134 Years Young!
November 2003

“134 Years Young!” New Era, Nov. 2003, 24

134 Years Young!

Girls haven’t changed that much, but over the years the Young Women organization has.

November is the birthday month of an important Church organization. Can you guess what it is? If you guessed Young Women you are right. This month, the Young Women program is 134 years old. Let’s take a trip through history and see what it was like to be in Young Women throughout the years.


It is 1869, and President Brigham Young is concerned about the young women in the Church. He is worried that some of them, including his own daughters, are too caught up in the fashions and trends of the world.

On 18 November 1869, he holds a meeting with his daughters. He asks them to set an example by spending more time learning about the gospel and gaining important life skills rather than chasing after trends.

“I desire [you] to retrench from [your] extravagance in dress, in eating, and even in speech,” President Young tells his daughters. “I should like you to get up your own fashions, and set the style for the rest of the world who desire sensible and comely fashions to follow. … There is a need for the young daughters of Israel to get a living testimony of the truth” (A Century of Sisterhood, 8).

At first this is difficult for his daughters. These girls are some of the most popular girls in the territory, and they enjoy stylish things. Now they can’t spend hours looking at clothing catalogs from back East. Instead they must sew their own simple and modest dresses, without any ruffles, that go all the way to the ground. They must spend less time socializing and more time studying the scriptures and learning the gospel.

But these girls know their father is a prophet, and they choose to follow him. They create the Young Ladies Department of the Cooperative Retrenchment Association and begin meeting often to support each other in their efforts.


It has been almost 50 years since Brigham Young first met with his daughters, and now girls throughout the world are following his counsel.

If you were a young woman at this time, you would attend “Young Ladies”—short for Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association. In your weekly meetings you would learn all about the gospel and the scriptures, along with other things like courtship, public speaking, proper dress, etiquette, and even figure control.

You would also be a Beehive, because all young women were called Beehives. You would wear a uniform to activities and work hard to fulfill your Beehive requirements such as sleeping outside or in a room with open windows for one night; learning the vertical line test for correct posture of the body; and refraining from candy, chewing gum, sundaes, sodas, and commercially manufactured beverages for at least two months.

Every two years, as you progress through the program, you could buy part of the beautiful sterling silver Beehive chain and pendant. You would wear the first two parts as bracelets or a choker; then the third part would make the chain a complete necklace.


If you were a young woman in 1950, you would go to “Mutual” every week. Only the younger girls are Beehives now; the other girls are Mia Maids and Junior Gleaners. You would mark your progress by attaching felt seals to your bright blue sash.

It’s an exciting time to be in Mutual, because every year you get to be in your ward’s road show with the young men.

You would also probably love the Saturday night dances put on by wards and stakes. These dances are a fun chance to mingle with young men, enjoy good music, and taste good food. Don’t worry though, your leaders will make sure the dance ends in time for you to get home before midnight.

If you enjoy playing basketball, you will be excited about the girls’ basketball teams—you can play as long as you have a female coach and follow girls’ rules.

Badges on the bandelo

Compare the badges on the bandelo to the badges on the 1927 uniform (see page 25). Bandelos were discontinued in the early 1970s. Safeguard Health—Complete a course in swimming or lifesaving under competent leadership. Have Faith—Read and study “Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story” (in the Pearl of Great Price). Give a five-minute talk or write a 600-word summary. Value Work—Under supervision successfully can 12 jars of fruit or 10 glasses of jelly or jam. Taste the Sweetness of Service—Spend 12 hours in Church service, your local Red Cross, or other worthy community service. Seek Knowledge—Draw 10 Indian symbols or designs and describe their meaning in a 600-word report. Honor Womanhood—Assist a new mother for 12 hours without pay in caring for small children. Feel Joy—Rehearse and participate in an MIA roadshow, floor show, drama, or music festival. Understand Beauty—Press and mount 10 different wildflowers, identify them, and tell of their habits. Love Truth—Prepare a 600-word written report on six truths that Jesus taught.


