There are two excellent histories of BYU Women reprinted here. The first, written by Dr. DeeDee Mower, is our centennial retrospective, first given on November 8, 2014. The second, was written by Muriel Thole, BYU Women president from 1978-1979. It was originally published as a chapter in the 1997 book "Women of Commitment: Elect Ladies of Brigham Young University" by Marian Wilkinson Jensen. With Muriel's kind permission, we have been allowed to reprint her chapter here. Please scroll down to find it.
A Centennial Celebration of BYU Women: Building a Legacy of Charitable, Social, and Educational Endeavors
Written by Dr. DeeDee Mower, BYU Women Historian 2011-2014
Once a month, on a Saturday afternoon, several women gather on the BYU campus to engage in social, musical, intellectual, and visual magnetisms to facilitate wisdom, culture, service, and scholarship. This is no ordinary group of women; in fact, one would be hard pressed to find a similar group of women across the nation. There is no apparent connection among the women at first glance. They are elderly and they are youthful; they have lived throughout the world and yet many call Utah County “home.” They include grandmothers, widows, housewives, professors, volunteers, students, moms, and all are eager, willing, kind, and generous. Their connection is unique: they support those who invest time, expertise, energy, knowledge, and interest in Brigham Young University. They are the BYU Women.
In 1914, George Brimhall, then president of Brigham Young University, called Mrs. Margaret Eastmond, wife of Professor Elbert Eastmond, into his office to discuss with her the need for an organization to unify the faculty through social contacts and to provide opportunities for diversions and relaxation. Mrs. Eastmond took President Brimhall’s charge to create this unique organization with zeal. Mrs. Eastmond was not alone; many women wanted to participate. Mrs. Eugene L. Roberts, Mrs. Ella Larsen Brown, Mrs. Maude N. Nelson, and Mrs. Ida S. Dussenberry served under Mrs. Eastmond’s chair. Ida Smoot Dusenberry was the chairman of the BYU Entertainment Committee previous to the creation of the BYU Women’s Organization. In the fall of 1914, Ida suggested and organized an annual faculty banquet. Just two years after President Brimhall made his request, the membership of the BYU Women’s Organization grew to seventy-five members. In 1918, the organization drafted a constitution. In the rules and regulations, it states that the members of the organization would be known as the BYU Women, the members would support each other and meet semi-monthly. The gatherings for the BYU Women were often dependent upon the number of members at the time. Early meetings were held throughout the community and campus. BYU Women met in homes; the Art Building, which was also used by the local Brigham Young High School in 1960; Room D of the Education Building; Grant Library Reading Room; the South Banquet Room; the Ballroom, and auditorium. Later, the Smith Family Living Center and the Field House were used for larger gatherings as the group expanded to 400 members in 1961. After a hundred years, the BYU Women meet regularly in the Tanner Building on the second Saturday of the month between September and April.
Traditions and Heritage
In the early years of the organization, traditional functions included the Girls’ Reception to introduce new female BYU students to the social graces. This event was under the direction of the Dean of Women and sponsored by BYU Women. The Girls’ Reception incorporated a receiving line that over the years consisted of general authorities from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, university board members, and their wives including Mrs. Augusta (Heber J.) Grant, Mrs. Luacine “Lute” (J. Reuben, Jr) Clark, Mrs. Emma (David O.) McKay, and Mrs. Flora (George) Brimhall. Nominated Mothers of the Year were also in attendance. As time went on, the Girls’ Reception became all-inclusive and was renamed the Co-Ed Reception.
Other time-honored activities included an Annual Faculty Banquet. This was often a fundraiser event, and the BYU Women, with their husbands as co-chairs, wrote and acted in plays designed around their lives at the University. Favorite themes that were usually humorous included such titles as: “The Professor’s Pandemonium,” “Life Begins at 8:40,” “A Mock Political Convention,” which included nominating a new BYU President when President Harris was leaving, “The Business of Being Ernest,” in connection with President Ernest L. Wilkinson being installed as President of BYU, “Heavenly Daze,” which signified what it might be like when particular guests passed through the Pearly Gates into Heaven, and “The National Convention of the National Convention of Convention Goers,” a skit demonstrating what it was like to get a professor ready to go to a convention. These banquets and skits were lively and entertaining for an audience that consisted mainly of university professors and their wives.
Photos provided courtesy, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.
The Patron’s Ball, another traditional function, was hosted by the BYU Women annually each year around Christmas time, except during the war years, to join in with the local community or town people who were not directly associated with the University in order to establish good relationships between the University and the local residents. The BYU Women also established a Memorial Library Book Project in remembrance of members of BYU Women who had passed away or their deceased husbands. Between 1931 and 1960, three hundred sixty-seven books were placed in the Memorial Library.
