Although she never served as general president of the Primary, she was president of the first Primary that was organized in 1878. One day while waiting for a train with Eliza R. Snow in Farmington, Utah, she discussed the idea of an organization where “little boys … could be taught everything good and how to behave.” However, by the time Bishop John Hess was asked by the Brethren to organize a Primary, girls were included in the program.
She became the first general president of the Primary and served in that position for forty-five years. Under her direction, children were divided into different age groups. In 1902 she received permission to begin publication of The Children’s Friend to print lessons for each grade level. In 1922 children began donating pennies—one for each year of their age—to the Latter-day Saint Children’s Convalescent Home and Day Nursery, a forerunner of the Primary Children’s Hospital.
Although there were already Primaries in New Zealand and Mexico in the 1880s, Primaries did not become truly international until this woman’s presidency when the Primary program expanded into Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, Scotland, and South America. She was a member of the primary general board for thirty-five years before being called as president in which capacity she served for nearly fifteen more years.
During the 3 1/2 years that this Primary president served, official colors for the Primary were adopted—red for courage, yellow for service, and blue for truth and purity. A seal depicting faith and service was also approved, as well as a theme for Primary: “And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” (Doctrine and Covenants 68:28.)
Under this president’s direction, Primaries collected and shipped 3,451 cartons of clothes and toys to the European Saints after the end of World War II. In honor of the Mormon Pioneers and in celebration of Utah’s Centennial in 1947, Primary children throughout the Church planted trees. Under her leadership, funds were raised for a new Primary Children’s Hospital, although she died a year before the building was dedicated.
While on the general board of the Primary, the boys’ program became her special interest. So it is fitting that Scouting and Cub Scouting were introduced into Primary while she served as president. The Primary Children’s Hospital was dedicated under her direction and a new wing added. Lessons were correlated with the Sunday School, and visits to Primaries throughout the world were increased as part of this president’s great contribution.
This leader has been president since 1974. Under her guidance thousands of workers make Primary an enjoyable learning experience for over a half million boys and girls who attend regular, home, or special Primaries. These children will be joined this year by all members of the Church in honoring the 100th birthday of Primary, with special programs and events highlighting the celebration of this important anniversary.