Relief Society Presidents: Barbara W. Winder

Born May 9, 1931, Barbara Woodhead was the eldest of four children born to Willard and Marguerite Hand Woodhead. Although both of her maternal grandmothers served as Relief Society presidents, her parents were inactive in the church. Barbara spent a great deal of time learning the gospel at a neighbor’s house, and a Primary teacher took Barbara to class each week and to be baptized at the age of eight. Growing up, Barbara wanted her family to be sealed together forever, but this dream would take some time to bear fruit. When nineteen-year-old Barbara was married to Richard William Winder, a recently returned missionary whose brother was a friend of Barbara’s, on January 10, 1951, her parents were unable to accompany her into the temple. Five years later, her parents renewed their interest in the church, and her family was sealed before the birth of Barbara’s fourth child. Barbara believes that the lessons learned from her family’s inactivity helped her to empathize with others in similar situations.

Barbara and Rich had four children, born within five years of each other. They were close to Rich’s family, and the children of the group were more like brothers and sisters than cousins, growing up very close. This closeness continued in Barbara’s family relationships, as she strove to remain connected to her children and grandchildren despite the growing responsibilities of her various callings.

Barbara served in various capacities throughout the church, supporting her husband in his callings even as he supported her. In 1982, Rich was called to preside over the California San Diego mission, but was released in 1984 when Gordon B. Hinckley extended to Barbara the calling of general Relief Society president. Barbara was sustained on April 7, 1984, and served for almost six years. At the time of her calling, she was told by President Hinckley that her administration was to be for “a different time.”

In August of that year, the Church created thirteen geographic areas presided over by an area president and two counselors, allowing the areas to meet the rapid growth of the church with flexibility. As the auxilaries became part of the priesthood rather than separate entities, further reorganization was necessary.

Barbara grew to understand that her role as Relief Society president was to aid in accomplishing the mission of the Church. She determined to focus on the basic needs and resources to assist women throughout the world. The Relief Society presidency reformatted the lesson in 1987, providing a smaller manuall a spiritual living lesson replaced the cultural refinement lesson; home and family education lessons replaced mother education; and compassionate service and social relations lessons were combined. In an effort to make the sisters more familiar with and more reliant upon the scriptures, all of Relief Society lessons became spiritually based.

Barbara was released on March 31, 1990, and traveled to Czechoslovakia Prauge Mission when her husband was called as mission president. Throughout her presidency, she demonstrated compassion and a love of the Savior, and sought to fill the various changing needs of the sisters throughout an expanding worldwide church.

Related Articles:

Relief Society Presidents: An Introduction

Relief Society Presidents: Emma Hale Smith

Relief Society Presidents: Eliza Roxy Snow

Relief Society Presidents: Zina D. H. Young

Relief Society Presidents: Bathsheba W. Smith