Naming the YW

Kaimi recently posted on T&S about Brides Among the Beehives, with reference to Joseph Smith’s marriage to a 14-year-old. A few commenters have pointed out that 14-year-olds are not in fact Beehives, but rather Mia Maids. Though I have nothing to say at the moment about Joseph Smith’s polygamous marriages, this discussion has led me to ponder the fact that we refer to our Young Women as Beehives, Mia Maids, and Laurels. As a YW, I found the names rather silly (particularly “Mia Maid”), and I can’t say my opinion has changed much in the years since then. Of course, part of the fun of being a Mormon is having all these quirky terms. Nonetheless, I’m wondering whether anyone has any good suggestions for alternate names. What would you call the different groups of Young Women? Or do you like the labels we have?


  1. What are the classes called in languages other than English? I assume that the names aren’t literally translated (as if Mia Maid could be).

  2. I’d be interested if anyone knows where the real names came from and what their perceived meaning is. As a convert, I’ve never understood.

  3. Lynnette,

    Wow, what a good question! I’d never thought of it before.

    Even though it is tempting, it would be a little too cynical to say that we should just be honest and logically consistent and call them helpmeets to the deacons, helpmeets to the teachers, and helpmeets to the priests. I think just calling them YW group A, YW group B, and YW group C would probably be an improvement over the names we have now.

    But this isn’t just a Mormon thing. The girl scouts have brownies, guides, etc.

  4. I guess I would think Beehive and Laurel had meaning, though I am at a loss for Mia Maid. (There’s always the joke about a mom who is a Mia Maid leader and her younger children didn’t understand, thinking they were maids for mom, as in “my maids.”)
    The only thing I can think of for Laurels is like laurel wreaths worn as crowns? So, are Laurels future “crowns to their husbands?” Oh boy.
    Yeah, I think I like groups A, B, and C.

  5. “Mia Maid” came from “MIA” = “Mutual Improvement Association.” Before the current YW and YM programs, we had the “Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association” (YMMIA) and the “Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association” (YWMIA). The recently use of “Mutual” for the YMYW activity night harkens back to that name.

  6. Good question, Lynnette. I was going to suggest looking to other languages for alternatives, but JrL beat me to it. Even if the names in other languages sound just as weird to speakers of that language as Beehive, Mia Maid, and Laurel sound to us, the words might sound cool to those of us who don’t speak the language just because they’re different.

    Rusty, are you channeling DKL?

  7. thanks for the MIA maid name trivia. I’d never thought of that!

    We could update the names to the 80s:

    beehives becomes poofy bangs
    MIA maids becomes group therapy gals
    Laurels becomes headbands

    I guess we can’t go with Women, Sisters, and Mothers either…

  8. I’ll go for it, Rusty, if we can call the Young Men “Little Roosters.” 😉

    JrL, I was wondering too about the non-English versions. I found a conference talk that used the terms and then looked at the German, Spanish, and French versions. This is what I found:

    Bienenkorbmädchen (“beehive girl”)
    Rosenmädchen (“rose girl”)
    Lorbeermädchen (“laurel girl”)

    Abejita (“little bee”)
    Dammita (“little lady”)
    Laurel (“laurel”)

    Abeille (“bee”)
    Églantine (“rose”)

    So it looks like rose might be a common substitution for Mia Maid?

    Matt W., this site has some interesting information. It looks like originally all the Young Women were Beehives (which is the Utah state emblem, and I believe is associated with being hardworking and industrious–all those diligent bees keeping the hive running). Then in 1950, the program was changed to Beehives, Mia Maids, and Junior Gleaners, but in 1959 the Junior Gleaners became Laurels (a change for the better, I have to say). Mia Maid, as JrL explained, comes from the old Mutual Improvement Association. And apparently the laurel is “a symbol of honor, distinction, and accomplishment.”

