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Sandwich Islands Relief Society, Report, October 5, 1883

Sandwich Islands Relief Society, Report, Oct. 5, 1883, in “Sandwich Islands. Interesting Report,” in “R.S., Y.L.M.I.A. and Primary Reports,” Woman’s Exponent (Salt Lake City, UT), Nov. 1, 1883, vol. 12, no. 11, p. 86.

See image of the original document at lib.byu.edu, courtesy of Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.


The document featured below is Sarah Partridge’s report of an October 1883 Relief Society conference held in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). Sarah Lucretia Clayton Partridge had arrived in Honolulu the prior summer with her husband, Edward Partridge Jr., who was the newly appointed president of the Sandwich Islands mission, and some of their children. Missionaries first arrived in Hawaii in December 1850.1 Edward Partridge served a first mission to the islands in the mid-1850s. In 1856, when he presided over the Kohala, Hawaii, conference, church membership on the islands was reported to be 3,831. Twenty-six years later, when he and Sarah arrived for their mission, they found that church membership had not significantly changed.2 But there was one noteworthy change from the 1850s: the Relief Society had been officially organized in Hawaii, probably in the early to mid-1870s.3

After the Partridges’ arrival, Edward immersed himself in the work of supervising the mission, including providing support to the Relief Society branches located on the different islands. On October 7, 1882, he wrote in his journal: “At 4 o clock met with the Relief Societies only 4 represented, organized a first Presidency, as follows, S. L. Partridge President, G. J. Anderson, Kaahanui [Kaleohano] & Nalia [Kekauoha] counsellors, and Kahaole secretary.”4 The following year Sarah Partridge was also appointed to serve as the Primary president.5 In meeting the demands of these callings, Sarah Partridge was often concerned about her proficiency in the Hawaiian language.6

The Relief Society of the church was not the only relief organization the Partridges found on the islands. The king and queen of Hawaii took an interest in assisting the sick and destitute and founded a “national ‘Female Relief Society.’”7 Various denominations also had organizations analogous to the Relief Society. In December 1876 King Kalakaua visited the Honolulu Branch of the church. His “object in visiting our church was to organize Female Relief Societies, as he is doing in other churches, and after services were through he proceeded to attend to that business. He wished to raise a fund to be applied to the relief of the sick.”8 The following February, Queen Kapiolani visited the church at Laie for the same purpose: “that the wants of the sick and destitute might be administered to, and thereby preserve the lives of many of the nation.”9


SANDWICH ISLANDS.

interesting report.

A Conference of the Relief Societies of the Sandwich Islands was held at Laie, Oct. 5th, 1883.

On the stand, Mrs. S. L. Partridge, Mrs. [Celestia] Armeda S. Young; native Counselors, Kaahanui and Nalie [Nalia Kekauoha]; also Pres. E. Partridge, J. [James] H Gardner and W. [William] G. Farrell.10 Meeting was called to order by Pres. Partridge. The Society of Laie having formed themselves into a choir for the occasion, and being dressed in white, arose and sang one of the old songs that used to be sung when Brother George Q. Cannon11 was on the Islands, and which was composed by Bro. R. Allred.12 Prayer by Kaahanui. Singing. There are fifteen societies organized on the different Islands at the present time, from all of which written reports were read except one. Verbal reports were also given of nearly all by Presidents or Counselors of the different societies, which reports showed them to be in a flourishing condition. The figures of the condensed reports were as follows: Number of members April 5th, 1883, 332; died, 17; removed, 17; new members, 67; total number of members Oct. 5th 1883, 345; amount of money in the treasury on April 5th, 1883, 330,13; amount donated since April, 272,79½; given to the poor, 55,20; expended for other purposes, 144,30; amount in the treasury Oct. 5th 1883, 403,39½.

Local reports in the

Local reports in the Woman’s Exponent. The Woman’s Exponent (1872–1914) featured minutes and reports from Relief Societies, Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Associations, and Primary Associations from diverse locations. Missionary Sarah L. Partridge wrote the October 1883 report of a Sandwich Islands Relief Society conference. (Church History Library, Salt Lake City.)

A few remarks were made by Sisters Partridge and Young, and interpreted by President Partridge, who also addressed the meeting a short time, instructing them in their duties and encouraging them in their labors.

Most of the money paid out of the treasury has been donated by the different societies to assist in building a house for the use of the society at Laie; it is considered necessary for them to have such a house, not only for the accomodation of the poor but for other purposes.13 It would be hard indeed for anyone who has not had the experience to understand the many difficulties to be overcome in trying to introduce and establish these societies among a people so simple in their understandings, and so unaccustomed to anything of the kind, aside from the, to me, almost insurmountable difficulty of learning the native language, it is a labor which requires indefatigable exertions, and patience without any limit, with a firm reliance upon our Heavenly Father for guidance, strength, and the necessary qualifications to fit us for the duties of the mission. I can see two or three different ways in which I could spend every moment of my time to good advantage, but have to content myself with doing what I can and letting the rest go undone. Our Conference and the visit of the king passed off with an excellent spirit, and in a satisfactory manner in every respect; we all regretted the absence of the queen, who was unavoidable deterred from coming by the serious illness of her sister, the governess of Hawaii, who also intended coming until she was taken sick.14 I will leave an account of the reception of the king to more interesting correspondents than myself.15

A Primary Association was organized by President Partridge, on the 19th of August, Mrs. S. L. Partridge acting as President for the present, and Mrs. Armeda S. Young First Counselor, and Hanaa, native woman, Second Counselor, and Victoria Kekauoha, Secretary for the native language, Ernest Partridge16 in the English, with 39 names enrolled. Here again is the difficulty of trying to teach children without having sufficient knowledge of the language to explain things in clearness and the perfect understanding of the children; however, we can only do our best, trusting that the Lord will bless our efforts. We are very much in need of cards and books, so as to assist us in making our meetings interesting to the children, also to ourselves.

