Church History
“We Had Another Working Hour This Week”

“‘We Had Another Working Hour This Week,’” Global Histories: Germany (2021)

“‘We Had Another Working Hour This Week,’” Global Histories: Germany

“We Had Another Working Hour This Week”

In the aftermath of the First World War, with the German economy devastated by declines in production and lingering war debts, Relief Society sisters cared for the sick and regularly gathered handmade clothing on behalf of the poor. As the Relief Society gathered to create valuable items such as socks, hats, and handkerchiefs, other women would perform folksongs, poetry, and literature so everyone could enjoy the beauty of performing arts. Because many branches were small and most members were women, Relief Society meetings were at the heart of everyday church life. Men often joined Relief Society activities, contributing music, prayers, and occasional lessons.

In 1927 the Dresden Relief Society prepared handwork to be displayed and sold during the Relief Society anniversary-and-bazaar celebration. Relief Society secretary, Marianne Püschel, noted that in the months leading up to the event, the usual routine of alternating a work hour with a formal lesson was disrupted. “The time to the anniversary celebration is short,” she recorded, “so we had another working hour this week.” Foregoing lessons for work hours continued through March and into the first week of April, the sisters bent intensively over their handwork in preparation for the April 8 event. “With musical accompaniment, the work went quickly,” Marianne reported in the minutes of the March 14 meeting. Four days before the event, sisters worked until 10:00 p.m. in order to finish all the bazaar items.

Bazaars and other annual events were festive occasions. Cologne Relief Society secretary, Gertrud Schröder, recorded that their 1930 bazaar, directed by Sister Luise Frankenbach, featured a trombone band, poetry, songs, speeches, and dancing. At year’s end, Sister Frankenbach and her counselors organized a Christmas celebration with refreshments, a stage play, and presents for the children.

With the funds raised through bazaars and from annual dues paid by their members, the Relief Societies throughout Germany were able to provide vital aid at a time when government welfare institutions faltered. In 1930, as the global depression worsened conditions in Germany, the 18 sisters in the Cologne Relief Society raised 95 marks (equivalent to a month’s salary for a working woman), which they distributed to needy sisters. By pooling their energy and resources, Relief Society sisters were able to maintain the cultural life of the congregation even as the depression deepened.