    LOL, Mark. Maybe they could be the “Little Helpmeets.” But here’s an even better proposal: how about we call the Young Women “deaconesses, teachers, and priestesses,” and then come up with some cute names for the Young Men?

    cmac, here’s an idea for a more palatable contemporary spin on “laurel”: it’s implicit encouragement to follow in the steps of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

  9. The Gleaners (female) and the M-Men (male) were what we now call young single adults (YSA). I speak from experience — I was an M-Man briefly, having abandoned the priests quorum and the exploere post as soon as I hit 18. Most of my peers never became M-Men because the change to YSA came in June of that year (1973), soon after we graduated from high school.

  10. “In 1913 the girls were all called Beehives. In 1950, the Beehive girls became the first two years of Young Women. The next age-group was called Mia Maids. At that time, the 16- to 18-year-olds were called Junior Gleaners. … In 1959, the Junior Gleaner name was changed to Laurels.” (Janet Thomas and Lisa A. Johnson, “Young Women, Then and Now,” New Era, Nov. 1994, 38 and here)

    “In 1915, the Beehive program (which was, for a time, the activity program for all girls ages 14 through 20) began with a list of goals for the girls to achieve.” (Lisa M. G. Crockett, “A Century of Young Women.” New Era, Jan. 2000, 24 or here)

    “Hereafter the name ‘Camp Fire Girls’ will be changed to ‘Beehive Girls.’ We feel that this title is appropriate as it bears a direct application to our Church and western home.” (“Officers’ notes.” (December 1914) The Young Woman’s Journal 25(12), 765.)

    “In this and like associations, a great deal of good has been done. They were intended for good, as their name implies. Mutual: acting in turn; Improvement: progress from good to better; association: union, connection, society. Taken as a whole means that in union we can better ourselves and others.” (“Improvement.” (July 1892) The Young Woman’s Journal 3(10), 474.)

    “Next year the fourteen-and-fifteen-year-old girls will be charter members of a brand new class, taking the name of Mia Maids. Mia, of course, stands for Mutual Improvement Association and when reversed is aim. The aim of these girls is to become better Latter-day Saint wives and mothers.” (LaRue C. Longden, “M.I.A. in 1950-1951” (April 1950) Improvement Era 53(4), ?)

    “Sister Ruth May Fox, a counselor in the general presidency, who later became the general president of the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association, suggested the word “Gleaners.” The lovely story of Ruth taken from the Bible was to form the basic symbolism of the organization. As Ruth gleaned in the fields of Boaz, so Gleaners were to glean in all of the best fields of life, gathering always the choicest so that their harvest might be full and glorious.” (“The M Men – Gleaner Silver Jubilee” (March 1947) Improvement Era 50(3), ?)

  11. If we went with names our Young Women like in my ward, I think we’d have the pirates, the knights who say “knee”, and the hippies.

  12. Thanks for the info, JrL and HeatherP! I’d heard the term “M-Men,” but I hadn’t known they were the male counterparts of the “Gleaners.” Now can anyone tell me what the “M” in M-Men stands for? Mormon?

    And the reference to Ruth is interesting–given the age group, is there a message hidden in that about “gleaning” that eventually lands one a husband? Though Ruth made use of some, umm, interesting tactics.

  13. Matt, I really like the idea of calling them pirates. Perhaps the Mia Maids could become the Mia Pirates. Knights Who Say Ni would be fun, too.

  14. OK, some of this is interesting, and most of it is funny. From a Church News article published on January 22, 1992, entitled Some Things uniquely LDS:

    But what does M Men stand for? At a June conference in 1922, John A. Widtsoe was introduced as chairman of the newly created M Man Department. He asked those assembled at the conference to guess what the “M” stood for. Many said Mutual Men, Manly Men and Mormon Men. Showing great diplomacy, Elder Widtsoe announced that it stood for all good things that started with the letter M and was not limited to any one meaning.


    Some Church members may have visions of beehive hairdos as a requirement for young women ages 12 and 13 who are members of the Beehive class. But perhaps Church leaders in 1915 had the right idea when they decided to make the beehive the symbol of the “lively” and “busy” girls.