Wishing the Exponent every success, I remain your sister in the Gospel,

S. L. Partridge.

Footnotes

  1. [1]Edward Partridge Jr., Journals, 1854–1899, CHL, vol. 4, May 27 and June 11, 1882; H. W. Bigler, Letter to the editor, Deseret News, Aug. 22, 1855, 190.

  2. [2]“Minutes,” Deseret News, Aug. 6, 1856, 172. By April 1884 total membership on the islands was reported at 3,549. (“Sandwich Islands Conference,” Deseret News [weekly], Apr. 30, 1884, 237.)

  3. [3]It is somewhat unclear when the Relief Society was first organized in Hawaii. The manuscript history of the Hawaii mission states that on July 6, 1875, “the first Relief Society in Laie (and believed to be the first Relief Society organized in the Hawaiian Mission) was organized by Prest. Frederick A. F. Mitchell with Kapo as president; Kaahanui as first, and Kealohanui as second counselor; Hauhau, secretary and Hanaa treasurer.” However, Mitchell had already returned to Utah by this time. Other evidence suggests that the Relief Society was organized prior to 1875. Following her return to Utah, Margaret Mitchell spoke of her experience in Hawaii, reporting that “she had often met with the island sisters in the capacity of a Relief Society.” (Hawaii Honolulu Mission, Hawaii Honolulu Mission Manuscript History and Historical Reports, 1850–1967, CHL, vol. 4, July 6, 1875; “Home Affairs,” Woman’s Exponent, Mar. 1, 1875, 3:149; May 1, 1875, 3:181.)

  4. [4]Edward Partridge, Journal, vol. 4, Oct. 7, 1882.

  5. [5]Sarah C. Partridge, Journals, 1882–1885, CHL, vol. 1, Aug. 19, 1883.

  6. [6]See Sarah Partridge, Journal, vol. 1, Mar. 1 and Apr. 19, 1884.

  7. [7]R. Lanier Britsch, Unto the Islands of the Sea: A History of the Latter-day Saints in the Pacific (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 137.

  8. [8]Jane E. Molen, “Extracts from a Letter,” Woman’s Exponent, Feb. 15, 1877, 5:139.

  9. [9]Jane E. Molen, “Extracts of Letters from Hawaiian Islands,” Woman’s Exponent, June 15, 1877, 6:13. The similarity between the two organizations and the frequent visits of the king and queen to the branches of the church has led to the conclusion that “the king and queen founded a national ‘Female Relief Society,’ patterned after what they had seen in the LDS Church, to help the poor of the kingdom.” (Britsch, Unto the Islands of the Sea, 137; see also Joseph H. Spurrier, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Hawaiian Islands [Salt Lake City: Hawaii Honolulu Mission, 1978], 18‒19; for another firsthand account of the relationship between Queen Kapiolani and the Latter-day Saint Relief Societies, see Henry P. Richards, Diary, 1858–1878, in Henry P. Richards, Papers, 1854–1900, CHL, Sept. 26–27, 1877.)

  10. [10]James H. Gardner, of West Jordan, Utah, was set apart for a mission to the Sandwich Islands on November 9, 1880. He returned April 26, 1884. William G. Farrell, of Logan, Utah, was set apart for a mission to the Sandwich Islands on May 25, 1882. He returned February 26, 1885. (Missionary Department, Missionary Department Missionary Record Index, 1830–1971, CHL, “Gardner, James H.,” and “Farrell, William G.”)

  11. [11]George Q. Cannon was among the first missionaries of the church in Hawaii, serving there from December 1850 through July 1854. (H. W. Bigler, “Sandwich Islands Mission,” Deseret News, Aug. 22, 1855, 190; “Elder’s Correspondence,” Deseret News, Nov. 29, 1851, [1].)

  12. [12]Reddin A. Allred and his brother Reddick both served as missionaries on the Sandwich Islands. Reddin reached Honolulu on February 17, 1853. (Reddin A. Allred, “Correspondence,” Deseret News, Jan. 2, 1856, 344.)

  13. [13]By the following summer enough money had been collected to purchase lumber for the building, and construction began September 2, 1884. Fundraising continued during construction, with an added urgency supplied by the Partridges, who learned in November 1884 that a new mission president would soon be appointed to replace Edward Partridge. The completed Relief Society house was dedicated by Joseph F. Smith, a counselor in the First Presidency, on March 6, 1885, two days before the Partridges returned home. (Edward Partridge, Journal, vol. 6, Aug. 8, Sept. 2, and Nov. 1, 1884; Jan. 11, Mar. 6, and Mar. 8, 1885; Sarah Partridge, Journal, vol. 2, 45.)

  14. [14]“David Kalakaua was elected king by the Hawaiian legislature on February 12, 1874, and he reigned until 1891.” His wife, Kapiolani, “attended Relief Society once in a while.” (Britsch, Unto the Islands of the Sea, 137.)

  15. [15]Sarah Partridge described the occasion in her journal: “the Natives were out in all their glory and made an interesting appearance in their gay colored clothes . . . the Natives were formed in two lines from one Gate to the other the King and Party and escort riding between them, the people cheering as they passed along, at the first gate was the Laie Choir who greeted him as he came up with a Song composed for the ocasion.” (Sarah Partridge, Journal, vol. 1, Oct. 6, 1883.)

  16. [16]Ernest Partridge was Sarah and Edward Partridge’s teenage son. (See Edward Partridge, Journal, vol. 4, May 27, 1882; 1870 U.S. Census, Fillmore, Millard Co., Utah Territory, 335[B]; 1880 U.S. Census, Fillmore, Millard Co., Utah Territory, 464A.)