For decades BYU Women was responsible for the Distinguished Faculty Banquet and served the prominent guests of the University, local civic leaders, church leaders, and family members who attended the lecture of the honored faculty member. This was the most formal occasion that BYU Women prepared for, and it took many hours to arrange every detail down to the flowers and polished utensils. It was a grand time to celebrate the educational legacy of the faculty member who was retiring.
BYU Women Legacy
Historically, establishing a women’s group on a college campus is not unique, but what sets the BYU Women apart from others is its continued focus on building up the legacy and purposes of the University they were named for. The BYU Women continues even today to strive for intellectual advancement, social pleasure, and to promote the ideals of BYU. The social dues remain low since the speakers and performers are willing to do so without pay. Many other women’s organizations tied to universities have higher fees because they are used to pay for social activities that are often outside the university they are attached to.
For example, the University of Utah’s Women’s Club has five general meetings but has interest groups that meet just as often or more. These interest groups include an art study group, book club, bridge group, dinner group, literature group, lunch bunch, and a music group. All of the interest groups meet outside of the university setting. The University of Washington’s Faculty Auxiliary, which has a similar start-up history to the BYU Women, decided in the 1930s, to create activity groups under their Newcomer’s Club. The Clubs included book reviews, play productions, bridge, debates on current topics, and garden planning.
BYU Women has continually held its regular meetings on campus and is supported by the University in providing a meeting place to keep the organization’s ideals and goals focused on the building up of the University. They have not found the need to fragment into interest groups.
The BYU Women has a legacy of service to the University, its students, and surrounding communities. In the early years of the organization, BYU Women set a precedent of providing selfless humanitarian acts. During the flu epidemic of 1918-1919, students who were sick were confined to the Maeser Building on campus in order for them to recoup their health and not infect others. Members of BYU Women, including the president, Mrs. Eastmond, along with Miss Harris, used the home economics’ facilities to make three meals daily for the ailing students. One of the students who benefited from this act of kindness reported that after receiving a priesthood blessing, he promised that if his life were spared from this illness, he would serve “this institution” meaning BYU. His life was spared and thirty years later, Ernest L. Wilkinson was able to fulfill his promise by serving as the president of BYU, and his office coincidentally included portions of the room in which he spent his time recovering from the flu.
In the 1930s and 1940s, BYU Women’s exemplary services were also evident when they donated equipment to the science department and monies to the Child Welfare Fund, the BYU Stadium House, cancer control efforts, projects for the girls’ dormitory, the British Relief, $4,175 in war bonds, the Infantile Paralysis Fund, Red Cross, the Home Economics department, and Utah Valley Hospital building fund. In 1934, a birthday penny fund recorded an $1150.00 “Endowment Fund” and several pianos were purchased for campus rooms. BYU Women provided record players to each child at the Utah Valley Hospital between 1957 and 1958. It is easy to note that when BYU Women saw a need, they filled it. When they were asked for support by worthy causes, they found the time and money.
BYU Women’s Project: Kim Nilson, patient at Utah Valley Hospital unwrapping the record player given to children at the hospital by members of BYU Women. From left: Mrs. Clinton Larson, Mrs. Dale West, John H. Zinger, hospital administrator, and Mrs. Leonard Rice. The group also gave 12 records to the hospital.
In the mid-1960s, BYU Women donated puppet toys for kindergarten age children who were born deaf due to an epidemic of German measles among pregnant women. BYU Women gave therapy toys to the playroom at the Children’s Ward of the State Hospital and supported Red Cross efforts. In 1984-1985, BYU Women handed out booklets listing many programs and services such as available clinics, university resources, pools, family entertainment facilities, etc., that were available to all BYU families in order to provide enrichment to their lives.
Always mindful of the needs of women on campus and in the local community, members of the BYU Women’s Organization often extended large donations to humanitarian efforts. Early BYU Women members donated $1,000 in funds to the Home Economics Department from funds received in a concert given by Emma Lucy Gates. BYU Women secured the consent of Provo City Commissioners to put a light on the corner of University Avenue and 6th North for University patron’s safety. In the 1990s, BYU Women collected donations for the Food and Shelter Coalition to buy a vacuum cleaner for its facility and provided donations to the Women and Children Crisis Center.
Wendy Watson, a faculty member in family therapy reported that on her first day of teaching at BYU, she was called to be the LDS Stake Relief Society President. She was not alone. Members of BYU Women continue today to be heavily involved in their local communities, local schools, and serving in religious organizations that offer humanitarian relief. More recent acts of generosity were evident in the money provided to two female students as BYU Women of Courage Award recipients this past spring. This award allowed them to finish their final semester of college.
