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Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Meeting, Minutes, February 19, 1870

Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Society, “Minutes of the 2nd Meeting of the Ladies Co-operative Retrenchment Society,” Feb. 19, 1870; Fifteenth Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Relief Society Minutes and Records, 1868–1968, vol. 1, 1868–1873, pp. 151–157, CHL (LR 2848 14).

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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 Har[r]iet 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]


  1. [1]See Document 3.15.

  2. [2]See Document 3.17.

  3. [3]See Document 3.18; Susa Young Gates, History of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from November 1869 to June 1910 (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911), 33–35, 37; and “Minutes of the Ninth Meeting of the Ladys Cooperative Retrenchment Association,” May 28, 1870, Zina D. Young Papers, in Zina Card Brown Family Collection, 1806–1972, CHL.

  4. [4]See Document 3.18; and “General Retrenchment Meetings,” Woman’s Exponent, July 1904, 33:15.

  5. [5]See Document 3.15.

  6. [6]See Document 3.15.

  7. [7]Minutes of the ward-level retrenchment meetings mentioned here have not been located except those of the Seventh Ward. (Seventh Ward, Salt Lake Stake, Seventh Ward Relief Society Records, 1858–1875, CHL, Feb. 18, 1870.)

  8. [8]See Luke 10:38–42.

  9. [9]See Document 3.13. The Sacramento Daily Union published a correspondent’s account of the January 13, 1870, “Great Indignation Meeting” held to protest congressional antipolygamy legislation. The account read in part: “Salt Lake City to-day has been the scene of one of the most remarkable assemblages that probably has ever gathered on this continent. … [An indignant sisterhood] denounced the bills as unconstitutional, tyrannical, unprecedented in republicanism, unjust, and worthy only of reprobation, while the authors of them were impaled—figuratively, of course—with numerous sharp-pointed utterances. They defended polygamy, and claimed for it divine sanction and command; maintained it was a part of their religion, and as such they were guaranteed protection in its practice by the Constitution. … Altogether the meeting was a most astonishing one, and offers another phase of the Mormon problem for consideration; for there was no mistaking the earnestness and determination of purpose of most who were present.” (“Letter from Salt Lake,” Sacramento Daily Union, Jan. 18, 1870, [1].)

  10. [10]Utah territorial secretary and acting governor Stephen A. Mann signed the woman suffrage bill into law on February 12, 1870. (See Document 3.17.)

  11. [11]In her statement about passage of suffrage bills in other states, Snow may have relied on an inaccurate statement published three days earlier in the Deseret News. Praising Mann for signing the woman suffrage bill, the Deseret News inaccurately declared him to be “the first Executive to attach the approving signature to such a measure, for the Governor of Wyoming vetoed the bill in that Territory and it was passed over the veto.” In fact, when Governor John A. Campbell signed the Wyoming suffrage act on December 10, 1869, he did so without hesitation—rather to the surprise of the territorial legislature, who were expecting his veto. (“The Woman Suffrage Bill,” Deseret News [weekly], Feb. 16, 1870, 18; Michael A. Massie, “Reform Is Where You Find It: The Roots of Woman Suffrage in Wyoming,” Annals of Wyoming 62 [Spring 1990]: 2–21; E. A. Thomas, “Female Suffrage in Wyoming,” Potter’s American Monthly 18 [May 1882]: 492–495; Beverly Beeton, Women Vote in the West: The Woman Suffrage Movement, 1869–1896, American Legal and Constitutional History [New York: Garland, 1986], 4.)

  12. [12]See 1 Corinthians 11:11.

  13. [13]Albert P. Rockwood, a longtime member of the Utah territorial legislature, may have spoken during the legislative discussion of the woman suffrage bill. During that process, “a number of ladies, for whom seats had been provided, graced the debate with their presence, and listened with much interest.” (Dean C. Jessee and David J. Whittaker, “The Last Months of Mormonism in Missouri: The Albert Perry Rockwood Journal,” BYU Studies 28, no. 1 [Winter 1988]: 5; “Mormon Suffrage,” Deseret Evening News, Feb. 10, 1870, [3].)

  14. [14]Snow frequently wrote and spoke of the curse pronounced upon Eve and woman’s ultimate restoration to primordial full equality with man. She viewed the practice of plural marriage as “necessary in the elevation and salvation of the human family—in redeeming woman from the curse, and the world from corruptions.” George Q. Cannon, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said that plural marriage was “a principle which, if practiced in purity and virtue, as it should be, will result in the exaltation and benefit of the human family; and that it will exalt woman until she is redeemed from the effects of the Fall, and from that curse pronounced upon her in the beginning.” (Genesis 3:16; Eliza R. Snow, “Sketch of My Life,” n.d., Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 13; “Discourse,” Deseret News [weekly], Nov. 3, 1869, 459.)

  15. [15]For “saviors on Mount Zion,” see Obadiah 1:21; and Doctrine and Covenants 103:9–10. “Born in the priesthood” (also commonly phrased as being “born in the covenant” or being a “child of the covenant”) means a child is heir to spiritual blessings as a result of his or her parents being sealed in a temple marriage ceremony. (Brigham Young, Mar. 29, 1868, in Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [Liverpool: Various publishers, 1855–1886], 12:174; Brigham Young, June 23, 1874, in Journal of Discourses, 18:249.)

  16. [16]That is, human bodies. (See 2 Peter 1:13–14; Moroni 9:6; and Doctrine and Covenants 93:35.)

  17. [17]See Joel 2:29; and Luke 1:30.

  18. [18]See 325n245 herein.

  19. [19]The first wife was to have “a voice” by giving her consent before her husband married other wives, a principle that was generally but not universally applied. Smoot later reflected: “In 1845 and 6 my Husband entered into Plural Marriage, by having other women sealed to him in the [Nauvoo] Temple to which I was perfectly willing, and gave my fullest & freeest consent, believing and receiving it as a part of my religion from which I have never faltered or swerved, and I bear my testimony that my Husband and his wives are virtious, chaste and honorable to their marriage vows, and their children are legitamate, and heirs to the Priesthood of God.” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:34, 61; Genesis 16:1–2; Margaret T. Smoot, Autobiographical Sketch, 1881, photocopy, CHL, 2.)

  20. [20]text: Ellipsis points in original. See Luke 6:45.

  21. [21]See 1 Samuel 15:22.

  22. [22]The referenced poem has not been located. For an example of protest poetry by Emily Hill Woodmansee, see “Give the ‘Mormons’ Their Rights” in Document 4.15.

  23. [23]Bathsheba W. Smith accompanied her husband, George A. Smith, on an extended tour of southern Utah Territory; after their return, he reported having traveled “more than 1,000 miles among the settlements” and visited “perhaps 30,000 people.” On at least one occasion during that trip, Bathsheba Smith presided at a retrenchment meeting (in St. George), noting that she had been “appointed to teach table retrenchment.” (“Remarks,” Deseret Evening News, Apr. 30, 1870, [2]; “Minutes of Ladies Cooperative Retrenchment Meeting,” Mar. 26, 1870, Bathsheba W. Smith Collection, 1842–1948, CHL.)

  24. [24]Hymn 119, A Collection of Sacred Hymns for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, ed. Emma Smith (Nauvoo, IL: E. Robinson, 1841), 127.