    Requirements to achieve three ranks – Builders in the Hive, Gatherers of the Honey and Keepers of the Bees – included knowing the vertical line test for correct posture of the body to knowing the proper use of hot and cold baths. More advanced requirements included a girl learning to float in the Great Salt Lake, propelling herself 50 feet and getting on her feet unassisted.

    Young women and their leaders have written to the general Young Women offices asking what Mia Maid stands for so they can translate it or at least understand the translation. A group of members from one country guessed that perhaps the MIA in Mia Maid stood for “many intellectual adults.”

  15. Elder Widtsoe announced that it stood for all good things that started with the letter M and was not limited to any one meaning.

    I love it! Bring back the M Men, I say, and let us teach our Young Women to never settle for mere K Men or L Men.

  16. And the young men need to be sure to only date young women capable of getting on their feet unassisted. I mean, I know we’re weird and all, but are we really that weird?

  17. I’m not sure about the YW names in Chinese (I never served in a branch that really had a Young Women organization), but I would suspect that they are translated as directly as possible, as that seems to be the general trend (the heavy insistence that the Translation Department apparently places upon absolute correlation between languages is both comical and frustrating in my opinion). FWIW, the Merry Misses are the “happy misses” and the Blazers are the “road blazing team.” A quorum is a “fixed quantity group,” which is an approximation of the English definition of the word.

    I always found it ironic that the Relief Society, which is one of the few church organizations possessing a name that would be easily translatable, is merely translated as the “Womens’ Association.”

  18. Kaimi, I believe the X-Men are acceptable as long as they’ve learned to float in the Great Salt Lake and can propel themselves 50 feet, so as not to be outdone by the Gleaners.

    I mean, I know we’re weird and all, but are we really that weird?

    There are perhaps some questions which are better left unasked . . .

  19. That’s so interesting about the Chinese translations, Steve. On a bit of a tangent, I never realized that “Relief Society” might sound a little odd to contemporary ears–until I mentioned the term to various non-member friends. It does have a rather 19th-century ring to it.

  20. A few more interesting things. The first one overlaps with the aforementioned Church News article, regarding M-Men:

    “The selection of the name was an interesting procedure. Members of the general board were asked to submit suggestions. On the list submitted were these: Fellows, Nephites, Mutual Boys, Washakies, Arapines, Mormonas, Mountaineers, Uintahs, Timpanogos, Deserets, Senior Brotherhood, M.I.A. Savages, M.I.A. Americans, M.I.A. Climbers, M.I.A. Seniors, L.D.S. Loyal League, Liahonas, Eagles, Buffaloes, Ymmias, Ammays, Peers, Majors, Mavericks, Adelphians, Evergreens, Alpha M, Miamas, Sons of Deseret, Cumorahs, and Knights of Achievement. After weeks of deliberation, the name was chosen. Judging from the widespread acceptance and popularity, it was the ideal choice. The ‘M’ was designated to stand for ‘Mormon,’ Mutual, missionary, moral, manly, magnificent, model–in fact, any desirable quality or characteristic beginning with the letter ‘M.'” (from the same Silver Jubilee article in the Improvement Era as above.)

    “Since the creation man has had ideals and in order to attain his ideals has used various devices, or symbols, which have played a great part, and for some time the Juniors have used the rose as their symbol. The Junior age is called the blooming age of girlhood, and the rose is the queen of beauty. Therefore it is chosen as the symbol for the class.” (“The Junior Department,” (August 1928), The Young Woman’s Journal 39(8), 502.)

    “In the Senior class department at the June Conference it was unanimously agreed that a pin should be adopted for Gleaner Girls. The design selected is a sheaf of wheat set in the letter ‘G.'” (“Senior Girls,” (July 1924), The Young Woman’s Journal 35(7), 381.)

