For over twenty-five years the Brigham Young University Women's Conference has given women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) the opportunity to go beyond womanhood and share sisterhood. Spurred by the women's movement of the 1970s, LDS women were pressed to define for themselves what it meant to be a woman in the Church. This discovery and defining process often brought confusion, criticism and conflict. As women sought to reconcile the discrepancies between their own lives and views, their internal definition and the external definition they received from others, a reconstruction began to take place that reflected not only society's stress on “family values” but also the Church's growing globalization and emphasis on LDS fundamentals of family and gospel principles. The conference is a reflection of this transformation and the issues Latter-day Saint women faced in the late twentieth-century. In addition, it is the history of a grass roots conference that grew and was adopted by the Church through the Relief Society. The BYU Women's Conference began in response to the needs of female students at BYU and quickly expanded beyond the BYU community. Early conferences concentrated on identifying the various roles of LDS women. The event expanded to include issues like depression, the Equal Rights Amendment, and the state and national meetings for the International Year of the Woman. Throughout the history of the conference the issue of professional women and working outside the home with its attendant issue of child care stirred controversy and contention. As the LDS Church has grown to be an international church, the conference expanded to address the needs of LDS women in a worldwide church. In expanding the focus, the conference topics evolved from a scholarly focus to a growing emphasis on LDS fundamentals of family and gospel principles. The sponsorship, program and structure of the conference have changed to meet the issues facing this expanded population. Through its annual gathering the conference endeavored to strengthen womanhood through knowledge and faith, assist women in understanding their identity, and recognize the beauty in the diversity of sisterhood.
College and Department
Family, Home, and Social Sciences; History
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Lewis, Velda Gale Davis, "From Womanhood to Sisterhood: The Evolution of the Brigham Young University Women's Conference" (2006). Theses and Dissertations. 1081.
Women, BYU Women's Conference, Mormon, Relief Society