Sisters for Suffrage Research GuideTurning the Key

Turning the Key

“The sure foundations of the suffrage cause were deeply and permanently laid on the 17th of March, 1842.”1

—Sarah M. Kimball

Come Let Us Rejoice, by Walter Rane

On March 17, 1842, the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo was organized, laying the foundation for what would become one of the oldest and largest women’s societies in the world. With Emma Smith as their president, the intrepid women gathered money and supplies to help build the Nauvoo Temple and assist families in need. Addressing the society, Latter-day Saint prophet Joseph Smith declared, “I now turn the key to you in the name of God and this Society shall rejoice and knowledge and intelligence shall flow down from this time—this is the beginning of better days.”2

Latter-day Saints saw this as the beginning of better days not just for women in Nauvoo, Illinois, but for women throughout the country. Just six years later, in July 1848, the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York, beginning a 72-year campaign for woman suffrage.

“When the Prophet Joseph Smith turned the key for the emancipation of womankind, it was turned for all the women of the world, and from generation to generation the number of women who can enjoy the blessings of religious liberty and civil liberty has been increasing.”3

—George Albert Smith