This September 5, 1880, entry from the diary of Belinda Marden Pratt conveyed the joy and satisfaction she felt when she learned about the reorganization of the general Relief Society presidency.1 Though many Latter-day Saint women had been working in their individual ward Relief Societies for a decade or longer, and some stake officers had been called, the network of ward units was now unified churchwide under a general presidency, as the Relief Society had once been in Nauvoo. Pratt expressed the value to women of this more comprehensive association.
Belinda Marden was born in New Hampshire in 1820 and converted to the church in 1843. She moved to Nauvoo the following year and married Parley P. Pratt, an apostle, in November 1844.2 She migrated to Utah in 1847 and established a home in Salt Lake City. Her 1854 pamphlet, Defence of Polygamy, by a Lady of Utah, in a Letter to Her Sister in New Hampshire, established her as one of the more dedicated female defenders of plural marriage.3 After her husband’s death in 1857, she earned her living by teaching school, sewing, and taking boarders into her home. Pratt served as a teacher in the Salt Lake City Fourteenth Ward Relief Society, as president of the Fillmore Ward Relief Society, and, beginning in 1879, as president of the Millard Stake Relief Society.4 In her journal Pratt often noted the activities of the local Relief Society and copied a letter from Eliza R. Snow “giving instruction for the benefit of the Relief Society in Fillmore.”5
Sept 5th—Sunday Morning
In reading “Our Exponent” of the 1st of this month I could only give expression to my feelings in tears. What an age we are living in! How great the responsibilities of the Sisters of the Church. What a work they are accomplishing! And how many there are that do not realize the amount of work before them as helpers in this great dispensation. Others are working with all their might. Teaching their children. Engaged in the Relief Society! Giving of their means to the poor. Visiting the Sick Administering comfort and consolation where needed. Engaged in the Starting of Silk Culture Saving up Wheat etc. etc.
Our labors are as great as those of the Brethren and more numerous for the responsibility of training the Young rests almost entirely with the Sisters. In 〈reading〉 the Exponent of Sept 1st how my heart rejoiced when, reading of the setting apart of the Presidents over all the Relief Society Sisters [Eliza R.] Snow Smith, Zina D. [Young] and Sister [Elizabeth Ann] Whitney.6 It seems to me a new impulse is added to us, and my heart rejoices with exceeding great joy. I cannot give utterence to 〈my〉 feelings in words But Glory and honor be to them who hath given us so many blessings.