Gandhi is often quoted as saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It is this type of thinking that 81-year-old Erda resident Nina Palmer has patterned her life after.
As a little girl, Palmer never could have imagined how she would one day travel the world and do her part to make positive changes to help so many individuals. Throughout her life, Palmer has chosen to serve others and look for ways she can stand up for the principles she believes.
Over the past 40 years, Palmer’s life has been devoted to establishing and leading organizations for causes she knows to be good and true. Palmer’s organization for women that started out in her own living room now reaches across continents and has become a world-wide organization. Palmer is, and has always been, an advocate for mothers and their role in the traditional family.
In her youth, Palmer’s parents instilled in her two important lessons that would remain with her throughout her life: the value of hard work and the important role women play, not only in the family but also in the world.
At the age of 15, Palmer moved from her hometown of Orem to Arlington, Va., where her father served the country and represented the state as a United States senator. Palmer spoke highly of her father and what he taught her as a child.
“My father was a visionary,” she said. “He had a mind that just created. He was a wonderful leader. My father was a lawyer, but we also had to farm. I had to learn to work on the fruit farms. It was a wonderful experience. I started doing that when I was 12. My father didn’t ever think young kids didn’t need to work. We were put to work.”
Palmer followed after her father’s example of looking for ways to improve her surroundings, and in turn, improve the world. She began that improvement within the walls of her own home. She was married in 1955 and soon found out that she and her husband, Marty, would not be able to have children of their own. With a desire to fulfill the role of a mother, she and her husband adopted and raised four children, two girls and two boys. The family lived in Oakland, Calif., until 1973 when Palmer’s husband accepted an appointment at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake.
Palmer was concerned about the way the world viewed the role of women and the traditional family. As a mother herself, and with the example of her own mother, Palmer knew how important that role was in her own family. It was the mid-1970s and feminist groups were pushing for equal rights. The role of the woman in the traditional family was being pushed aside. Palmer knew she couldn’t sit quietly on the sidelines. She would ensure her voice was heard.
Palmer had been raised in a home where her mother felt her most important job was to raise a family.
“My mother was an extraordinary woman,” she said. “She made you feel like you were the most important person in the world.”
Palmer, like her father, was a visionary. She called on other women that shared her same viewpoint and invited them to assist in her cause. Before long she had enough women invited to an informal caucus in her living room.
This small group of women would eventually become the Utah Association of Women. Palmer was elected the first president and served from 1977 to 1979. Within the first two years of its inception, the organization grew from six members to more than 3,000.
At that time, UAW’s main goals were to promote the traditional family, the rights of the unborn, and women’s rights without the Equal Rights Amendment. They organized study groups throughout the state and held a rally on Utah’s Capitol Hill.
Although Palmer was still involved in UAW after her first term as president, she had a pressing matter within her own family. Palmer’s son had begun to abuse drugs and alcohol. Palmer attributed her son to teaching her about drugs and alcohol and leading her to organize the Utah Federation for Drug-Free Youth in 1985. Palmer was elected to serve as the organization’s first president and served a two-year term.
Within this organization, Palmer worked to get community groups organized in every high school in the state and met with former first lady Nancy Reagan, the honorary chairwomen of the national federation. Palmer was also a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Use and the Governor’s Council on Volunteerism.
Today the organization is known as the Utah Federation for Youth and provides resources for parents and youth mainly in Salt Lake County. UFY promotes positive youth development and drug prevention through education, community involvement and outdoor recreation.
In 1997, Palmer turned her attention back to the UAW and was once again elected to serve as president. This was a position she would hold for eight years. As president, she helped to reorganize and rename the UAW to the Worldwide Organization for Women. Palmer felt the need to give the organization an international character and take their message about women’s supportive role in the traditional family to people worldwide.
During her second term as president, WOW took on many projects. They created mission and vision statements to further identify their purpose in hopes that women could help individual family members find love and peace in their lives, thereby helping families become peaceful. Their mission included principles of family, marriage, parenthood, education and public policy and law.
The mission statement is to “bring all women to the understanding of their divine worth and influence upon society. Furthermore, we seek to strengthen, support and unite women and men of faith in order to create a peaceful, moral, and loving environment that values the sanctity of human life, preserves the natural family, and fosters the worship of God.”
