A Brief History of the Young Women Organization

Contributed By the Church News

  • 12 July 2019

The first Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association meeting in 1880 at which Elmina S. Taylor (front row, center) was called by President John Taylor to be president.

“Retrench in everything that is bad and worthless, and improve in everything that is good and beautiful.” —President Brigham Young

Nearly 150 years ago, on the evening of November 28, 1869, in the parlor of the Lion House in Salt Lake City, President Brigham Young organized the Young Ladies' Department of the Ladies' Cooperative Retrenchment Association—the predecessor to the Young Women program.

President Young encouraged his daughters to “retrench in your dress, in your tables, in your speech, wherein you have been guilty of silly, extravagant speeches and light-mindedness of thought. Retrench in everything that is bad and worthless, and improve in everything that is good and beautiful” (Deseret News Church Almanac, p. 175).

Relief Society General President Eliza R. Snow supervised the association; Ella Young Empey was named as president.

In the fall of 1877, the name of the organization was officially changed to the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association.

A young woman holds her Personal Progress manual.

On June 19, 1880, the first General President of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, Elmina S. Taylor, was called by President John Taylor.

With the publication of the 1915 Beehive handbook, the Church established its first recognition program for young women. Similar to the eight values in the current Young Women program, young women of the past completed requirements in seven “fields” of personal improvement. Options included:

  • Caring successfully for a hive of bees for one season and knowing their habits.
  • Clearing sagebrush off of one-half acre of land.
  • Without help or advice, caring for and harnessing a team at least five times [and] driving 50 miles during one season.

From the 1940s to the 1960s, Beehives earned emblems to sew onto a Beehive bandlo. Some of those requirements included:

  • Making the dinner hour joyous by improving table manners of the entire family.
  • Increasing your self-confidence by acquiring a good posture (sitting, standing, and walking).

During the 1980s, Sunday Young Women classes began meeting at the same time as priesthood meetings for Young Men.

During the tenure of Sister Ardeth G. Kapp, who served as General President from 1984 to 1992, the Young Women motto and logo were introduced. The Young Women theme and values were also introduced.

On May 8, 2018, the First Presidency announced that a new initiative is being developed to replace existing children and youth programs within the Church, including Personal Progress.

Fifteen women have served as general presidents of the Young Women organization—including the current Young Women General President, Sister Bonnie H. Cordon.

The Young Womanhood Recognition medallion and Personal Progress manual.