September 26, 2023

Women’s Garden Nauvoo Illinois

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(below the map is the rest of the article)

The Women's Garden, at the Visitors Center in Nauvoo, is the largest monument of its kind in the world! It was a labor of love to design and create, this monument for all to enjoy. This beautiful garden can easily be looked over, many people walk right through without noticing. The message of this beautiful garden is for the people throughout the whole world to know of Gods love for his children, specifically His daughters. If you find yourself in this garden in Nauvoo look around, take some time alone, if possible. The message of the Women's Garden is to connect the efforts of modern women to the inspiring women of past generations.

At the dedication of the Women's Garden, the General Relief Society Presidency spoke on the beauty of the sculptures saying: “The deeply significant figures are not only a pleasure to the eye, they are an enduring statement about women, a vision of the divine potential of the daughters of God, which we want to share with the world.”

At the dedication they reiterated that a sincere effort was made in planning the Women's Garden to connect the women of the past to the women of today saying:

“the woman in the contemporary world is not far removed from the woman of an earlier era. Her dominion is different. Woman’s place shifts, and crosscurrents may confuse and cloud. But whether gentling a modern wilderness or stepping forward bravely beside a handcart, each woman raises her own signposts on a unique yet universal journey.”

In an article written by Susan Easton Black called "Monument to Women Memorial Garden" she writes about the history of the Women's Garden. Where the idea for the garden came from, and who was involved in carrying it out.

Background of the Women's Garden in Nauvoo

In 1933, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a Relief Society Monument placed near the foundation stones of the Joseph Smith store(where the Relief Society was organized), that statue had deteriorated to the point it was in need of being replaced. Bella Spafford, the general Relief Society President at the time, spoke to the prophet President Spencer W. Kimball about having the monument replaced. She hoped her successor would replace the monument with a larger monument "in honor of the organization of the Society. . . on land as near adjacent to the Nauvoo Temple Square as possible."

Barbara B. Smith, the new General Relief Society President, was asked by President Kimball if she was willing to undertake the project. Barbara Smith was willing and, also, imagined a larger monument, with multiple aspects of womanhood depicted.

Barbara Smith recruited Florence Hansen, a sculpture, to help with the project. Florence sculpted a clay model of a woman dressed in pioneer attire with a tablet on her knee and an arm around a child. This was given as a model to President Barbara Smith who brought it to the Prophet. When President Kimball saw the model he asked "if the model provided the representation [they] wanted," Barbara Smith replied that a woman with a child is only part of women's work. President Kimball then advised Sis. Smith to seek for models that more fully addressed and honored the role of womanhood.

The Women's Garden Came to Be

The committee chose an idea presented by an artist by the name of Dennis Smith. He presented the idea of a two acre monument honoring womanhood. He pictured the "garden setting with bricks and flowing circles" that unfolded "the story of woman's journey toward perfection" and an ever-widening circles of her service and influence." Within the garden the would place eleven oversized statues portraying important phases of womanhood. His desire was to evoke "a simple, sincere, and somewhat reserved sentiment rather than overworked sentimentality."

The committee loved the idea, and went forward. They found the perfect piece of land, that was at the time in the center of the Church historical district in Nauvoo.

Dedication of the Woman's Garden

At the dinner before the dedicatory services President Kimball read this statement from the first presidency:

“To all who visit the Monument to Women at Nauvoo, we commend the vitally important messages so impressively portrayed by the inspiring sculptures and their beautiful surroundings. May this monument encourage men, women and children everywhere to better understand the divine destiny of families, and singular opportunities given women through the gospel program. May this monument increase our appreciation for each noble woman who devoted her intelligence, compassion and spirituality to the fulfillment of the unique calls given her by the Lord.”

The Relief Society President Barbara Smith said this:

“every woman seeing these bronze figures will see herself stepping into the future, confidently, with her head held high, knowing that there is within her the capacity of eternal progression and the strength to meet whatever life has to offer.”

The Relief Society President that started the who idea off, Sis. Belle S. Spafford said this of the new garden:

“It is now my hope that those who may pass this way in the days ahead shall be rejuvenated in mind and spirit and favorably influenced by what they see."

Today, many walk right through the Woman's Garden without noticing. The sculptures are still beautiful reminders of womanhood, but like most things in today world, we move more quickly, listen less, and simply do not take the time to ponder and think. This beautiful garden was designed to remind women and men of the important roles of God's Daughters. It was designed to remind God's daughters that there are curves in the roads, the road is not simple and straight but many different elements to life as a daughter of God, and each step is important.

If you find yourself in Nauvoo, make the Woman's Garden a priority. Take a minute to study and ponder while there about God's mission for women on Earth. Take advantage of this beautiful sacred garden to help you get answers you are seeking.

To Read the rest of Susan Eason Black's Article click the link below:

More To See in Nauvoo

Lucy Mack Smith’s Home, Nauvoo Illinois

Pageants in Nauvoo: The Nauvoo Pageant and British Pageant

John Taylor Home, Nauvoo Illinois

Visiting Nauvoo Sites, Know Before You Go

Smith Family Cemetery, Nauvoo Illinois

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