Lyman, Amy Brown
Author: Engar, Ann Willardson
Author: Engar, AMy Lyman
Amy Brown Lyman (1872-1959) was the eighth general president of the Relief Society, an author, Utah state legislator, teacher, and social worker. She possessed an active mind, warm personality, good humor, indomitable spirit, and strong desire to serve.
Born in Pleasant Grove, Utah, on February 7, 1872, to pioneers John and Margaret Zimmerman Brown, Amy was a beautiful, popular, and intelligent child, with dark hair and eyes and a joyous zest for living. She attended public school in Pleasant Grove, then the Brigham Young Academy from 1888 to 1890. Her enthusiasm for learning blossomed under Dr. Karl Maeser, with whose family she boarded for several years. She taught at the academy for four years and then in Salt Lake City elementary schools two more years.
On September 9, 1896, she married Richard R. Lyman, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Utah; he later served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for twenty-five years. The Lymans had two children, Wendell Brown and Margaret; they also raised their granddaughter, Amy Kathryn Lyman, after the death of her parents.
Amy continued to develop her talents while raising her family and accompanying her husband on travels for his doctoral studies. She took classes at the University of Utah, the University of Chicago, and Cornell University. While in Chicago, she became interested in social work and spent several days at Hull House, where she met Jane Addams and gained experiences that changed her life. During summers, she studied family Welfare work at the University of Colorado, earned a special certificate in social service, and received in-service training at the city and county Welfare departments in Denver.
In 1909 she began her long service to the Relief Society, in which she displayed great organizational and leadership skills. She served two years as a general board member, two years as assistant secretary, and fifteen years as general secretary-treasurer. As secretary-treasurer, she brought to the Relief Society office up-to-date practices, introducing the use of secretaries, office machines, and new filing systems; prepared the first uniform record books for ward Relief Societies; and collected all the minutes and historical documents of the Relief Society since its inception in Nauvoo in 1842. For eleven years she served as first counselor in the general presidency, and she also presided over the women's organizations in the European Mission while her husband served as mission president.
Amy Brown Lyman was authorized by President Joseph F. Smith to organize and promote family Welfare work. She established and directed the Relief Society general board's Social Service Department, with its employment bureau and child-placement agency; taught thousands of volunteer Relief Society workers fundamental principles of family Welfare; developed extensive health and nurse training programs; and served in public and private Welfare agencies through both world wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s.
During this time, she also rendered important service in many civic organizations and in the Utah state legislature (1923-1924), where she sponsored legislation to provide for maternity and infant care. She held offices in the National Council of Women and in 1929 helped establish the Utah State Training School, where she served as a trustee for eleven years.
In January 1940, the centennial year for the Relief Society, Amy Brown Lyman became general president of the Relief Society. In this position she reemphasized the Relief Society's unique position among women's groups in providing opportunities for education and service outside the home. Under her presidency, the Relief Society actively supported the new Church Welfare program, especially sponsoring sewing projects to supply Church Welfare storehouses and to meet Red Cross needs in World War II.
Amy Brown Lyman experienced much personal tragedy in her life. Besides the early deaths of her son and daughter-in-law, she endured a great ordeal when her husband was released from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and subsequently excommunicated from the Church in November 1943. She continued to serve as general president of the Relief Society until she asked to be released in September 1944; the following spring her request was granted. She continued to stand by her husband, who was rebaptized in the Church in 1954.
Her testimony sustained and strengthened her throughout her life. She wrote, "My testimony has been my anchor and my stay, my satisfaction in times of joy and gladness, my comfort in times of discouragement" (Lyman, pp. 160-61). Her vision, wisdom, spirituality, and concern for others made Amy Brown Lyman a fitting president to usher in the Relief Society's second century.