Did you know that BYU had a combined-gender missionary club in the early 1920â€™s named the Y.D.D.? It took me a month to discover the secret of the initials: â€œYoung Doctors of Divinity.â€ What do you make of that? I was intrigued. Originally, the Y.D.D. welcomed male and female returned missionaries and had a number of both, a rather stunning achievement since the first single sister missionaries did not leave until 1898. While numbers increased gradually after that, there were still only 151 sisters set apart in 1925 (out of 1,131 total missionariesâ€”13%). That there were enough young, single returned missionaries congregating at BYU who thought it was a good idea to have a mission club seems pretty interesting.
But then came the problems. The club was wooed by the Friars, a University of Utah ALL-MALE Christian club with chapters at a few Utah colleges. Though the women missionaries and a few cross-over men objected and initially defeated the motion to join the Friars, the male missionaries re-grouped and kicked the women out of the Y.D.D.
Well, what can one do? The women formed their own group, invited the two locally famous women who served in 1898 to join them, and decided to never call their association a â€œclub.â€ For the first year or two, they were the â€œY Missionary Women,â€ switching to â€œYesharahâ€ (a Hebrew word, feminine form, which Iâ€™ve been told means â€œstraight, right, upright, just righteous, good or pleasingâ€). They met once a month to discuss missionary work and learn about the cultures and peoples of both U.S. and foreign missions. The spread to college/university cities such as Provo, Salt Lake, and Logan, as well as small Utah towns such as Smithfield, Spanish Fork, Payson, Ogden, and Pleasant Grove, Utah, and even a few places in Idaho and Arizona.
Most chapters lost contact with each other and most faded from view during the 1960s and 1970s, but I found a functioning chapter in Orem, Utah, and another in Logan, Utah. Has anyone heard of other functioning Yesharah chapters?
Also, would this type of society be of interest to returned sister missionaries? Both Logan and Orem function almost exclusively with older women who served missions with their husbands. These women speculate that â€œyoung sistersâ€ are â€œtoo busy with childrenâ€ to want to participate in such a group. What do you think? And, of course, what is up with having a combined gender club in the early 1920s and then moving toward segregation? Did this move toward segregation happen in other racial and cultural arenas?
I speculate that the original women were especially bonded because (1) they all served missions when that was a unique thing to do and (2) they were all kicked out of the Y.D.D. together. Iâ€™m not sure how current sister missionaries feel about their missions. Are the missions a big enough deal that one would want to form a club around it? Or is that part of a past era?
By the way, the BYU Friars apparently died out in 1975. Not that I feel competitive or anything.