A Womanly Touch
In an unprecedented effort to maintain intellectual growth among all those connected to the University, on June 13, 1921, President Brimhall encouraged personal advancement by offering higher education, at no expense, to the wives of BYU professors. Many women took advantage of this educational opportunity. In a time when fewer women than men attended universities, this was indeed a rich opportunity and set an example to local girls who wanted to receive a higher education. In more recent times the ratio between males and female students shifted. In 1997 the undergraduate females constituted fifty-three percent of the student population and then for a decade it was closer to fifty percent but in the last three years, 2012-14, the male student population steadily increased to fifty-five percent. This could be due to the lowering of the age of missionaries in the past year, thus allowing more females to serve as missionaries.
BYU Women continue to promote intellectual growth at each of their meetings. The leadership committee of the organization invites refined lecturers from the University and outlying communities to speak each month. The program always includes enriching musical numbers from recognizable student and local talents. This combination of intellectual stimulation in music and word has become a staple with the Organization. Over the years it is interesting to note how world and local events have shaped the themes that the BYU Women’s Organization has chosen. The BYU Women are not afraid to tackle challenging topics and encouraged growth for all women, not just those of their organization.
In the early years, women used the BYU Women’s Organization forum to discuss support for Women’s Suffrage and sent telegrams asking their representatives to support it. Also, after hearing Professor W. J. Snow talk on world peace and the League of Nations at one of their meetings, they again sent telegrams to Utah senators Smoot and King urging them to support this cause. In the December 6, 1920, meeting, a discussion of the problems of capital labor were examined, and the BYU Women resolved to do their Christmas shopping early and inexpensively. Interestingly in 1940, socialized medicine in Utah was deliberated during a meeting. Forty years later, Mrs. Orrin Hatch spoke at a BYU Women meeting on February 7, 1981, about “Life and Society inside Washington, D.C.” She addressed such questions as “What is Ted Kennedy like across the dinner table?” “What does Henry Kissinger talk about in the elevator?” “Are ABSCAM-type crimes typical on Capital Hill?” and “Were Hamilton Jordan and Jody Powell always loyal to President Carter?”
Other meetings throughout the century focused on home, family, and women’s roles in helping the University be less masculine in its appearance. The BYU Women realized early on that their influence on the University required a bit of “womanly touch” so they raised money for a beautiful blue rug in the faculty room (later sold for $7.00), blue curtains (which shrunk an inch every year when they were washed), painted the faculty-room walls pink, and helped instigate an upgrade to the girls’ restroom in the Maeser building on campus. BYU Women was a nominating sponsor for the Utah Mother of the Year. They planned and hosted banquets for Distinguished Faculty and hosted the coaches and their wives of the visiting teams that came to campus.
BYU Women was not indifferent to the sports programs on campus. When the Organization invited Pat Edwards, wife of legendary Coach LaVell Edwards, to speak in the November meeting of 1982, the date had to be changed from Saturday to Friday because of the BYU-San Diego State game being played in Cougar Stadium. When she did speak she shared her “Game Day Recipes” of Applesauce Cake, Game Day Stew, and Game Day Dip served with corn chips. In one of the many plays that BYU Women produced, the writers incorporated the history of BYU football, which was banned and then allowed again in 1919. The satire of BYU football included this quote: “Brethren, we want a winning team. Go to it. However, remember to play with brotherly love. We can’t recruit, offer bribes, lower standards, or play dirty ball, and don’t discourage the boys from going on missions. Play to win – and win you must or no contract next year.”
In another football anecdote, BYU President Dallin H. Oaks was invited to speak to BYU Women members on November 6, 1971, but found out that he would be able to accompany the football team to its game against Arizona State and asked to delay his speaking engagement to the December 11th meeting. In his letter to the BYU Women’s Organization he wrote, “These scheduling matters are very vexing. I want to do everything but I can’t be in two places at the same time. Frustrating.” He later kept his promise and performed a Christmas presentation.
Football aside, matters of the home became a revolving theme. In March of 1921, Mrs. Annie D. Palmer spoke about juvenile delinquency and its relation to broken homes. In 1934 the topic was on the influence of radio and movies on the family. On February 2, 1952, Dr. Virginia Cutler, head of the Home Economics Department at the University of Utah, lectured on “The Role of Home Economics in a Troubled World” and identified the changing roles of men and women and made suggestions for strengthening home and family life. Later, on April 12, 1952, Mrs. David O. McKay spoke of “Attitudes towards peace as fastened in a well directed home.” She spoke of how maintaining spiritual and cultural standards in the home is up to the woman of the home, and she shared the British Children’s Charter for Parents drawn up by 228 British boys and girls. On May 7, 1960, Belle S. Spafford, President of the LDS Relief Society, spoke of Channeling Women’s Energy and about the many women’s organizations’ referred to in the social section of local newspapers. She encouraged the women to think about how they spend their time and efforts. Esther Eggertsen Peterson, class of 1927, who later held the highest post ever held by a woman in the Kennedy Administration, talked about the longevity of women, living twenty to thirty years after they have raised their children and the need to have a plan for those years.
