The Woman’s Exponent regularly published reports from local Relief Societies. The following document, an October 9, 1872, report submitted by Christina Liljenquist and her counselors in the Hyrum, Utah, Relief Society, provides an example of these reports and gives a brief glimpse into the activities and concerns of a rural Relief Society in northern Utah.
In 1856 Latter-day Saints began a concerted effort to establish settlements in Cache Valley in northern Utah and soon established a number of towns, including Logan in 1859 and Hyrum, in the south end of the valley, in 1860.1 In 1868 Mary Ann Maughan became president of the Relief Society in the Logan First Ward, and Relief Societies were organized in other wards in the valley. Apostle Ezra T. Benson, who also served as stake president of the Cache Valley Stake, instructed that the “Presidentess of the first ward was to preside over the whole, and that when ever she thought proper to call them all to gether it was her privilege.”2 Maughan thus coordinated and supervised the network of Relief Societies in the villages that dotted the valley.3 This relatively informal arrangement served as a precursor for the establishment of stake Relief Societies.4
On May 9, 1868, a Relief Society was first organized in the Hyrum Ward.5 Two years later, on April 7, 1870, the society was reorganized; Christina Jacobsen Liljenquist, a Swedish immigrant and the wife of ward bishop Ola Nilsson Liljenquist, became the new Relief Society president.6 A recent visit to Salt Lake City, partly funded by donations from Relief Society members, likely prompted Liljenquist’s 1872 letter.7
Hyrum, Cache County, Utah,
October 9th, 1872.
Editor Woman’s Exponent:
The Female Relief Society of this Ward was organized nearly four years ago, and since that time we have accomplished much good. Our Society is in a healthy condition; we have endeavored to do all in our power to comfort and bless the poor, the widow, the fatherless and the sick; thus assisting our Bishop and Teachers in some of their labors. In addition to this we have sent ninety dollars to assist in gathering the poor,8 and have given forty dollars to aid our Sunday School in purchasing a library and rewards. In connection with this Society there is a Young Ladies’ Retrenchment Association. We have a braiding school and make straw hats in Summer.9
Although the outside world may number us with the “poor, oppresse[d]10 women of Utah,” we experience great pleasure in saying, we have lived in the States and in the old world, but prefer living in, and enjoying the glorious liberties of Utah and her “Mormon” institutions, and in seeking to fill woman’s mission as wives, mothers and daughters, aiding suffering humanity wherever found.
The widow’s heart shall share our joy,
The orphan and oppressed
Shall see we love the sweet employ
To succor the distressed,11
And thus maintain woman’s legitimate rights.12
Christina Liljenquist, President,
Martha Ward, Counselors.