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SALT LAKE CITY—To celebrate the 174th anniversary of the founding of Relief Society, the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will sponsor a lecture on Thursday, March 17, 2016, at 7 p.m. in the Assembly Hall on Temple Square.

The lecture will be presented by Jill Mulvay Derr, retired senior research historian at the Church History Department and coeditor of the newest book from the Church Historian’s Press, The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Derr will share highlights from the new volume and discuss insights from her decades-long study of Relief Society history.

The First Fifty Years is a collection of original documents that explores the fascinating and largely unknown history of the Relief Society in the nineteenth century. The story begins with the founding of the Nauvoo Female Relief Society, and the complete, unabridged minutes of that organization are reproduced for the first time in print. The large majority of the volume covers the lesser-known period after the Relief Society was reestablished in territorial Utah and began to spread to areas as remote as Hawaii and England.

The volume shows that not only did Relief Society women care for their families and the poor, but they manufactured and sold goods, went to medical school, stored grain, built assembly halls, fought for women’s suffrage, founded a hospital, defended the practice of plural marriage, and started the Primary and Young Women organizations. Prominent in the documents are the towering figures of Mormon women’s history from this period—Emma Smith, Eliza R. Snow, Mary Isabella Horne, Emmeline B. Wells, Zina D. H. Young, and many others.