Marba Cannon Josephson (1897-1965), a leader in the YWMIA and later a participant with Belle Spafford in some of the international women’s conferences supported by the Relief Society, was general manager of the Improvement Era when she penned this article:
Woman’s Changed World
… [C]hanges [since the founding of the Improvement Era 40 years earlier] have revolutionized woman’s sphere particularly. Where formerly woman’s work kept her constantly bent over the tub or the stove, modern conveniences have emancipated her and brought a new, hitherto unheard of freedom. Hours of drudgery have dwindled into minutes of rapidly completed work. Where in years past woman was confined almost literally to the kitchen, today she has leisure to do much as she pleases.
What is woman doing with this new-found leisure? Therein lies the secret of her success or failure. Is she frittering away her time with senseless amusements or is she employing her time wisely to benefit herself, her family, her community, her Church?
The old saying about idle hands and mischief is as true – if not truer – than it ever was. With increased leisure, there is also increased mischief – and need for increased diligence in safeguarding our heritage.
From many sections of the country has come the information that most of our present-day trouble centers in young married women, who, having so much leisure, are using it to their destruction rather than to their salvation.
With the new leisure, many opportunities are afforded women to increase in power. Endless opportunities are open for mental and cultural growth through extension courses, study groups, and individual reading. With increased time, women could undertake a study of our civil institutions and with vigor clean up some of our vicious political practices. With the new leisure, our spiritual growth should transcend all previous development, for with this new leisure mothers have time to instruct their children better in the rightness and wrongness of certain behavior.
Women have always been rightly considered the guardians of the best in civilization. Unless they regard this new leisure as an opportunity for an increasing of the best and a diminishing of the worst which the age offers, we shall find that this free time will serve as a prelude to the downfall of our generation. If, however, women accept the new leisure as a responsibility for greater development, then they will become active factors in the realization of the millennium to which we are eagerly looking.