Happy 175 Relief Society!

Last year we really outdid ourselves learning about the history of the Relief Society at out ward RS Birthday party. This year, we decided to take advantage of the incredible city we live in and discover what nuggets of women’s hi[her]story we were sitting on top of. For your viewing pleasure, here are a couple of “trailers” for our event…

Our girls got into teams, grabbed pre-prepared packed lunches (one for themselves and one to give to a homeless fellow-Londoner they would likely encounter) and set off deciphering clues we had written for each women’s history site. They were each given a map that would help them along the way, and the challenge to stake a claim on sites they found by taking a team photograph. At each site they read about the important women they represented, as well as a corresponding Relief Society tid-bit. At the end of the challenge they were texted a secret address to attend a cake party. Here are the info-bio’s for each location…

(Maps and clue boards)

Coco Chanel, Victoria and Albert Museum

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You’re standing in front of a very outlandish pantsuit designed by Coco Chanel. She’s a pop culture reference and maybe you sneak a spritz of her Mademoiselle or No 5 whenever you’re in a department store. But do you really know just how influential this mysterious French woman was on the fashion and mindset of women everywhere in world today?

She turned heads when she defied the normal fashion of long skirts and plumes and instead rocked up to parties in modest, simple, black shift dresses that we now casually label- the little black dress. While others regarded this colour for strictly mourning purposes, Chanel suggested that the dramatic but simple colour forced admirers to focus instead on the wearer’s face- or better still, their shining personality, which she argues ought to be the main attraction of the good company of any woman.

Chanel was one of the first women to wear trousers in public, on purpose. She rejected the notion that only men could be comfortable on a day-to-day basis, and particularly thought it abhorrent that any woman would be seen as inferior when it game to sports because of the voluminous skirts she was expected to be mindful of when riding a horse or swinging a croquet mallet.

In short, we are as comfortable and as fashionably liberated as we are because this very stubborn woman was so powerfully unapologetic about setting new trends that, at their core, celebrated the inner capabilities and flexibilities of womankind. Grace as defined by Coco Chanel was the innate womanhood we all share. In simplicity, she saw the extraordinary.

In the first meeting of the Relief Society, Sister Emma Smith said, “We are going to do something extraordinary.” She was right. The history of the Relief Society is filled with examples of ordinary women who have accomplished extraordinary things as they have exercised faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

David A Bednar: Ordinary people who faithfully, diligently and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.

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Valentina Tereshkova, Science Museum

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On 16 June 1963, 26 year-old Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to go into space. Her mission was a major milestone in space exploration and to this day she remains the only woman to have made a solo space flight. Tereshkova came from humble origins as a factory worker who spent her spare time parachuting to her latter-day status as a cosmonaut, global ambassador and stateswoman. She orbited the Earth for almost three days, showing that women have the same ability in space as men. In fact, with a single flight, she logged more flight time than the combined times of all American astronauts who had flown before that date. Tereshkova also maintained a flight log and took photographs of the horizon, which were later used to identify aerosol layers within the atmosphere. Later she toured the world promoting Soviet science and feminism.

She said, “I believe a woman should always remain a woman and nothing feminine should be alien to her. At the same time I strongly feel that no work done by a woman in the field of science or culture or whatever, however vigorous or demanding, can enter into conflict with her ancient ‘wonderful mission’—to love, to be loved—and with her craving for the bliss of motherhood. On the contrary, these two aspects of her life can complement each other perfectly.”

Valentina Tereshkova still serves as a model not only for the women of her native country, but for women throughout the world who wish to strive for new goals.

Thomas S. Monson: “[Your chosen field] should be one which will challenge your intellect and which will make maximum utilization of your talents and your capabilities. “

Gordon B. Hinckley: “The Lord wants you to educate your minds and hands, whatever your chosen field. Whether it be repairing refrigerators, or the work of a skilled surgeon, you must train yourselves. … You will bring honor to the Church and you will be generously blessed because of that training.”

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Christabel Pankhurst, 1909 Ethel Wright, National Portrait Gallery

This painting of Christabel Pankhurst shows a woman in full swagger, wearing her suffragette sash with pride and emerging from darkness looking as if she is about to speak with passion.

