Introducing Beehive Girl by Mikayla Orton Thatcher

You may know that the LDS Young Woman’s program was way cooler in the early 20th century than it has been during the lifetime of anyone alive today. But you probably didn’t know how cool it was. Mikayla Thatcher is here with Beehive Girl to tell you that it was amazing beyond your wildest dreams.

They actually kept bees. And fixed cars, and climbed mountains, and made dresses, and wrote hymns. It was all part of the “Beehive Girl” program that the Church launched in 1915. Originally designed as a local alternative to the Girl Scouts and the Camp Fire Girls—both founded in 1912—and as a companion to the Boy Scout program, which the Church formally adopted as their Young Men’s program in 2013.

Unlike the Boy Scouts program, however, the Beehive Girl program was designed from the start to meet the unique needs of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association–a population that, in 1915, was largely rural and concentrated mainly in Utah and the American Intermountain West.

This gave rise to a weird and wonderful set of activities that clustered around seven main fields: Religion, Home, Health, Domestic Arts, Outdoors, Business, and Public Service. Each field had multiple cells, each consisting of a specific activity or accomplishment. The Beehive Girl Manual listed 25 foundational (required) cells and 754 structural (elective) cells distributed across the seven fields. Girls progressed through the ranks by accomplishing tasks and completing cells.

In 2015, Mikayla came across an article in the New Era discussing the history of the Young Woman’s current Personal Progress program. She learned about the Beehive Girls and, in all of the right and proper ways, became obsessed. Though she was a new mother and a graduate student in the last stages of her Ph.D. dissertation, she decided that she would go through the entire program and become a Beehive Girl. The tasks that she undertakes include:

  • Make a piece of furniture.
  • Climb a mountain, attaining a point of at least 2000 feet above the starting point, and return.
  • Care successfully for a hive of bees for one season; know their habits.
  • Give a brief account of the life and labors of Elmina S. Taylor and Martha H. Tingey, presidents of the YLMIA.
  • Make a water-color, charcoal, pen and ink, or oil sketch from nature.
  • Can and preserve three different kinds of fruit, at least two quarts of each.
  • Make a dress.
  • Take care of milk and make two pounds of butter a week for two months.
  • Pluck, dress, and cook a fowl.

Beehive Girl is a special kind of memoir. It is the history of a quest to understand the history of one’s ancestors and one’s faith tradition. As readers, we get to go along for the ride. And what a fascinating ride it is.

Here are two free chapters (because we couldn’t choose). In the first chapter, Mikayla explores the history of the YLMIA, including the origins of the Beehive Girl program itself. In the second chapter, she keeps bees.


  1. HokieKate says:

    These types of memoirs are my favorite! Thanks!

  2. Kristine says:

    I am SO excited about this book. Those early Beehive manuals are just fantastic.

  3. Kristin Brown says:

    I read it all, and I am hooked. Couldn’t stop reading. Thank you! (Oh yes, and I still have my bandelo). Bandelo- an unknown word these days.

  4. Wonderful! I’ll be buying several copies. I know at least one woman who went through the YW program in the 1990s who is going to be greatly disappointed and almost bitter about the difference between what she worked through and what could have been.

  5. Victoria says:

    This is the kind of young women’s program and learning experiences I wish I had as I was a young woman growing up in the church.

  6. But now we get a program that is ignored by everyone other than to say it’s the family responsibility to work on it in the home. Which begs the question, then why have any church activities at all. Just say it’s the family responsibility to do in the home.

    The church programs are being regressed to the global average, rather than everything being pulled up. Anyone have evidence of:
    Minstering increasing the number of spiritual visits on average in a ward?
    Young men and women being more active than before?
    Primary awards being earned more than before?
    Youth activities being more attended than before?
    2x a month Sunday school being better than before?
    2x a month priesthood and RS being better than before?

    Im not asking if you prefer old to new changes but have the changes improved activity, spirituality, fellowship, etc.?

    Come follow me is nice, but it’s not nice that we only get to talk about it every other week. I’d even prefer to just have that as the lesson in RS/EQ.

  7. anonymous says:

    Sute: Ministering, in my experience, has been a big step back. I have really positive memories of home teaching as a teenager, both our home teachers visiting and visiting our family with my dad. Now, as a YSA, most “ministering” happens via text if it happens at all. When I visit my parents the situation there doesn’t seem to be much better – it seems to happen once every couple of months instead of regularly, and it usually doesn’t involve as much contact as home teaching – texts and/or dropping off food, or something like that.

    Maybe ministering works better in some places, but in my experience it’s mostly been regression to the lowest common denominator, as you say. The worst part is that I feel like it’ll never change, because all the blame can just be shifted onto the lay members. That applies to most of the open ended and/or “home centered” programs, imo.

  8. The Beehive Girl program would be so awesome for the YW of today. I think it would’ve been a huge asset for anyone who did Personal Progress or whatever their their program was at the time (post Beehive Girl program, pre Personal Progress).

    I wish Personal Progress (the program that was implemented when I was in YW) and what the YW do today would be more focused on actual life skills and training the way the Beehive Girl program was. So many of the Personal Progress requirements and activities felt like busy work, and it was hard to be motivated to do any of them when they required at least a 2 week minimum to be passed off.

  9. I’d like to buy this for my daughters. Honest question, that might annoy or upset some. I don’t care if a person is a faithful latter-day saint in writing something interesting. They obviously don’t need to be a member at all either.

    But is this a book that at times attempts to shoehorn in or randomly drop post modern (a misnomer if there ever was one) ideologies about sex into an otherwise fascinating and valuable experience between the modern world and the past?

    The writing is great. The topic is great. I appreciate the care and respect to the past that seems to be given at least in the samples shown here. So I’m assuming that same respect is given. If so, that’s the best approach to post modernism.

    I just don’t want to find any supposed “truth bombs” that might get others to nod their head and be cathartic for the writer (an unfair accusation considering I know nothing of her), but otherwise get in the way of a lovely interaction with the past.

  10. I’m enjoying this book very much. I do have a question: my mother (in her mid-80s) was cleaning out a drawer or something and found a sort of tinny charm bracelet – definitely not silver – which she bequeathed to me. The charms include a bee, a girl on a bike, a cozy-looking house, what looks like two semaphore flags, the Salt Lake temple, a girl who at first I thought was gardening but who I now think is roasting a marshmallow over a fire, a spinning wheel, and a eagle with its wings up. She thinks she got it in primary, but I’m wondering if it might have been part of the Beehive program? I can almost see where the charms match the values. Does anybody have any knowledge of such things?

  11. AN eagle, I mean!

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