'Mother power must be a national presence'

One day when Barbara B. Smith was 16 years old, a young man came to her parents' home in Salt Lake City and asked her for a date. At the time she was helping her mother, Dorothy M. Bradshaw, can peaches.

"Mother, may I go?" the young woman asked."I need you," her mother replied, but added, "but if you want, your friend can work with us and visit with us."

And so the young man stayed and helped can peaches. Sister Smith recalled that her mother "made that more fun than if we'd gone on a date. That's what every mother could do for a child - teach that what has to be done is important, but it can be fun and exciting."

Sister Smith has applied this lesson throughout her life as she has served in many positions of responsibility, including Relief Society general president from 1974-1984. Today, she continues to combine responsibility with fun and excitement as she serves as president of American Mothers Inc.

The organization she has headed since last fall sponsors the annual Mother of the Year and Mother of Young Children awards. Sister Smith is also co-chairman of the 59th annual American Mothers National Convention being held in Salt Lake City April 29-May 3. (Please see accompanying photos and biographical information about LDS women representing their states this year.)

During an interview with the Church News, Sister Smith said her work with American Mothers Inc. has taught her that "there are so many wonderful mothers in the United States. As I have listened to them tell about their own mothers, I have been inspired because so often we think mothers aren't doing all that should be done, but I know that many of them are."

Sister Smith cited the example of the 1993 Mother of the Year, Ruby Washington of Nebraska. "She said her mother left her a legacy of love of God, of trust and humor. She also said she was one of 11 children, but her mother also raised 19 foster children. And Ruby not only raised her own children, but also helped raise 209 foster sons and 11 foster daughters.

American Mothers Inc., Sister Smith explained, provides a way for women throughout the country to exemplify good motherhood. As national president, she said her focus is to help the organization grow from its current 3,000 members to 3 million. One project in process, she said, is copies of a letter being distributed to "women in America" via American Mothers state presidents and area coordinators.

One portion of the letter states: "Mother power must become a national presence, a gentle but urgent advocate for young people and old principles. We must help one another as we help each child to honor the moral and spiritual values that have built our nation and its people."

In addition, Sister Smith said, American Mothers Inc., will continue to promote families through study classes for mothers; the leadership of mothers in the organization's local chapters; programs influencing such things as music, art, poetry and literacy; a planned book of problems/solutions relating to families; and opportunities to serve.

And American Mothers members continue to espouse the belief - in the words of their pledge - " . . . with God all things are possible."

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