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David O. McKay Diaries – “Women”

Below you will find diary entries on the topic of “Women.” You can view other subjects here.

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Fri., 31 Mar., 1950:

“At 4 p.m.–Met Claude Petersen, secretary to the Council of the Twelve, at his request.  He came down to make an appeal for a secretary for Brother Harold B. Lee.  I referred him to the Committee on Adjustments of Salaries–Bishop Joseph L. Wirthlin and Frank Evans.

The reason Brother Petersen came to me was that I had expressed myself as thinking that the Council of the Twelve had a sufficient number of secretaries already–six girls and a supervisor of secretaries, Bro. Claude Petersen.

Brother Petersen said that inasmuch as they had moved offices of Brother Lee and Brother Sonne, also Brother Clifford Young, into the rooms formerly occupied by the First Council of the Seventy, he felt that they would need a receptionist as well as a secretary. I said I thought there was no need of a receptionist; that the man at the elevators could direct people where to go.  I said that the only reason I could see that we employ another secretary at this time is that two of the girls in the Council of the Twelve offices are planning to be married, and inasmuch as the Church does not hire married women, that this new girl could take the place of one of these girls.  I said that although there are a few married women in the building, it is against the policy of the Church to employ married women.”

Tues., 16 May, 1950:

“[Telephone call] President Rulon Peterson of the Lake View Stake–inquired relative to a young girl in his stake who had received a call for a mission, and who has now received a proposal of marriage and she is undecided whether to go on her mission or to get married.  I told Pres. Peterson to advise the girl to stay home and get married, that her mission is to get married and rear a family.”

Tues., 30 June, 1953:

(2)  I reported that I had met with Brother Stapley this morning and discussed the matter of retiring some of the older people.  Said that I felt that the matter should be left to the committee consisting of LeGrand Richards, Bishop Isaacson, Brother Stapley, Brother Jarvis and Brother Tingey.

I also discussed with Brother Stapley the matter of the retirement fund.  Said that as I understand it, this fund is a separate fund.  In that connection I think, and the brethren agreed with me, that each department like the M.I.A., the Sunday School, Religious Society, etc., should make the contribution to the fund as their proportion rather than for the Church to do so.  We shall be the custodians of the fund.

I reported that I had asked Brother Stapley to find out how many husbands and wives we have employed.  Pres. Clark suggested, and the brethren concurred, that we lay down a rule that in the future we shall not employ married women and that we leave the present largely undisturbed.  In regard to insuring both husband and wife where both are employed by the Church, the Brethren thought we should have to insure both, that the control lies in their employment and not in discrimination among the employees.”

Fri., 18 Dec., 1953:

“9 to 11 a.m. First Presidency’s meeting.

Some of the matters discussed:

2.  Letter read from Personnel Committee, Delbert L. Stapley, Chairman, asking about employees who are married.  The Brethren were united that we do not favor the employment of married women, that, however, those who are now employed should be permitted to continue.  The Brethren also agreed that we should not employ both a man and his wife.

Fri., 27 July, 1956:

Friday, July 27, 1956:

Telephone Conversation with Sister Belle S. Spafford, President of the Relief Society of the Church, Friday, July 27, 1956.

Sister Spafford called to ask me for advice upon a few developments which have arisen in the program of the National Council of Women, of which she is 2nd vice president, for the nation.

She said that in the Council’s Constitution it states that an individual holding an executive postion in the Council has limitations on the time which she must hold such office.  Because of this, Sister Spafford would not be eligible to again run for the office she now holds.  She can still work in the Council as a voting delegate for the Relief Society, if the Relief Society desires to send her to represent them.  She has held the office of 2nd vice president for so many years that she cannot hold it again.

The Council has asked Sister Spafford to nominate someone to be an officer at large, and she would like to suggest that it be Sister Marianne C. Sharp.  Each organization is allowed two delegates, one of which is a voting delegate.  The Relief Society’s delegates would be Sister Spafford and Sister Sharp, if President McKay and the Relief Society would approve.

Another matter she brought up was that there is an influential officer who is proposing revisions in the Consitution, which revisions will come up in the October Biennial meeting.  Sister Spafford has worked well with this woman, though the lady is often dogmatic.  At the present time the woman has made proposals for Constitutional amendments, some points of which Sister Spafford cannot agree to.  Sister Spafford has phrased a letter in which she explains why she cannot concur, mainly because the proposals are undemocratic.  The people who are working this out seem not to have taken a long-range view and consequently will no doubt have trouble in the future, and of course Sister Spafford cannot agree to this.