Photo courtesy, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.
Other presentations included Phyllis Allen, an Interior Designer at BYU, who spoke to BYU Women about trends in decorations and suggested that most trends are established at world fairs. Mrs. N. Eldon Tanner spoke on Valentine’s Day 1970 on the topic of “Loving: A Woman’s Way of Giving.” The following month, Elaine Cannon spoke of the “Joys and Pains of Living with Teenagers.”
President Wilkinson, as a sign of valued significance, suggested that the members of the BYU Women’s Organization write a paragraph about themselves to be kept in a scrapbook, but the women were resistant to this effort. The women stated that as part of the Organization, they were one in status. They did not want to distinguish themselves apart from one another as individuals with respect to education and social class. So the effort was dropped. Katie Broadbent when interviewed about her years at BYU with her husband Dr. Smith Broadbent reiterated the cohesiveness of the group. She stated, “I remember BYU Women as a compatible group. Whether your role is on campus as an employee or off-campus as a wife, you have a part in building up BYU by supporting those who are striving to build the University.”
During the 1980s, many more women in Utah were entering the workforce, and this was reflected in the 1985 theme: “New Roads for Women: Miles to Go and Promises to Keep.” Pat Holland, wife of BYU President Jeffrey Holland and member of the LDS General Young Women’s Board as first counselor, with Grethe Peterson, a graduate of BYU, and chair of the Utah Endowment for the Humanities, and also a member of the Young Women’s General Board, participated in a panel discussion together with Margaret Smoot of KSL TV5 on September 22, 1984. Their discussion in the Monte Bean Museum Auditorium included the many roles that women are encouraged to keep at home while still moving forward in careers and service to humanity. The following month, the theme remained as Olga Gardner and Dr. Ron Staheli spoke about “Home or Career: Traveling both is correct.” Elder Dallin H. Oaks, previous BYU President (and a favored speaker at BYU Women meetings), spoke a month later on the same theme with the title of his thoughts being, “Way Leads on to Way.”
This presentation began light-heartedly as Elder Oaks spoke of his first meeting at a dance with the woman who later became his wife and then taking her home without knowing at the time whether she was June or her twin sister Jean. He then went on to explain, his path in life that led him to serve in various demanding church callings while also pursuing professional degrees and positions, a judgeship, and becoming a justice of the Utah Supreme Court. His life experiences that included anecdotes and conversations with Neal A. Maxwell and church President Spencer W. Kimball spotlighting the interlacing of career and church. His intent, however, for BYU Women was to show the many trajectories that lead us to do more in our homes, church service, and in our careers.
The 1980s themes demonstrated the increased options and diversity of women’s work and service. Elaine Cannon, LDS Young Women’s General President, spoke of opportunities for women in “Roads Not Taken: Open Roads Ahead.” Sharlene Wells –BYU alumni, bilingual, and the first Miss America born on foreign soil –spoke about her experiences in the national pageant in 1985. In keeping with the theme about changes in women’s roles, prose and poetry associated with “From Adam’s Rib to Women’s Lib” a book about the women’s movement by Maurine Jensen Proctor became a good discussion for the Organization. The decade concluded with Louise Plummer, an accomplished author discussing “Immortalizing Yourself in Ink: The Five Minute a Day Journal” inviting women to record their lived experiences and then Patricia Holland speaking on the “The Many Faces of Eve: Family, Service, Talent” rounded out the decade’s theme of the women’s road ahead.
These symposiums allowed the members of BYU Women to think about their own life paths along with those of their daughters and granddaughters and the newfound challenges that were facing them in this during this decade. The 1989 April meeting concluded the academic year with an enjoyable mother-and-daughter fashion show sponsored by ZCMI.
In 1995, the LDS church senior leadership issued The Family: A Proclamation to the World with its focus on parental roles and responsibilities. The timing of this document gives value to the struggles evident in women’s lives during the 1980s. The document seemed to clarify roles for LDS women and how they were going forth with faith to fulfill these roles. BYU Women embraced the proclamation in the last twenty years of their first century. This faithful component of women’s desires to fulfill both home and career was reflected in the 2010-11 Organization’s theme of “Love One Another.” This theme helped to extend an understanding of the diversity of women’s circumstances both past and present. The September meeting began the academic year with three members of the Tabernacle choir –Elaine Brewster, Shaun Humphries, and Jana Garrett –who expressed faith and works in association with their preparations each week at practices and performances. In November of that year, Elain Witt shared “Thanksgiving through the Eyes of a Pilgrim: The Story of Susannah White Winslow,” and on February 12, 2011, Ann Madsen shared, “Making Our Own Peace: What Women of Jerusalem Today Can Teach Us.” Through music and spoken word, Steven Kapp Perry and his wife, Johanne Frechette Perry presented a lovely presentation of inspiration on April 12, 2014, entitled, “Faith in the Past and Hope for the Future.” It could only be imagined by these subjects that women were now finding comfort again in their work as mothers and in their work beyond the family.