We inherited such a powerful history of political activism! Women have literally been fighting the man since forever. But before women such as Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May took the helm of British government, women were little afforded any say in the way government and public society was run. Christabel and mother Emmeline Pankhurst created a new suffragette movement in 1903 that pushed government and society to take notice of the injustice of the treatment of women in comparison to men when it came to public voice and conscience. So strong were the suffragettes conviction that women ought to be heard and counted amongst those considered intelligent and valuable to one’s country, that their sacrifices for the vote included intense hunger striking, laboured marching and protesting, and even chaining themselves to Buckingham Palace. After much tribulation, women in Britain over the age of 30, meeting certain property qualifications, were given the right to vote in 1918, and in 1928 suffrage was extended to all women over the age of 21. We owe our political freedom and ability to speak out to the convictions and work of these brave women.

This year, the International Women’s March continued the beautiful unity of women coming together to champion equality, inclusivity, and the power of women. Together, we can do anything!

One of the first places in the world that women were given the right to vote was in Utah in 1870!

Belle Spafford, 9th General Relief Society President instituted the church’s welfare programme, which helped the saints to take care of their temporal needs. Spafford was also president of the National Council of Women in the United States, representing the voices of women throughout the nation. She was a great example of a woman who got involved in the politics of her society and lifted the people she served in practical, long-standing ways.

***While you’re here: take a quick tour of this room, which features poets, writers, artists, politicians, pilots and other influential women that may have bigger impact on your life today than you think!***

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Waterloo Bridge or “The Ladies Bridge”

In 1942, construction began on Waterloo Bridge, replacing the old, unstable bridge built in 1817.  The project was completed in 1945, when Labour politician Herbert Morrison said, “The men who built Waterloo Bridge are fortunate men. They know that although their names may be forgotten, their work will be a pride and use to London for many generations to come.”
Problem is, the workforce of Waterloo Bridge was mostly women!  Numerous personal accounts, photographs, and film footage have proven the long-held belief that women built the Waterloo Bridge during World War II while the men were at war.
The bridge is the only self-cleaning bridge in London (go us!) because it is made of Portland stone.  It is also said that the bridge was built on budget and on schedule.
With the men gone, women in England stepped up to the plate and worked in many industries around the nation.  They worked in the metal and chemical industries, in factories creating weapons, in the transportation sector working on canals, and in the fire and police forces.
Women in the Church in Europe during World War II also contributed great amounts of relief effort and homes for refugees.  Many women demonstrated tremendous faith, bravery, and perseverance in the face of war.
Gertrude Zippro, from Holland, would travel by bike to the sisters in her district while under German occupation.  The Relief Society in Denmark gave money and packages of food every month to their brothers and sisters in Norway, who were suffering food shortages.

Hugh B. Brown said of the European women of WWII:
“There are hundreds of Relief Society women in the war zone who have been exposed to dangers, trials and hardships, comparable to that which our men undergo in the battlefield. These brave women have carried on in the face of almost insuperable difficulties.”

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Monument to the Women of World War II, Whitehall

The memorial was unveiled on 9 July 2005 by Queen Elizabeth II as part of the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. The lettering on the sides replicates the typeface used on war time ration books. There are 17 individual sets of clothing and uniforms around the sides, symbolising the hundreds of different jobs women undertook in World War II and then gave back for the homecoming men at the end of the war.[5] These outfits include uniforms as worn by the Women’s Land Army, Women’s Royal Naval Service, a nursing cape, a police overall and a welding mask.

The hard skilled labor of women was symbolized in the United States of America by the concept of Rosie the Riveter, a woman factory laborer performing what was previously considered man’s work. With this expanded horizon of opportunity and confidence, and with the extended skill base that many women could now give to paid and voluntary work, women’s roles in World War II were even more extensive than in the First World War. By 1945, more than 2.2 million women were working in the war industries, especially in ammunition plants. They participated in the building of ships, aircraft, vehicles and weaponry. Women also worked on farms, drove trucks, provided logistic support for soldiers and entered professional areas of work that were previously the preserve of men. In the Allied countries thousands of women enlisted as nurses serving in the front-line units. Thousands of others joined defensive militias at home and there was a great increase in the number of women serving for the military itself, particularly in the Soviet Union’s Red Army.

Baroness Boothroyd, patron of the Women of World War II trust and former Speaker of the House of Commons, dedicated the memorial saying: “This monument is dedicated to all the women who served our country and to the cause of freedom, in uniform and on the home front. I hope that future generations who pass this way will ask themselves: ‘what sort of women were they?’ and look at our history for the answer.”

In WW1, many British RS sisters volunteered to sew and knit for the soldiers, but they had no money to buy the materials they needed. American and Canadian Relief Societies eagerly contributed to an emergency fund to help. They sent money to each branch in Great Britain so the British sisters could buy material for making sheets, pillowcases and clothing.