We now take a look at the Young Women program you know best. With young women everywhere, you are working on Personal Progress goals, attending girls’ camp, and reciting the Young Women theme.

You have a lot in common with the young women of the past. You still get together every week, learn about the scriptures in class, and talk about dating and dressing modestly. Maybe things back then weren’t so different after all.

As you attend your Young Women classes today you can also still feel the spirit of President Young’s advice to his daughters 134 years ago: “Retrench in everything that is bad and worthless, and improve in everything that is good and beautiful. … Not to make yourselves unhappy, but to live so that you may be truly happy in this life and in the life to come” (A Century of Sisterhood, 10).

The Value Colors

Ardeth Kapp

Ardeth Kapp, a former general Young Women president, says that the colors used to represent the values have no significant religious meaning. They are meant as reminders.

• White is symbolic of purity and Faith. • Divine Nature seems to suggest creation, the big blue sky, and all that is divine. • Individual Worth should be bold and confident. Red fit that feeling. • Knowledge is symbolic of green and growing. • Choice and Accountability, two values together, is represented by putting two colors together; red and yellow make orange. • Good Works brings sunshine, happiness, and light. Yellow seemed to fit. • And Integrity is purple, royal and righteous.


Brigham Young organizes his daughters in the Lion House.


Modest fashions are encouraged.


Elmina S. Taylor (right) is called as the first general YLMIA president.


Tuesday becomes Mutual night.


The Beehive program is created for YLMIA girls of all ages.


First girls’ camp is held.


The first Gold and Green Ball is held.


The Roses class is renamed Mia Maids.


The Junior Gleaner class is renamed Laurels.


The first For The Strength of Youth pamphlet is printed.


YWMIA celebrates its 100th birthday.


YWMIA is changed to Young Women, and the New Era begins.


The Values program is started.


134th birthday of the Young Women

  • Caroline H. Benzley is a member of the Iowa City Second Ward, Iowa City Iowa Stake.

American Moses, by Ken Corbett

Photography by Kelly Larsen, Craig Dimond, and Jed Clark, posed by models. Other photography courtesy of LDS Church Archives.

The official uniform of the Beehive Girls, worn about 1925, was a heavy khaki outfit with hat that cost $3.75. The achievement awards were shaped as cells and sewn on the sleeve of their uniforms. Later, these cells were sewn on a blue bandelo that girls wore over their regular clothes. Girls could also earn links in a silver award chain (above left). The first level could be worn as a bracelet. As links were added, it became long enough to be worn as a choker then as a necklace with the Queen Bee pendant. The girls could earn an award in Domestic Arts for welding their own links.

Ruby Leak Smith in 1927 when she wore the uniform pictured on the model (right). Ruby was a Beehive in the West Jordan Ward “swarm.”

The award necklace as a bracelet.

The award necklace as a choker.

This is the finished Beehive award necklace. Girls received links for such things as killing flies and making jam.

The familiar class names that Young Women use today began in the 1950s. The younger girls were already called Beehives. The Junior Girl Committee, during Bertha Stone Reeder’s administration, came up with the name of Mia Maids for the 14- to 15-year-olds using the initials of the Mutual Improvement Association. This age group had been called Roses. The Junior Gleaners became Laurels.

The newest Personal Progress program was introduced in October 2001. Young women can now progress through the program at their own pace, instead of taking six years to complete the program. The program is more flexible, allowing young women to design some of their own Value Experiences to complement their interests and activities.

Top, from left: Mia Maid pin; rose pin for Mia Maid girls; Laurel pin; cover of the Bee Hive Teacher’s Manual; Laurel pin; 1969 MIA Centennial Celebration pendant; YWMIA Camp pin; 1985 medallion; torch pin; bottom, from left: A floor show at a Rigby Idaho East Stake Gold and Green Ball; a YWMIA swimming patch; a 1950 bandelo from the Church Museum; awards with sample activities from the Bee Hive Honor Bee Program Girls Booklet; Dorothy J. Holt’s 5-Year Gleaner pin.