Sister Spafford contacted the Y.W.M.I.A. which is also a member of the National Council of Women, and was informed that the officers of the Y.W.M.I.A. had already written to the National Council, approving the proposals and amendments.  Now since the M.I.A. have approved it, Sister Spafford’s position in opposing the proposals is weakened.

I told Sister Spafford that she must not go aginst the principles for which we stand and to which she is true.  I also said that she must follow her good judgment, since she knows so much about the organization.  Furthermore, I told her that this influential woman would not live forever, and if the amendments are wrong, they must be fought.

Then I suggested that Sister Spafford meet with the officers of the Y.W.M.I.A. and work out a united decision.  They must go back to the conventions united and with one purpose.

In conclusion I told her that we should like her to try to keep as many privileges as possible in the Council, because she has done and can do so much good for the Council and the Church.  She said she would do what she could in the meetings.”

Friday, September 27, 1957

Telephone conversation with President Belle S. Spafford, Relief Society, Friday, September 27, 1957.

Re:  Cancellation of 128th Semi-Annual Conference

Sister Spafford to represent the National Council of Women of the United States as a delegate at the Sixth National Conference under the UNESCO in San Francisco, to be held November 6-9, 1957.

Sister Spafford:  President McKay, do you have a second?  I have an invitation from the National Council of Women of the United States to serve as a delegate in San Francisco to represent them.  They will study the social and educational problems for the Far East.  There will be two delegates from the United States Council, and they want me to be one of them.  There is a meeting to be held in San Francisco under the UNESCO program.  (United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Program).  It will be the 6th national conference in San Francisco to be held November 6-9, 1957.  The conference will concern itself with educational, social, welfare and cultural matters of the Far East.  They will have some of the most distinguished speakers available throughout the world.  They would appreciate it if I would represent the Council as a delegate of the National Council of Women.

President McKay:  All right, Sister.  You accept the invitation.  Congratulations!  We have confidence in you, and the Lord bless you.

Sister Spafford:  We shall take care of this other matter.  Thank you, good-bye.

Telephone conversation with President Wilford J. Reichmann, St. George Stake, Tuesday, October 15, 1957.

President Reichmann:  Good morning, President McKay.  This is President Reichmann of the St. George Stake.  How are you this morning?

President McKay:  Pretty well thank you.

President Reichmann:  President, I have a problem.  I should like your help on it.  I have a young lady who has been called on a mission, and when I interviewed her, she had no boy friend of any description.  She has two sisters who have married, but she has had no opportunity to marry.  She was to have entered the mission home on October 23rd.

In the meantime this sister went to the L.D.S. Temple a number of times, and while she was there, her brother-in-law introduced her to a fine young man who had returned in July from the Southwest Indian Mission.  They are in love now.  She wants to know what she should do — go the mission home or get married?

President McKay:  Has he proposed?

President Reichmann:  Yes.

President McKay:  We shall extend to her an honorable release, and she can consummate her union.

President Reichmann:  Would that release have to come from your office?

President McKay:  Yes, since she has been called and assigned to the mission home.

President Reichmann:  Her name is Mary Delilah Gillespie.  She was to enter the mission home on October 23rd, and was assigned to the Gulf States Mission.  She said to be sure and tell President McKay that she will go if he wants her to, but she would like to get married.

President McKay:  We should like her to get married first.  She cannot fulfill a better mission in the world than that.

President Reichmann:  I shall tell her that.  Then an honorable release will be sent her?  She is upset.  She wants to do what is right.  I appreciate your advice, and thank you for your many kindnesses.

President McKay:  Yes, she will get an honorable release.  It is a pleasure to hear from you.

President Reichmann:  Thank you President.

Fri., 8 May, 1959:

“8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. – Was convened in meetings of the First Presidency.

Sealing Matter considered

At our First Presidency’s meeting this morning President Stephen L. Richards stated that Margaret Cornwall Richards, widow of Robert Richards, son of Stayner Richards, was a widow when she married Robert Richards.  Her first husband was killed in the war.  There were no children.  The first marriage was a temple marriage.  She is the mother of two children by Robert Richards, who died of polio while Stayner Richards was president of the British Mission.  She asks whether or not she may be sealed to Robert Richards and have the children sealed to them.  President Clark stated that a nephew of his is in the same situation, having married a woman who had been selaed to her first husband, the husband having passed away.