***While you’re here: wander just a few paces down the street and take a peep at Downing Street, where our current Prime Minister, Theresa May resides at number 10. The black railings you see separating the public from the street were built during Margaret Thatcher’s run as Prime Minister, because so many rioters threatened her government at Downing Street! Can’t win ‘em all.***

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Florence Nightingale Waterloo Place

The magnificent bronze statue of Nightingale stands on an ornate pedestal bearing four bas-reliefs illustrating her diverse roles: caring for injured; negotiating with politicians and generals; challenging medical and hospital managers; teacher and inspiration to nurses.

Nightingale was the founder of modern nursing, characterised by cleanliness. She came to prominence while serving as a manager of nurses trained by her during the Crimean War, where she organised the tending to wounded soldiers. She gave nursing a highly favourable reputation and became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of “The Lady with the Lamp” making rounds of wounded soldiers at night.

In 1860, Nightingale laid the foundation of professional nursing with the establishment of her nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. It was the first secular nursing school in the world, now part of King’s College London. Her social reforms include improving healthcare for all sections of British society, advocating better hunger relief in India, helping to abolish prostitution laws that were over-harsh to women, and expanding the acceptable forms of female participation in the workforce.

Beginning in 1902, the Relief Society general presidency had sponsored a program for training nurses. By 1920, professional training for nurses had become more extensive, so the Relief Society established a training program for nurses’ aides. This one-year course, which began at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, did not charge tuition. Instead, the students were required to give 30 days of free nursing service in their communities. After 4 years, in which 46 aides were trained, the Relief Society discontinued the program and transferred their support to Red Cross home-nursing courses. As with some other programs, the Relief Society used this program to meet a specific temporal need of the time and then turned the work over to other agencies.

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Queen Victoria, Buckingham Palace and The Mall

Queen Victoria restored the reputation of a monarchy tarnished by the extravagance of her royal uncles. She also shaped a new role for the Royal Family, reconnecting it with the public through civic duties.

Victoria had to work hard to break out of a controlling and male-centred sphere of influence. Her widowed mother raised her meticulously under the watchful eye of Sir John Conroy, who was bent on power and coveted the throne. Many times he violently threatened the Princess Victoria and attempted to bully her into signing away her royal birth rite. When Victoria succeeded the throne and eventually chose a husband, she did so carefully so as to protect her royal birth-rite. Most interesting, however, was her choice to include her beloved husband Albert in her ruling. She ordered that his work desk would be brought in to her office where it was placed against hers, face to face. She chose a marriage of equality, and the two depended upon one another fiercely.

The city of London is peppered with love-notes between Albert and Victoria- statues, gardens, buildings were tributes that each secretly erected for the other. Their open love and happiness made an impact on the population, who looked to the couple as an ideal of marital harmony.

Victoria’s objective in ruling was to turn the attention of the court and government to the people, to their suffering and their trials. Her ruling changed the way the monarchy and government interacted. And on a tiny level- we all traditionally wear white as brides because she had a white wedding, where previously brides simply wore Sunday best.

Valerie M. Hudson: Latter-day Saint theology teaches that gender difference does not superimpose a hierarchy between men and women: one gender does not have greater eternal possibilities than the other.2 As Elder Earl C. Tingey, formerly of the Presidency of the Seventy, has said: “You must not misunderstand what the Lord meant when Adam was told he was to have a ‘helpmeet’. A helpmeet is a companion suited to or equal to [the other]. [They] walk side by side … not one before or behind the other. A helpmeet results in an absolute equal partnership between a husband and a wife. Eve was to be equal to Adam as a husband and wife are to be equal to each other.”

Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “In some cultures, tradition places a man in a role to dominate, control, and regulate all family affairs. That is not the way of the Lord. In some places the wife is almost owned by her husband, as if she were another of his personal possessions. That is a cruel, mistaken vision of marriage encouraged by Lucifer that every priesthood holder must reject. It is founded on the false premise that a man is somehow superior to a woman. Nothing could be farther from the truth.”

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Princess Diana Memorial, Hyde Park

Welcome to the Princess Diana Memorial! She was the “people’s Princess”. She was a princess, mother, wife and a children’s activist.

Born as Lady Diana Spencer in 1961, she studied at a local school, worked for a time as a kindergarten teacher until she married Prince Charles, becoming Princess of Wales of course! She is also mother to our own lovely Prince William and Harry.