BYU Women has always favored quality musical performances. From Tchaikovsky to Pagliacci and Madam Butterfly in the first three years of the Organization’s list of programs, the musical compositions were of the highest quality. The performances, from local musicians, were reflective of the high culture centered at the University and the refined taste of BYU Women. In the 1924 meetings, the music of Poland, Spain, Scandinavia, Germany, and Austria were celebrated. The years of 1929-30 emphasized the musical contributions of Russia including: Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Arensky, and Rachmaninoff. In September 1923 and in April 1933, the meeting consisted solely of music. Mrs. Harold R. Clark directed the first of these meetings, and then Mrs. John C. Swenson directed the 1933 performance. For unknown reasons the minutes fail to list musical performances for three years beginning in 1938. This is indeed unusual and may be due to lack of secretary attention.
In February 1952, the Organization was able to listen to Mrs. Ray Olpin, wife of the then President of the University of Utah sing, “Let My Song Fill Your Heart” and “Pastoral.” This was the same year that Dr. Olpin’s mother, a resident of nearby Pleasant Grove, was a runner-up to Utah’s Mother of the Year.
Music was not just rendered; it was articulated. In February 1973, Robert Peterson, acclaimed by critics as having the finest baritone voice in the country, sang and spoke of his performances in Brigadoon and in Camelot in New York City. Ron Clark, a personal representative of the Osmond family spoke about the life of the famous musical family. The variations of musical performances speak to the range of interests over time and the strength of music as a teaching tool.
Exemplary musical talents were invited to BYU Women meetings from both inside and outside the university. One of the leading youth handbell choirs in the United States, the Wesley Bell Ringers of the Christ United Methodist Church in Salt Lake performed at the Christmas Luncheon in 1976. Jenny Oakes, daughter of Dallin H. Oaks played a violin solo, “Elysium” by Fritz Graham, and was accompanied by her mother June Oaks in January of 1985.
The BYU Young Ambassadors, a song and dance performing group who was known as before 1970 as Curtain Time USA and have been internationally recognized, performed on several occasions, the Madsen Memorial Chorus, a choral group consisting of forty members from the Provo community performed on December 6, 1985, and Duane E. Hiatt, who wrote the Primary children’s song, “Follow the Prophet,” shared “Orin Porter Rockwell Comes to Life through Music and the Spoken Work” on April 16, 1988.
Sometimes, our own BYU Women have performed. The Forty Fingers piano playing group has performed on at least two occasions, sharing both music and commentary. For the 2005 Christmas Program, The Salzburg Folk Ensemble that includes Barbara Carter (past BYU Women’s President), Lisa Robinson, and Trudy Simmons performed along with 2014 BYU Women’s President, Shirley Ricks, her daughter, and granddaughter (performing as a vocal trio). The trio and ensemble were in traditional Austrian dirndl dresses.
From left: Shirley Ricks, her granddaughter and daughter, Barbara Carter, Lisa Robinson, Trudy Simmons.
While most women’s groups associated with universities have fragmented into special interest groups such as book clubs, golf groups, tennis teams, and other sports-related recreational activities, BYU Women has been devoted to a united support of BYU scholarship and academic progress. BYU Women have retained their originally charted function. Their monthly meetings still consist of lectures to keep abreast of important affairs outside their community and to provide enrichment to on campus special exhibits on campus such as the featured artwork by Carl Bloch and other 19th century painters, and Ralli quilts, textiles from Pakistan and India.
In 1937, BYU President Franklin S. Harris, who helped initiate free tuition for the wives of the BYU professors, spoke to the BYU Women’s Organization of recent trends in modern science. Almost two decades later, Dr. Ernest L. Wilkinson, president of BYU at the time, expounded on May 3, 1952, more on “Brigham Young University and Her Role in the Effort for World Peace.” The two presidents who spoke to BYU Women reflected the changes of the times. Wilkinson discussed the growth of the student body. He said the ROTC Air Force Unit had a steadying influence on enrollment and that at Utah State Agricultural School and at the University of Utah their largest enrollments were in upper classes, juniors and seniors, while BYU’s largest class is the sophomore class. During this growth period many new faculty were being hired and portable housing was brought in. BYU Women helped to provide for the needs of these newly arriving faculty families.
