initiated nine days earlier. Additionally, they shared a range of opinions regarding their newly granted right to vote and women’s rights generally. The varied nature of the discussion suggests that by the second time these Latter-day Saint women assembled as the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Society, they had some sense that this interward gathering could serve as a forum for sharing, vetting, and directing their expanding collective responsibilities.
Mary Isabella Horne, appointed by Brigham Young to bring women from various wards together, had presided at the first cooperative retrenchment meeting; Eliza R. Snow presided at this second meeting. The group was publicly organized at its ninth meeting, in the Fourteenth Ward assembly hall, on May 28, 1870. Horne was “unanimously accepted” as president at the May 28 meeting, as were her nominees of four counselors: Eliza R. Snow, Zina D. H. Young, Margaret T. Smoot, and Sarah M. Kimball. Bathsheba W. Smith and Phebe C. Woodruff were accepted as additional counselors during the June 25, 1870, meeting. The leadership of the society’s “Young Ladies’ Department,” formed on May 27, 1870, was also publicly recognized at the May 28 meeting.3
For a time the name of the group was the Senior and Junior Cooperative Retrenchment Association. It was later called General Retrenchment and eventually Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meeting because it met twice monthly until it disbanded early in 1904. Horne served as its president for its entire thirty-four-year existence.4 In 1870 Relief Societies were organized only at a ward level, but the Cooperative or General Retrenchment meetings began to function as a governing council for the ward organizations. That role is apparent in the following minutes of the February 19, 1870, meeting as the society, working by parliamentary procedure, appointed both individuals and committees to carry out specific assignments. This transcript is reproduced from the original minutes of the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society.
Minutes of the 2nd Meeting of the Ladies Cooperative Retrenchment Society. Held in the Society Hall 15 Ward
Saturday Feb. 19, 1870.
Most of the Wards of the City were represented Miss E R Snow was elected president, and Mrs L[ydia] D Alder Secretary,
Meeting opened with singing. Prayer by Mrs Hariet Young.
Pres E R Snow arose and said
It is our duty to perform all that comes within the province of woman. There is a great diference of opinion in regard to her sphere, but retrenchment is certainly within her sphere, and as Pres Young has given our beloved Sister Horn the mission,5 to retrench the table in company and social gatherings I feel that we should all assist her, with heart and hand, it will save the sisters straining every nerve and also be a saving in means.
Pres Young has preached against it for years and now Sister Horn has stepped forward and formed a nucleus, the effects of which will reach to Eternity, and the Sisters will follow in her footsteps. I have said enough. the mark that has been made will be felt in future generations.
Mrs S M Kimball the sec’ of the previous meeting, read the minutes before the meeting, also Mrs M I Horn’s address on that occasion.6
Miss E R Snow arose and
said stated thos meetings had been held in some of the Wards and requested the sec’ys’ present to read the minutes of said meetings.
Mrs Precinda L Kimball sec’y of the 16th ward read the minutes of the Retrenchment meeting held in that ward. Minutes of the meeting in the 15 Ward read by Mrs S M Kimball, [p. 151] of the 20 by Mrs E[liza] S Dunford, of the 7 Ward read by Mrs. M[ary] A Lambert, of the 11 Ward by Mrs Colum [Ann Coulam], of the 13th Ward read by Mrs E[lizabeth] Goddard.7
Miss E R Snow, said in explanation, these were only examples, that we should not be confined to any ro[u]tine, but set on our tables that which is wholesome and convenient, and would like to hear from any of the sisters present in regard to the movement on the topic.
Mrs M I Horn,
Expressed her satisfaction, at the willingness of the sisters in aiding her in what was required at her hands. Said pride must be conquered, and we must reform our tables when we have company, let the food be well cooked plain and palatable, said she believed this to be the starting point of the salvation of the People, and now that we have said let us retrench let us do it, so that we will not leave the ground to go over again, spoke of the case of Martha and Mary in the days of Jesus8 and exhorted all to be faithful and receive the Blessing of God.
Miss E R Snow,
Arose and said to encourage the sisters on in good works she would read an account of our Indignation Meeting, as it appeared in the Sacrament[o] Union,9 which account she thought a very fair one, she also stated, that an expression of gratitude was due acting Gov Mann for signing the Document of Woman Suffrage in Utah,10 for, she said we could not have had the right without his sanction, said that other states had passed bills of this kind over the Gov’ head, but we could not do this.11
The following named persons were elected by unanimous vote to be a Com’ for said purpose, E R Snow, Bashaby [Bathsheba] Smith, S M Kimball M T Smoot, H C Young, Z D Young, Phoebe Woodruff M I Horn M N Hide [Marinda Nancy Hyde], Elizth Cannon, Rachel Grant Amanda Smith. [p. 152]
Mrs S M Kimball,
Said that she had waited patiently a long time, and now that we were granted the right of suffrage, she would openly declare herself a womans rights woman, and called upon those who would to back her up, whereupon many manifested their approval. Said her experience in life had been different to that of many, had moved in all grades of Society, had been both rich and poor, had always seen much good and inteligence in woman, the interests of man and woman cannot be seperated, for the man is not without the woman or the woman without the man in the Lord.12 She spoke of the foolish custom which deprived the mother of having control over her sons at a certain age. Said she saw the foreshadowing of a brighter day in this respect in the future, said she had entertained ideas that appeared wild that she thought would yet be considered woman’s rights. Spoke of the remarks made by bro. Rockwood lately,13 who said women would have as much prejudice to overcome in occupying certain positions as the men would in letting them, said he considered a woman a helpmate in every department of life.