Initially overwhelmed by her royal duties and the intense media coverage of nearly every aspect of her life, she began to develop and pursue her own interests. Diana served a strong supporter of many charities and worked to help the homeless, people living with HIV and AIDS and children in need becoming one of the most influential and publically adored members of the British royal family. Sadly, her marriage with Charles slowly fell apart and ended in divorce. She also struggled with depression and bulimia for a time, but even after the divorce, she devoted herself to her sons and to such charitable efforts as the battle against the use of land mines. Diana used her international celebrity to help raise awareness about this issue and continued in other charity work.

Diana died in a car crash after trying to escape the paparazzi in Paris on the night of August 30, 1997.

“Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” – Diana.

“Thus, when we plead for the gift of charity, we aren’t asking for lovely feelings toward someone who bugs us or someone who has injured or wounded us. We are actually pleading for our very natures to be changed, for our character and disposition to become more and more like the Savior’s, so that we literally feel as He would feel and thus do what He would do.” Sheri Dew

Boudica, Westminster Bridge

Boudicca was a queen of the BritishCelticIceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60.

Boudica’s husband, Prasutagus, ruled as a nominally independent ally of Rome and left his kingdom jointly to his daughters and the Roman emperor in his will. However, when he died, his will was ignored, and the kingdom was taken over by the Romans. Boudica was flogged and her daughtersraped. Britons were taxed heavily and their land was exploited for its goods.

Boudica led the Iceni, the Trinovantes, and other Briton tribes in revolt. They destroyed Major Roman settlements in the land, Roman temples and army sites. Upon hearing of the revolt, Roman forces hurried to Londinium (modern London), the 20-year-old commercial settlement that was the rebels’ next target. The Romans, having concluded that they lacked sufficient numbers to defend the settlement, evacuated and abandoned Londinium. Boudica led 100,000 Iceni, Trinovantes, and others to fight Legio IX Hispana, and burned and destroyed londinium and its surrounding areas.

An estimated 70,000–80,000 Romans and British were killed in the three cities by those led by Boudica. Boudica has remained an important cultural symbol in the United Kingdom for protecting what subsequently led to a very powerful global empire. Though her rage and methods seem intimidating, her core motive was an intolerance for exploitation and domination from a foreign, uninterested power. She believed that power came from wherever she stood, and justice for the people was something she decided to fight for.

Virginia U. Jenson: Sisters, I do not believe that you and I are here at this unique time by accident. I believe that, like Esther of old, we are “come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esth. 4:14), when our influence, our example, our strength, and our faith may stand as a bulwark against the rising tide of evil that threatens to engulf our homes, our families, and our loved ones.

“While life is meant to test, challenge, and strengthen us, if we are attempting to negotiate the twists and turns and ups and downs of mortality alone, we’re doing it all wrong. Mortality is a test, but it is an open book test. We have access not only to the divine text but to Him who authored it.” Sheri Dew

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Ada, Countess of Lovelace, 12 St James’s Square, St James’s, London SW1Y 4RB

You are at the home of Ada, Countess of Lovelace, was a mathematician and computing pioneer. She has been called the world’s first computer programmer because of her work on the analytical engine developed by Charles Babbage, arguably the inventor of the computer.

Born in Piccadilly, Augusta Ada was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron. Her parents separated acrimoniously soon after Ada’s birth, and she was brought up by her mother, Annabella, née Milbanke, who supervised her education and encouraged her interest in mathematics and science. Annabella was apparently anxious that Ada should not grow up to be a poet like her father.

When she was 17 Ada had met Charles Babbage, the inventor of the first general computer – a calculating machine or ‘analytical engine’. At once, she began to collaborate with him and mixed in his circle of friends and acquaintances.

Ten years later, in 1843, while she was living here at this house, Ada wrote to Babbage:

I do not believe that my father was (or ever could have been) such a Poet as I shall be an Analyst; (& Metaphysician).

She had good reason to boast. She wrote the letter while adding extensive notes to her translation of an Italian paper on Babbage’s analytical engine. In one note, she proposed an algorithm for how the machine could compute the Bernoulli sequence of numbers – since described as the world’s first piece of computer code. Her contribution to computing is now widely acknowledged, and in 1979 the United States Department of Defense chose to name its new software Ada in her honour.

