Friday, April 10, 2015

A Blast From the Past

1915 Beehive Handbook

Note: This is an essay I wrote recently entitled "Young Women Resources and Activities: Then and Now".

        Have you ever wondered about the beginnings of our modern-day Young Women organization? The roots of Personal Progress, Young Women’s camp, how it all came to be? Here are the answers and a few interesting facts.

In late 1869, Brigham Young established the original core and purpose of the Young Women program when he asked the girls and women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to “reform from extravagance and live more simply” (Timeline). Just six and a half months later, the Young Ladies’ Department of the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Association was formally organized for the teenaged girls in the Church. The girls involved with this association committed to dress and live modestly and set an example of “gospel living worthy of imitation” (Timeline). They later changed the name of this organization to the Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Association, or the YLMIA, and gained their first president in 1880, Sister Elmina S. Taylor. 
Today, our version of the YLMIA is the Young Women program. We still believe in setting a good, modest example for the rest of the world. This is exemplified by our modern motto and logo—a torch symbolizing that we ‘stand for truth and righteousness’. The teenage girls of the Church continue to set an ideal of a modest, gospel lifestyle through our current Young Women organization. 
Young Women Camp, or Girls’ Camp, has also changed since it first began in 1912. Actually, the purpose hasn’t changed, but specifics of things such as the certification requirements and money-raising have. 
In 1912, the first stake to participate in a Church summer camp for girls was the Liberty Stake in Salt Lake City, Utah. They built their own camp, called Liberty Glen. The construction cost was a whopping $365.27—and they had to earn it all. The YLMIA participated in multiple fundraisers, from fireside entertainment to activities in the Deseret Gymnasium, so they could earn money for this new idea. Most stakes now take part in fundraisers as well. Some of the modern fundraisers commonly used for Girls’ camp include yard sales/garage sales, bake sales, talent shows, car washes, etc., etc. 
Another similarity between camp back then and camp now is camp certification. An article on has a list of some of the camp requirements that were in the 1915 Beehive Handbook:

>Identify 15 trees and describe them.

>Describe 10 butterflies; identify them.
>Build a tree house for 2 girls to sleep in.
>Start a fire without matches or fire.
>Describe the seagulls and their habits; tell of their historical importance                           in Utah. 
>Know what to do for a person whose clothing is on fire; for someone who is in                   deep water and cannot swim, either in summer or through ice in winter; for                     an open cut; for a frosted foot; for fainting.
>Select a location and erect a tent.
>During the week, keep your tent in order. (Camp Skills)

Some of the present first year requirements include things like studying the scriptures daily for fifteen minutes while at camp, learning to extinguish fires, and cooking at least two things over a fire. 

Many of these current requirements aren’t too different from what they were in 1912 or 1915. Even though modern Young Women camps have things like plumbing and electricity, the goal of camp is still to use God’s creation as the classroom for learning useful skills and building strong testimonies while still young. Girls Camp is a wonderful tradition of Young Women that has endured for over a century and hopefully will continue for many more years.
Personal Progress is a staple of the Young Women organization today and provides a recognition system for teenage girls. It has eight values, with experiences and a project for each. Its predecessor, The Beehive Handbook, had seven fields of personal achievement, much like our values.  However, instead of Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity, and Virtue, The Beehive Handbook contained requirements in the categories of Religion, Home, Health, Domestic Arts, Out of Doors, Business, and Public Service. Some of the requirements in the 1915 booklet included things such as:

>Care successfully for a hive of bees for one season and know their habits.

>During two weeks, keep the house free from flies, or destroy at least 25 flies daily.
>Mend six pairs of stockings, two knitted undergarments, and hem six dish- towels.
>Without help or advice, care for and harness a team at least five times [and] drive 50 miles during one season. (History)

Not quite the same as the experiences or projects in the current Personal Progress book, but it was perfectly suited to the girls of the early 20th century. They needed to know things such as harnessing and driving a team of horses, whereas 21st century young women benefit from experiences like Faith Experience # 2, which talks about the importance of motherhood and womanhood. These are principles that are often misunderstood by teenage girls in our day, though in the early 1900s were obvious and easy to take in. 

Many resources and activities for the Young Women of the Church today have evolved from those of the early YLMIA. While the world has changed, and with it, a few specifics from these resources, the purpose remains the same for each: To grow in understanding of the gospel and build strong testimonies that will stand forever in the hearts of faithful women. 

Works Cited

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  1. Wow. We've changed a lot! That's a lot of research. Good job!

  2. I loved reading san out the YW camp requirements, as I am camp director in my ward. So funny to see how things have changed in 100 years!

    1. Definitely! I couldn't believe the "Build a treehouse for two girls to sleep in"--things have certainly changed.