I reviewed the case of Axel Olson, who married a young girl, 16 years of age.  He was killed in Ogden Canyon shortly thereafter.  She was a mother and a widow by the time she was seventeen years old.  Later a man married her.  He was not a member of the Church at the time.  They had 12 or 13 children, all of whom were baptized in the Church and finally he, the husband, was baptized.  The case was presented to President Joseph F. Smith when the mother desired to be sealed to her husband who was the father of the 12 or 13 children.  I said that President Smith informed me that in this Church a woman has her choice; if she wants him (the father of the 12 or 13 children) she may have him, but she cannot take Axel’s child from him, but she may be sealed to the second husband, and may have the children of the second husband sealed to them.  They went to the Temple and had the 12 or 13 children sealed to them.

Wed., 8 June 1960:

“12:25 p.m.

Conference with Elder Henry D. Moyle of the First Presidency regarding changing the age limit of lady missionaries.  The age limit will not be changed excepting where a lady missionary is called to go into the mission office.”

Thurs., 16 Nov. 1961:

Missionaries – Age for Sending Young Women on Missions

At this same meeting Elder Mark E. Petersen raised the question as to the official age for sending girls on missions.  He mentioned, as did others of the Brethren, that quite a number are being called at 21.

I said that the official age for young women for missions is 23, and that so far as I know there has been no change.  An exception had been granted for young women who were stenographers to be sent at a young age;  that, however, many had been sent who normally should not come under this category.

I stated that I do not feel that the rule should be changed; that the ages at which young women get married are normally 19 to 22, inclusive, and that too many of our girls are unmarried.  I agreed that it would be well for the Missionary Committee to send out a letter to Bishops and Stake Presidents reconfirming the policy regarding this question.

Wed., 29 Nov. 1961:

Rowena Miller, formerly secretary to President J. Reuben Clark, Jr.  

I reported that sister Rowena Miller is desirous of remaining in the office of the First Presidency as one of the employees.  I said that I had told her yesterday that I had spoken to President Grant indicating that she and President Joseph Fielding Smith’s secretary, and other married women should be home rearing families, or adopting them, and President Grant did not act upon the matter; that when George Albert Smith came into the Presidency, I presented the same matter to him, and he did not act; and then David O. McKay came in, and I presented the same matter to him, and he did not act upon it; so I said to Sister Miller, ‘You have kept on ever since and so has Joseph Fielding Smith’s secretary, setting a bad example working as a married woman for a Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, and President Smith’s secretary as secretary to the President of the Twelve.’  However, I said that if she wanted to continue I should like her to do so.  So, I reported today to my counselor, that Sister Miller had come in to my office yesterday and said she would like to continue working.  We had offered her a position in the Legal Department of the Church, and Zion’s First National Bank had offered her a position.  I said that we had had to change our ruling on these matters because we are losing some of our best secretaries, and our older secretaries are the best we have, and that a good secretary is worth her weight in gold.”

Fri., 15 June 1962:

Other matters were taken up by the Presiding Bishopric, and after their departure, we held our regular First Presidency’s meeting.

Among many items considered was a letter from the General Superintendency of the Sunday School relating to retaining six young women in the employ of Sunday School Board since they have been married.

I said that the policy restricting the employment of married women has not been followed as it should be.  I reviewed practices which involve the office of the First Presidency as well as other departments; referred also to special employment problems arising in the Genealogical Society.  I stated that the rule is honored more in the breech than in the observance, and mentioned the change of practice over the practices of many years ago.

The advisability of revising the regulation was carefully considered, and it was decided that women will be hired and retained after marriage if they are capable and do their work well, but that it will be expected that they will not deliberately postpone responsibilities of parenthood.” 

Thurs., 9 Jan. 1963:

10:00 to 12:00 Noon

Attended Council meeting in the Salt Lake Temple for the first time in over two months!

Home Teaching Program – The Duty of the Priesthood

Regarding the Home Teaching Program, I presented a number of questions asking for clarification of the program.  Brother Romney explained the organization and functions of the Home Teaching Program.  In his explanation, Elder Romney mentioned that there might be occasions that would argue the advisability of having a sister go with her husband to visit a family as a part of the Home Teaching Program.  He said, however, that the instruction has repeatedly been given that the Priesthood are to be the regular home teachers, and that women would be used as home teachers only on specific occasions to go with their husbands to visit special families.