In January of 1954, a panel discussion on leadership around the world was evident of the Organization’s political interests and the Cold War. Dr. Poll lectured on Premier Malenkov of Russia; Dr. Russell B. Swenson on Premier Mao Tse Tung; Kent Fielding on Senator Joseph McCarthy; Keith Wilson on General Charles de Gaulle; and Dr. Brigham Madsen on Peron and People of Argentina. The McCarthy era began in 1950 when Joseph McCarthy gave a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, about State District employees being members of the Communist party. The day after he gave this speech, he flew to Salt Lake City for a Lincoln Day banquet at the Newhouse Hotel and claimed to have a list of fifty-five names but never produced it. During the Cold War, Dr. Edwin Firmage, from the University of Utah Law School, spoke on the “Responsible Use of Power in the Nuclear Age” in 1969. He suggested “Greed, hunger, and power cause more wars than armament, and we have neglected Eastern and Western Europe where our true allies and real enemies are.”
Women scholars contributed to the discussion of the social issues of the time. Dr. Brubalur, a native daughter of Provo, addressed “Outstanding Medical Women” on February 11, 1956. She said that in the United States, at the time, only five to ten percent of women were doctors while in Europe the ratio was twenty to twenty-five percent and in Russia, most of the doctors were women. She referenced Elizabeth Blackwell, who in 1849 became the first woman to hold a medical degree in the United States.  In April 1956, Mrs. Juanita Brooks recounted the Diary of John D. Lee and addressed the Mountain Meadow Massacre. She later gave the names of those massacred at an unveiling of a commemorative statue at Harrison, Arkansas.
In January 1971, Dr. Neal A. Maxwell, newly appointed LDS Church Commissioner of Education, spoke on “No One Can Walk Backwards into the Future.” Elder Maxwell played an important role in the creation of BYU as a modern research institution. His participation in speaking to BYU Women demonstrates the relationship the women’s organization had with the university. His remarks to the women included the importance of the growth of the university. It is evident that he was not speaking to a quaint organization but rather a supportive organization to the university. In 1977, when Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was the Commissioner of the Church Educational System, he addressed BYU Women about the “Dimensions of a World-Wide Church.” President Holland continued the move toward a major research university both as the successor to Commissioner Maxwell and as the president succeeding President Oaks.
In November of 2005, Dr. Ron Harris, Professor of Geology, warned the members of the Organization about “Seismic Terrorism along the Wasatch Front.” In the previous year on Christmas Day, the Indian Ocean Tsunami killed 230,000 people in fourteen countries. He had previously spent time warning governments of nations along the Indian Ocean about tsunamis. He told them to plant palm trees along the beaches and to teach their people about how to protect themselves during a tsunami. He said that those living along the Wasatch Front should take precautions as well. In contrast to destruction by earthquakes and tsunamis, Professor David Wright, husband of former BYU Women’s President, Carolyn Wright, gave insight to “The Language of the Creation” from a mathematician’s perspective in 2006.
Changes Over Time to the BYU Women
Since the charge to create a university women’s organization for the intellectual advancement, social pleasure, and promotion of the ideals of BYU, a century of service has passed: service to the community, service to the University, and service to the women associated with ideals of the University. This century of service reflects the stability of the Organization and the University to maintain its ideals. BYU Women continues to reflect the three-pronged approach of its original charge that has service at its core. Looking back over the years, it is evident that the intellectual advancement of women associated with BYU has grown both by the opportunity to attend courses at the university and also by the monthly meetings that sustain intellectual endeavors of both the presenter and the audience.
The growth of the campus has limited the types of activities BYU Women can provide. Social events are now offered at department levels. Despite the growing resources for department socials, BYU Women have maintained a grouping from various departments on campus creating a more inclusive grouping. The unique connection of women to all the departments of the University allows for an assortment of topics to be discussed and multiple ways to offer assistance. The days when the Girl’s Reception and the Patron’s Ball were popular events for the Organization to host are long past because the needs of the University and its students has changed. Lifting the morale of the professors with dancing and plays is no longer the type of desired entertainment. The large expenditures for live bands to play for the dances and costumes for the plays, which took up much of the funds for entertainment are no longer required. These days funding goes only toward the monthly events, which are not very costly. This keeps the dues to only ten dollars for an academic year, but we do charge for the two luncheons that are held in December and April of each year. Other monies are used for service and scholarships.
BYU is still of importance to the University and to the women who attend the meetings. It is a way to offer donations for worthy causes and scholarships. The BYU Women is still the only organization on campus that has the capacity to engage wives of faculty members along with university employees from across all departments. Although the women display their academic diversity through the array of departments they represent, their ties to the ideals of the University give meaning and power to the united religious beliefs that cohesively binds these woman together. The gospel is the underlying theme that contributes to the messages received at each meeting.
