On my post last week about how many kids GAs have, Petra asked about what the numbers would look like for women in general Church leadership positions. To answer this question, I’ve looked up the number of children that women in the General Relief Society Presidency (hereafter, GRSP) have had. To match the dataset I have for the FP/Q12, I included only women called since 1920.
I limited my search to the GRSP, and didn’t look at women serving in other general positions, because the GRSP alone were difficult for me to track down. I started with the handy list of presidency members on Wikipedia, and I was able to find numbers of children for all of the presidents and some of the counselors there as well. But many of the counselors don’t have Wikipedia pages, so I had to look in the Church News archive, the magazine search at lds.org, the Google News archive of the Deseret News, and the archive of the Relief Society Magazine at the Internet archive.
Anyway, here’s a graph showing the results. GRSP members are red dots (with a red line for the best linear fit); FP/Q12 members are blue dots (with a blue line for best linear fit).
Matt W. and Jared were correct, I think, in pointing out on the other post that there really is a trend for the FP/Q12 members, even if it’s not dramatic. It’s a decrease of about 0.12 children per decade. For the GRSP members, the trend is strongly positive: an increase of 0.43 children per decade. This is truly remarkable, especially in the face of declining birthrates in the developed world across the same time period.
It seems straightforward to construct a narrative that fits these data. As the Church has become more involved in culture wars in the past few decades, GAs have found it more important to define women by their role as mothers. Consequently, they have made it a point to call women who have more children to prominent positions like GRSP to serve as an example for the general membership of the Church.
I’m sure there are many possible alternative explanations, including that this is a spurious relationship. Please feel free to share your favorite alternatives in the comments.
A few caveats:
- The GRSP dataset is even smaller than the FP/Q12 dataset: only 36 women. It’s not a lot to go on.
- I excluded the two RS counselors who were unmarried (Sheri L. Dew and Barbara Thompson). I thought it was of more interest to compare people who were married and supposed to be having kids to each other, but you might argue that they should be included. With them in the GRSP dataset, the increase falls to 0.32 children per decade.
- I tried expanding the GRSP dataset back a decade to 1910 just to see whether the steep trend would hold up. It didn’t: it fell to an increase of 0.12 children per decade. This is still perhaps noticeably different from the FP/Q12 decrease of 0.12 per decade, but it’s not nearly as dramatic as it was.
- One counselor (Gertrude R. Garff) had three children, including an 18-month-old, when she was called. It’s entirely possible that she wasn’t done having kids. I could argue that that doesn’t matter, since what’s important is how many she had when the decision was made to call her. But you could come back and say that the fact that she was still in the process of having kids maybe indicated that she was going to have more, and that must have been known by the men calling her.
- Another counselor (Julia A. Child) had 5 stepchildren, which I didn’t include in her total count.