    Finally, excerpts from a timeline in the appendix of Keepers of the Flame by Janet Peterson and LaRene Gaunt (Deseret Book, 1993):

    1869 Brigham Young organizes the Young Ladies’ Department of the Cooperative Retrenchment Association (Young Ladies’ Retrenchment Association)
    1877 Name is changed to Young Ladies’ National Mutual Improvement Association
    1904 Name is changed to Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association
    1913 Beehive Girls program is organized [as the sister organization to the Boy Scouts]
    1921 Intermediate Girls program is organized (renamed Junior Girls in 1922)
    1924 Senior Girls’ name is changed to Gleaners
    1926 Junior Girls adopt rose as their class flower
    1934 Name is changed to Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association (YWMIA)
    1937 Gleaners adopt sheaf of wheat as symbol
    1946 Girls program [precursor to Personal Progress, I assume] is adopted
    1950 Age groups are realigned: Beehive Girls for ages 12-13, Mia Maids for ages 14-15, Junior Gleaners for ages 16-18, and Gleaners for ages 19-29
    1974 Name is changed to Young Women
    1985 Young Women Values are introduced
    1987 Age-group mission statements and Young Women logo are introduced

  21. Russian
    Улей (“beehive”)
    Созвездие (“constellation”)
    Лавр (“laurel”)

    Вулик (“beehive”)
    Дівчина спілки взаємного вдосконалення (“girl of the association of mutual perfection”)
    Лавр (“laurel”)

    Dívka z úlů (“girl of the beehive”)
    Dívka růžá (“rose girl”)
    Vavřínová dívka (“laurel girl”)

    Кошер (“beehive”)
    Мая (a loan word, “Mia”)
    Лавр (“laurel”)

    Bikubepike (“beehive girl”)
    Ungpike (“young girl”)
    Laurbærpike (“laurel girl”)

    Bikupsflicka (“beehive girl”)
    Mia-flicka (“Mia girl”)
    Laurel (loan word)

    Bikubepige (“beehive girl”)
    Rosenpige (“rose girl”)
    Laurbærpige (“laurel girl”)

    Bijenkorfmeisje (“beehive girl”)
    Rozenmeisje (“rose girl”)
    Lauwermeisje (“laurel girl”)

    (At least, according to that general conference talk.)

  22. Two more translations of Mia Maid:
    DorastajÄ…ca panna (“growing young lady”) in Polish
    Margaretă (“ox-eye daisy”) in Romanian

  23. This thread is timely after I commented on a similar topic over at Mormon folklore a few days ago.
    The discussion was a lighthearted look at getting rid of sexism in Mormon lingo. (Amen should be Apeople, etc.)
    I suggested we rename the young women’s groups: Preistesses instead of laurels (nice equivalent to priests), then Evangelists and Pastors for Mia Maids and Beehives, for no particular reason other than that we don’t seem to be using those titles in any other capacity right now. (or maybe we need the feminine versions of those titles, Evangelistas or Pastorettes?)
    I’d definately like to see these young women’s groups renamed. Any other ideas out there?

  24. Oh Alison, I LOVE my Mia Maids! Maybe I’m just lucky.

    I like the simple Bee, Rose, and Laurel translations … but I kind of like the history of MIA, too. I am sure the girls have no idea what it means. Maybe we should talk about it!

  25. I suggested we rename the young women’s groups: Preistesses instead of laurels (nice equivalent to priests), then Evangelists and Pastors for Mia Maids and Beehives, for no particular reason other than that we don’t seem to be using those titles in any other capacity right now.

    I LOVE IT! This is the best suggestion I’ve heard yet! Surely if deacons can be 12-year-olds, pastors can be equally so . . .

  26. If I were feeling particularly scandalous about Lynette’s allusion to The Prophet I might suggest: Too Young, Just Right, and Old Maid. But I’m not, so I won’t.

    Instead I’ll vote for Jessawhy’s suggestions.

  27. Glad you like the new names. I’ll start circulating a petition to have them officially changed . . .

  28. My father would always call MIA girls, the “Missing in Action” girls when he couldn’t find one to help him mow the lawn, or sometimes the “Made in America” girls. My mom still has a Jr Gleaner pin which keeps proudly.


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