I said that I think there is danger in recognizing such a condition as this, that the home visiting is the duty of the Priesthood and that by even suggesting that a teacher might take his wife with him, instead of another member of the Priesthood, would seem to be questionable wisdom.  I said that I am wondering if we were not opening the door for an aggressive wife to assume more than she has the right to assume.  Elder Lee said that our Stake Presidents and Bishops have been cautioned regarding this; that, however, there is that possibility, and the Priesthood committee representatives have been warned about it; that he thinks, however, that perhaps we could pull an even tighter rein on the matter.

I suggested that it would be well to tighten the rein, notwithstanding the instructions and explanations that have heretofore been sent out.  Elder Lee said that my wishes in this regard would be carried out.

The Bishop of the Ward will be in charge of the entire Home Teaching Program, and the representatives of the High Priests, Seventies, Elders, and the Aaronic Priesthood advisors will be the ones to confer with the Bishop, and they will act virtually as his Home Teaching Committee; that, for example, the High Priests Group leader of the Ward meets with the Bishop and with him goes over the list of High Priests in the Ward, and determines with the Bishop which homes the High Priests in the Ward will visit, and then the assignment to the High Priests.

Thurs., 23 July 1964:

“11:15 to 11:35 a.m.

Conference with Elder Thorpe B. Isaacson.  Told him that I should like to have him serve on the Nauvoo Restoration Committee.

Among other items, Elder Isaacson took up the matter of the Church’s employing married women.  He said that since I relented and gave permission to let those who married stay for a few months so long as they did not procrastinate motherhood, the number of married women working for the Church has grown far beyond what had been intended.

He left the report for my study.”

Tues., 4 Jan. 1966:

“8:30 a.m.

Held a meeting of the First Presidency with Presidents Brown, Tanner, and Smith, and Isaacson.

Among the matters we discussed were the following:

Hunter, Elder Howard W. – Petition to Keep His Secretary

President Isaacson reported that yesterday Howard W. Hunter had called to see him with reference to employing his secretary who is going to have a baby.  Brother Hunter states that he needs her badly, that she is very efficient and handles his correspondence on divorce cases, and he would like the privilege of telling her she can come back to work after her baby is born.  He said he understood the baby would be taken care of by her mother or mother-in-law, that her husband is going to school, making it necessary for her to work.  I said in this case, in which statement the Brethren concurred, that this permission could be granted.

Tues., 16 May 1967:

“8:30 a.m.

Held a meeting of the First Presidency.  Presidents Tanner and Smith were present.  A few of the matters we considered were:

Sacrament Meetings – Prayers for

Our attention was called to instructions heretofore given to the effect that opening and closing prayers in Sacrament Meetings should be offered by brethren holding the Melchizedek Priesthood.  The Presiding Bishopric have raised the question as to whether or not young men holding the Aaronic Priesthood might also be used in offering prayers in the Sacrament Meeting.

We agreed that this permission might well be extended to holders of the Aaronic Priesthood as well as those holding the Melchizedek Priesthood, and that members of the Aaronic Priesthood may also offer prayers in priesthood meetings.

Fri., 12 Jan., 1968:

“Temple Sealings – Women as Witnesses in 

President Tanner mentioned that in the Temple book of instructions in London at least, and perhaps in the other Temples, the statement is made that women may be used as witnesses for Temple marriages. President Buckmiller of the London Temple is asking if women can be used as witnesses for seatings for the dead in the Temple, sealing of children to parents, etc. He said that Elder Hunter says that it is permitted for the living and the question is raised as to whether the same service may be performed by women for the dead.

I said that I could see no reason why the women could not so serve. President Tanner explained that in England it is very difficult to get enough men to the Temple to take care of this work for the deceased.

Tues., Sept. 23, 1969:

I held no meetings today.

The following items were of interest in a meeting of my counselors in the First Presidency:

Girl Scout Organization–Letter from Lady Baden-Powell

President Tanner mentioned a letter he had received from Lady Paden-Powell asking if the Church would not be interested in having a girl scout organization.  She compliments us on our achievement in the Boy Scout movement.  It was decided to answer her that we appreciate her suggestion and are giving it careful consideration.