JOEL - According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, the Young Women organization began as the Cooperative retrenchment association in November 1869. President Brigham Young organized the society in the Lion House, his official residence in Salt Lake City, with his daughters as charter members. He challenged them to grow spiritually, to resist idleness and gossip, to retrench from the styles of the world in dress and deportment, and thus to be proper examples of Latter-day Saints. They were not to give in to rude or harsh frontier ways. The poet and Relief Society President Eliza R. Snow became the supervisor of the new association, and Ella V. Empey, age twenty-three, was chosen as president.
By 1870 each ward in Salt Lake Valley had its own similar young women's organization with its own stated resolutions. The "one central thought" in all resolutions was "electing a greater simplicity of dress and of living; and…cultivating the mind rather than ministering to the pleasure of the body" (Gates, Susa Young. History of the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Associations. Salt Lake City, 1911)
In 1871 the leaders renamed the society "YL," short for Young Ladies Retrenchment Association. They focused on the teenage girls by sponsoring weekly meetings, charitable deeds, instruction in public speaking, and lively discussions of the gospel and current events. A modest exercise program consisted of ball bouncing and throwing, knee bends, and side stretches. Later they introduced croquet.
In 1877 the YL name was changed to Young Ladies National Mutual Improvement Association to correlate with the Young Men's group and to reflect the growth of many units in many places across the nation.
In the 1930s, leaders gave new emphasis to music, dance, and the performing arts. They published a recreational song book, and sociable singing became popular.
In 1937 Lucy Grant Cannon became president of the Young Womens' Mutual Improvement Association(YWMIA). She organized the youth according to age and interest, with special manuals, incentive programs, and symbols that fostered development and recreation for all girls twelve years of age and over. She introduced an annual theme to be memorized and recited at every MIA meeting throughout the world.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, the First Presidency turned over to the YWMIA, the girls enrollment incentive program that had been previously administered by the Presiding Bishopric. It was designed to increase attendance at all Church meetings. Individual awards were presented annually to qualifying youth at ward Sacrament meetings.
Church President Harold B. Lee in the early 1970s introduced a correlation program designed to integrate many Church programs for youth. The new Young Women president, Ruth H. Funk, and the general presidencies and boards of other Church auxiliary organizations began to meet with priesthood leaders to formulate and initiate the best possible spiritual and social experiences for youth. Coordinated with departments of instructional development, audiovisual materials, library resources, and translation, they subordinated all other activities to the quest for spirituality. From this effort came the personal progress program and the young womanhood achievement awards that we have today.
(Source of Information: Encylcopedia of Mormonism)
Other sources of information:
Josephson, Marba C. History of YWMIA. Salt Lake City, 1956.
Evans, Joyce O., et al. A Century of Sisterhood, 1869-1969. Salt Lake City, 1970.
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