By 1999, WOW was granted consultative status by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. This meant that members of WOW would consult UN delegates throughout the world and educate them in hopes of making a difference in the documents passed at the UN. This involvement with UN committees was a notable aspect of WOW’s influence on the world.
Palmer remembers her first experience at the UN in New York where she was attending a preplanning conference. A member of their organization was given speaking privileges, something of an anomaly. Such privileges were reserved only for country delegates. At this particular conference, local authorities were allowed to speak, something Palmer says she only saw happen once.
“There were only about 10 local authorities in attendance, and there was our representative, and she had speaking privileges,” she said. “It was the most amazing miracle.”
When her group would visit UN conferences, they would look for people who shared their position and advise them, educate them and let them know what they were concerned about. They also had to advise the delegates on how the language had been coded in the documents.
“It was pretty effective,” Palmer said. “And there was a whole group of non-government organizations that were pro-family. We knew each other, and we had certain strategies. Although we were independent, we were all working together.”
Because she was so comfortable talking with anyone, one of Palmer’s jobs was to pass out literature to delegates and speak to them about areas of concern in the documents being negotiated and suggest other wording, ensuring that they objected to things they didn’t want see to pass.
On one trip to Istanbul, Turkey, Palmer said a gentleman came to her and asked for multiple copies of the literature she was handing out. She questioned whether or not she should give him her books. Luckily, she decided to give him the literature and shared with him her feelings about the perils the family unit was facing. Palmer later found out that this man oversaw the Islamic countries’ coalition at the UN. He had passed out her books to all the delegates of the Islamic countries, something Palmer knows she wouldn’t have been able to do on her own. At the end of the conference this man was elected as one of five delegates to negotiate all the issues that didn’t get negotiated earlier.
“We didn’t know until we got on the plane that he had negotiated everything in our favor,” Palmer said. “The feminists were devastated because they felt for sure that they were going to get their agenda in the documents, and they didn’t.”
Palmer continued traveling world, from New York to Lebanon and from Paris to Kenya. Under Palmer’s second term, WOW was made an associate member of the World Movement of Mothers, of which Palmer was very proud. In 2000, Palmer was elected to the Board of Directors of the World Movement of Mothers.
“It was amazing,” she said. “I had to go to Paris for board meetings.”
In 2007, Palmer left Salt Lake and moved to Erda to be closer to family. It was a hard few years for Palmer. Her health was tested and she required several surgeries. Palmer had to focus on her health and was not as actively involved in WOW as she had been in the past.
Recently, Palmer felt a need to help WOW return to its roots. The organization seemed to be slipping away from the mission and vision she had worked so hard to create. The world’s views of women were moving farther and farther away from the principles Palmer was taught as a child.
“The world continues to challenge the family structure, particularly women’s roles as wives and mothers,” she said. “I felt so strongly about that. I still feel really strongly about their role.”
From years of experience, Palmer knew if she wanted to see things change, she would need to step up to the challenge once again. After making her voice heard to WOW’s Board of Directors in February, Palmer found herself elected again for a third time as its president. Palmer knows that this term may prove a bit challenging for her. At her age she won’t be as capable of traveling the world like she once did.
“I’m soon going to be 82,” she said. “The thing is I didn’t plan on doing all this at 82. I thought I was going to be doing genealogy and family history. That was my plan. Anyway, the Lord seems to have different plans for me.”
Regardless of her age, Palmer hasn’t backed down. Knowing she was going to take on this endeavor once again, Palmer needed to find others who championed the traditional family and women and their divine worth and influence upon society. And she has begun to do just that.
By a few miraculous events, Palmer came in contact with two Erda women, Yvonne Averett and Leeann Blake. These women share Palmer’s beliefs and are looking for ways they too can make a change for the better. Averett and Blake were also elected to the board along with Palmer and are working to forward the cause of the rights of women.
The group has a big challenge ahead of them. Palmer wants to recreate what she once had and reconnect the women of the world. Today the organization has only a handful of members, primarily in Salt Lake and Erda, with a few members in California and offices in both Geneva and Nigeria. Palmer hopes to form a Utah chapter of WOW in the near future.
For anyone interested in learning more about WOW or becoming a member of this organization, contact Palmer at 882-1513 or visit www.wowinfo.org.