Month long lecture series dedicated to history of LDS women

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The early Saints laid the foundation for how the LDS Church runs today. While many male Church figures are highlighted for their work, prominent women who contributed to the advancement of the Church are sometimes overlooked.

For the month of March, Women’s Studies will celebrate Women’s History Month with a mini lecture series honoring great women in LDS history each week. The series will feature a line-up of speakers who have selected specific LDS women, like Lucy Mack Smith and Leah Widtsoe, who have contributed to the advancement of the Church.

Kyra Malcarne, a senior from Connecticut studying political science with a Women’s Studies minor, created the event to showcase LDS women. She said she believes it’s essential for people to realize the place these women have in Church history. Malcarne said it’s important to focus on the great things the early women did for the Church and how LDS women now can learn from their examples.

“I thought it would be awesome to have women who have studied [LDS women] to come and create an environment in which students could learn from them … and understand our roles and potential in the Church,” Malcarne said.

When selecting women figures, Malcarne said they focused on choosing women who did prominent and amazing things for the Church and how it can apply to women. Leah Widtsoe, a dietician, is an example of a woman who used her knowledge and her husband’s standing to help influence Church curriculum.

Chelsea Bakaitis, a junior from Lexington, Ill., studying geography with a Women’s Studies minor, helped Malcarne to spearhead the lecture series. Bakaitis said she’s most looking forward to have credible lecturers from outside the university speak about these powerful women and their influence.

“I want LDS women and women at BYU to see that they have a history and have been impacts on the Church,” Bakaitis said. “Women can push to help gender equality and bring up women’s place in the world … it’s great way for LDS women to get involved in the Women’s Studies program and Women’s History Month in general.”

Bakaitis said its important for women to understand how much of an impact they can have and that they can fulfill potential in many different ways. The event is designed for all students who want to learn and get involved with Church history.

Valerie Hegstrom, associate professor of Spanish literature and coordinator of the Women’s Studies program, hopes this event will help put to rest stereotypes of women in the Church. In an email, she said the Church has a history of strong, intelligent and devoted LDS women who have worked hard to make great things happen. Hegstrom believes it’s important to highlight and honor them by developing our own strength, intelligence and devotion.

“We learn a few things about the founding of the Relief Society, but we are generally unaware of our cultural heritage,” Hegstrom said. “We do not know the names or the great accomplishments of early LDS women. We need to know who they were and what they cared about, so that we can understand our own cultural identity.”

For a full list of speakers and lectures, go to womensstudies.byu.edu.

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