Mrs Phoebe Woodruff,
Said she was pleased with the Reform and was heart and hand with her sisters, was thankful for the privilage that had been granted to women, but thought we must act in wisdom, and not go too fast, had looked for this day for years. God has opened the way for us, we have borne in patience but the yoke on woman is removed, now that God has moved upon our brethren to grant us this privilege, let us lay it by and wait ’til the time comes to use it, and not run headlong and abuse the privilage Great and blessed things are ahead. All is right and will come out right and woman will receive her reward, in blessings and honor. May God grant us strength to do right in his sight. [p. 153]
Mrs Bashaby Smith,
Said she felt pleased, had no objections to anything that had been said has felt to be heart and hand with all, said she never felt better, nor ever felt weaker and the necessity of greater wisdom and light, but felt determined to do the best she could, felt that woman was coming up in the world. should be encouraged, for there is nothing required of us that we cannot perform.
Mrs Pricinda Kimball,
I feel comforted and blessed this day am glad to be numbered, in moving forward in this reform, feel to exercise double diligence, and try to accomplish what is required at our hands, we must all put our shoulders to the wheel and go a head, I am glad to see our daughters elevated with man and the time come when our votes will assist our leaders and redeem ourselves. But be humble, never fail and triumph will be our’s, The day is approaching when woman shall be redeemed from the curse placed upon Eve, and I have often thought that our daughters who are in poligamy will be the first redeemed.14 Then let us keep the Commandments, and attain a fulness, and always bear in mind that our children born in the Priesthood will be saviors on Mount Zion.15
Mrs E. Cannon,
Said she had never taken any active part in any of the late moves, was pleased with everything that was said and done, done the best she could with the rest of the sisters, and ask God to bless us all, and help us to carry out the councils we receive from time to time.
Mrs Z D Young,
Said she was glad to look upon such an assemblage of bright and happy faces, and was gratified to be numbered with the Spirits who had taken tabernacles16 in this dispensation, [p. 154] and know that we are associated with kings and priests of God, thought we do not realize our privillege. Be meek and humble and do not move one step aside that will incur chastisement, but gain power over ourselves, angels will visit the Earth and are we as hand maids of the Lord prepared to meet them.17 We live in the day that has been looked down upon with great anxiety since the morning of Creation. Do we appreciate this? The Brethren have borne with us in our weakness, now let us put our shoulder to the wheel and help them, strengthen them in their duties and live in Joy, peace and union. God help us to be worthy at his coming.
Mrs M T Smoot,
Said she was thankful to be in our midst and was one with the Brethren and sisters in adopting all the principles that are advanced, we are engaged in a good work, and the Principles that we have embraced are life and Salvation unto us. Many principles are advanced on which we are slow to act, but there are many more yet to be advanced. Womans rights have been spoken of. I have never had any desire for more rights than I have. I have always considered these things beneath the sphere of woman. But as things progress I feel it is right that we should vote. I consider the Path frought with great difficulties. I have always sought to vote at conference,18 and then I felt I had done all I desired to do I have had a voice in my husband taking more wives, for this I am thankful.19 I have taken pleasure in practicing this pure principle, although I have been tried in it, yet since the birth of our first child by the second wife, I have never felt to dissolve ties thus formed. “Out of the abundance of the Heart the mouth speaketh . . .”20 Sister Smoot continued at length in speaking on Poligamy and the Duties growing out of it, and exhorted the sisters to be true women of God, to improve and be faithful to the end. [p. 155]
Pres E R Snow moved to add two more to the Committe. Passed.
Mrs [Harriet] Amelia Young and Mrs Pricinda Kimball were added by unanimous vote.
Mrs [Wilmirth] East
Said she would bear testimony to what had been said, she had found by experience “that obedience was better than sacrifice”21 felt to be on the safe side and sustain those above us, I cannot quite agree with sister Smoot in regard to womans rights, I have never felt that woman had her privileges, I always wanted a voice in the Politics of the Nation, as well as rear a family, I was much impressed when I read the Poem composed by Mrs. Emily Woodmansee, Who cares to win a womans thoughts, I then thought I care to win a woman’s thoughts.22 My sisters this is a bright day, but we need more wisdom and humility than ever before. I am glad to be associated with you those who have borne the heat and burden of the day, and I ask God to pour blessings on their heads continually.
Mrs. [Johanna] Ballon
Expressed herself pleased, and felt that much time spent now in cooking could be used to better advantage, she desired to live humble and be saved in the Kingdom.
Pres E R Snow,
Said there was another business item she wished to present to the meeting and motioned that Sister B Smith be appointed the mission to preach retrenchment all through the South,23 and womans rights if she wished to—Passed, Sr Snow suggested that the sisters in the wards where they had not held retrenchment meetings to do so and set the example. Sister Horn has not stepped forward a day too soon the hearts of all are prepared for it. I wish you all to lead out that every good woman may join us if she will. [p. 156]
The meeting was adjourned, until Friday March 4th 2 o’clock at the 14th Ward Assembly Room
Singing “Redeemer of Israel,”24
Prayer by Mrs M N Hide. [p. 157]