Stable and Positive Narrative of LDS Women
A concluding commentary on the effect of BYU Women on its members should be mentioned. After reviewing the hundred-year history, it is evident that women’s roles over the century have changed, and this has been reflected in the themes and activities of the women. In the early years when women suffrage movements were active, through the more recent challenges of music and the media’s influence on the family, BYU Women has been there to help its members discuss these issues in positive ways. Through religious and academic language, the members of this organization have developed over the century a greater sense of the world they live in, the struggles of others, the achievements of many, and the spiritual and secular truths needed to sustain them in their life experiences.
The rich presentations each month provide a unique opportunity to see LDS Women engaged in faith, good character, intellect, and the spirit of service that Karl G. Maeser recognized the University could offer to its students. We see that spirit offered to the women associated with the University as well. A hundred years of history shows that no other organization can match this. If women are to have a place to learn and set an example for other women seeking truth and knowledge in a university setting, this is the place. Educating women in such a venue influences families for generations, provides role models for younger generations of women, and exemplifies LDS women as strong, knowledgeable, and capable participants in many capacities throughout the world. The history of this Organization tells a story of life: life in Provo, Utah County, the State of Utah, the United States, and the world. The future of life in the world will be reflected in the next hundred years of BYU Women. Carry on!
Photo taken September 2013 at opening BYU Women meeting
 It is important to mention that Ida Smoot Dusenberry was also influential in the lives of women throughout the state. She was appointed a speaker at the Women’s Suffrage Convention in Portland, Oregon and was introduced as a speaker by Susan B. Anthony. Her father, A. O. Smoot pushed through the Utah State legislature bill giving suffrage to the women of Utah.
 Fern C. Eyring Fletcher’s “A Brief Historical sketch of “BYU Women” Organization from 1914-1960; UA 545, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 From a memoir book entitled “I Remember Ernest” by Edwin Butterworth Jr.; UA 545, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 The play “Through the Y’s Years;” UA 545, Box 4, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 UA 545, Box 3, Folder 1, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 Interview, Aug. 25, 2002: UA 545, Box 9, Folder 1, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 UA 545, Box 10, Folder 13 and Box 11, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 UA 545, Box 3, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 UA 545, Box 4, Folder 1, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 UA 545, Box 3, Folder 7, page 11, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.cial Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
 UA 545, Box 3, Folder 7, page 11, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
BYU Women: The Women's Community
Written by Helen Dixon, Ellen Powley, Muriel Thole, and Marian W. Jensen.
The authors' memories have provided some of the details for this historical sketch, but much of the information has been taken from the minutes and yearbooks of this organization's archives.
Before its official organization on December 18, 1917, BYU Women, a group of women from the BYU community, was already evolving. Delia Maeser, Susa Young Gates, and Zina Young Card were among the first to begin arranging faculty social activities. Then, under BYU President Benjamin Guff, a little group calling itself the Sunshine Club was formed. From there, President George H. Brimhall called together a committee of BYU women to organize social activities for faculty members and their partners. From the minutes of this committee's meetings, beginning in 1914, we read:
"The matrons of the school entertained at Mrs. Jesse Knight's. Her beautiful home was opened to the guests and a most splendid afternoon was the result."
And in another place:
"At Merline Roylance's each lady was dressed to represent a book. The details were interestingly and charmingly worked out. A prize was awarded to Elizabeth Lindsay for the best representation, her book being "Keeping Up With Lizzie."
In 1916, the organization elected a president and secretary, an action that finally led to President Brimhall's more permanent organization of the group in 1917, the name of BYU Women, and an adoption of official rules and regulation. Mrs. Christian Jensen was the first president of the seventy-five original members. The twofold objective of this early organization has remained in place to this day: (1) to provide intellectual and social opportunities for its members, and (2) to uphold and promote the ideals of the university.
For one of BYU Women's first activities, Maud May Babcock presented two dramatic reading recitals; the proceeds were then used to help furnish the "Art Room" on campus. The women also sent a telegram to a Utah senator, urging him to support eh Women's Suffrage movement. Other events included musical renditions, a talk on the Red Cross, and food prepared by the university's "Domestic Science" class.
The First World War had its effects on the organization. Before 1918, BYU Women had contributed $125 to the Red Cross for "Belgian Relief." During 1918-19, meetings were curtailed by a flu epidemic, but officers encouraged the women to stay involved by feeding and collecting bedding for soldiers stationed in the area who were suffering from the flu. Political activity continued with the organiation's 1920 telegrams to two senators urging them to support the League of Nations. And in an effort to uphold moral standards, the women discussed the censoring of picture shows to aid in crime prevention. (Have things changed so much?)
