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
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.
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.