“The whole gamut of human endeavor is now open to women. There is not anything that you cannot do if you will set your mind to it. You can include in the dream of the woman you would like to be a picture of one qualified to serve society and make a significant contribution to the world of which she will be a part.” – Gordon B Hinckley

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Virginia Woolf, 29 Fitzroy Square

The novelist and critic Virginia Woolf was one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. In addition to writing ground-breaking novels such as Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927) and Orlando (1928), she was a prolific essayist and diarist, and a prominent figure in London’s literary society.

Virginia, who occupied the whole of the second floor, spent her time here writing articles for newspapers and began her first novel, The Voyage Out, published in 1915. In her sitting room were ‘great pyramids of books, with trailing mists between them; partly dust, and partly cigarette smoke’. This period of Virginia’s life was also marked by an emotional entanglement with her brother-in-law, Clive Bell, and by the trauma of her first stay in a sanatorium in the summer of 1910.

Located close to Euston Road, Fitzroy Square was noisier than Virginia was used to. She complained of the vans ‘which grind rough music beneath my window’ and, after visiting St Ives in Cornwall, she wished that ‘Bloomsbury was on the seashore’.

Woolf famously said, “For most of history, Anonymous was woman,” and felt a great need to lend a revolutionary open, complicated voice to woman in her writing. She rejected the shy and demure nature of womankind portrayed in literature, and she opened dialogue about emotional and mental health in her style of writing. She had a beautiful way of grasping the magnitude of womankind’s influence and potential in society and beyond.
“Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”

“As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.”

Sheri Dew: “Noble and great. Courageous and determined. Faithful and fearless. That is who you are and who you have always been. And understanding it can change your life, because this knowledge carries a confidence that cannot be duplicated any other way.”

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Violette Szabo, Albert Embankment

Violette is a great example of serving ones country and standing up for what is right. She initially joined the Women’s Land Army when war broke out and then the Auxiliary Territorial Services (ATS) in 1941.

In July 1940, she had met Etienne Szabo, an officer in the French Foreign Legion. They were married after just five weeks and Violette gave birth to their daughter Tania on 8 June 1942. Four months later Etienne was killed in action in North Africa.

Shortly after Etienne’s death, Violette joined the secret service as a spy- she wanted to be able to exact revenge on the immoral adversary in the most effective way possible. Her fluency in other languages and her tomboy- fearless nature made her a surprisingly confident spy in the war.

Her second mission began on 7 June 1944, the day after D-Day. She parachuted into south-west France, to set up a new network with local resistance groups.

Three days later Violette was captured by Nazis- but helped ensure that those in her protection were able to escape.

After capture, Violette was brutally interrogated in Fresnes prison in Paris before being deported by train to Germany. During the journey the train was attacked by British aircraft and Violette and another female prisoner took the opportunity – at great personal risk – to take water to the male prisoners.

Violette was taken to Ravensbrück concentration camp in early 1945. She was known for keeping up morale in the concentration camp before her death by firing squad.

“While life is meant to test, challenge, and strengthen us, if we are attempting to negotiate the twists and turns and ups and downs of mortality alone, we’re doing it all wrong. Mortality is a test, but it is an open book test. We have access not only to the divine text but to Him who authored it.” Sheri Dew

I don’t know how you feel, my brethren and sisters, but I’d rather be dead than to lose my liberty. I have no fear we’ll ever lose it because of invasion from the outside. But I do have fear that it may slip away from us because of our own indifference, our own negligence, as citizens of this land. – Ezra Taft Benson

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We texted the girls the location of the secret cake party, which was help at the BYU Centre in Palace Court, where we ate and chatted about the ways in which so many influential women have always been a part of our lives.

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Two things struck me as we wandered through our city, richly decorated with homages to powerful and noteworthy people. First, I was humbled to notice that the women I was with were quietly on the look-out for people on their way who might need a little extra help. We had suggested that left-over lunch packs could be handed to the poor if we encountered them… but our girls searched for those in need, and always took a little time to speak kindly to those they found. That to me is the Relief Society; that is womanhood!

Second,and this, I feel, is the start of a pensive new direction for thought and study: amid a plethora of impressive stories of old, I wondered what kind of women we were. How grateful and mindful were we of the sacrifices many have made before us? How purposeful are we in living the purposes of the Relief Society? How influential were we each in our own ways?

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2 comments

  1. Ann Marie Mullen · · Reply

    The most remarkable RS birthday event I have EVER witnessed. Thank you Hollie for all you do to strengthen us all. You are so loved. Thank you for sharing all the info. We plan to do the hint on one of our pdays.

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