Beginning at this time, and extending over a period of many years, BYU Women welcomed the female students at a reception at the beginning of the year. At first this welcome included all the girls, but as the student body increased in size, it had to be limited to the freshman girls.
The year 1921 was especially productive. It marked the beginning of the organization's publication of an annual yearbook. The women also began a long-standing program to promote and sponsor the Utah County Art Exhibit in Springville, Utah. A feature of this program was an activity in which the participants enjoyed a dinner in Springville, followed by a tour of the exhibit. During this year, the organization also had a petition granted by the president of the university to permit members of BYU Women to attend classes on campus tuition free--a privilege that extended over a number of years. And finally, 1921 marked the beginning of the Memorial Library Project, through which many hundreds of books have been contributed to the BYU Library.
During the Second World War, the group participated again in the war effort. Programs often featured discussions of war-related problems, and, as a result of a BYU Women-sponsored drive in 1943, members purchased $4,175 in war bonds. The group's officers debated about whether or not to continue serving refreshments at meetings because they were having difficulty finding enough non-rationed food. But they voted to continue as long as possible, and they proved themselves equal to the task. The minutes during this era also note that one night the police interrupted a social at the Joseph Smith Ballroom to see if everything was in order.
During the 1940s, BYU Women initiated a series of Sunday evening fireside chats for members and guests. But the organization's main focus during this decade was to help the many new women joining the campus. They developed a newcomers program, which has been so successful that it still operates today. Handout information is prepared to help new families adjust to campus life and find local doctors, dentists, schools, and stores. And special activities help newcomers become acquainted with the community and meet other families.
In 1947, BYU Women meetings and socials centered around the centennial of the Mormon pioneers' arrival in Utah. The September 1950 social commemorated BYU's 75th anniversary, and the April 1951 meeting featured a tour of the new Eyring Science Center on campus. In February of 1951, the group welcomed Alice L. Wilkinson, wife of the new president, Ernest L. Wilkinson, in a "tea." Alice remembered how women faculty members prepared for her family's arrival by putting clean sheets and blankets on the beds in the President's Home--a welcome relief after their cold and harrowing drive from Washington, D.C. to Provo in the snow.
The university's expansion during the 1950s and 1960s prompted the administration, in 1959, to request that BYU Women open its membership to not only faculty members and faculty wives, but also to full-time staff members and staff wives. This important inclusion has helped to expand the organization's influence and promote the sisterhood that prompted Muriel Thole, the 1978-79 president, to say that, whether the women be presidents' and deans' wives, the wives of cooks and custodians, or women faculty and staff members, they "all stand under the same umbrella: BYU Women."
Muriel Thole provides some favorite memories from her many years with BYU Women that give insight into the sisterhood and enjoyment cultivated by the organization. During an athletic event once, the BYU Women entertained the wives of the coaches attending from other schools. They visited some of the area's mountains and canyons and then went to Temple Square. Later in the day, they returned to campus to attend a fashion show in which BYU students served as the models. The visiting women were impressed by the beautiful, well-dressed students. When the girls announced the cost of their outfits, all purchased at Deseret Industries, the visitors were both amazed and delighted.
In the Autumn of 1971, BYU Women planned to welcome BYU's new "first lady," June Oaks, during their first meeting of the year. To help the women become acquainted with her, the organizers invited June to be a greeter. Muriel Thole was delighted to be the other greeter and bought a new dress for the occasion. But her delight was extinguished when she saw June arrive wearing the same dress. June's comment, "I see we both have great taste." Changed what could have been an embarrassing situation to a humorous one.
Over the years, BYU Women have worn many hats. Volunteers have helped at homeless and abused shelters, hosted athletic and cultural events, and served on boards for special events. For a while, some BYU Women were "pink ladies" at the McDonald Health Center, which provides students with medical care.
The organization has sponsored a number of projects that have benefited both university and community On campus, BYU Women have made substantial contributions to the Endowment Fund, the Department of Family Sciences, the old BYU Training School playground, the art collections, and toward the purchase of items like pianos and band uniforms. And, often, when a monetary surplus is found, the organization offers student scholarships. But the group's service has extended well beyond the confines of the university as BYU Women have contributed to such diverse causes as the Belgian and British Relift Funds (during wartime), the Red Cross, the Polio Foundation, and the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
Although BYU Women enjoy getting together for social reasons, it was their distinguished history and record of service that were the main causes for celebration during the 1992 BYU Women 75th Anniversary birthday party, held in the Skyroom of the Wilkinson Center on campus. Members enjoyed lunch, birthday cake, and more importantly, a presentation recounting the activities and caring gestures of BYU Women from the past. All the women agreed that this event went a long way toward keeping the enduring missions of the organization--to provide intellectual and social opportunity and to promote charity and the ideals of the university--alive and in mind for the future.