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The Mormon Woman Whose Signature Appeared on U.S. Currency

Even though the Church has a standard of politically neutral as a whole, it doesn't mean that members don't become involved in politics. From Mormon presidential candidates to LDS Senators, Mormon Saints have a history of political influence and involvement.

In his book Presidents and Prophets, Michael K. Winder attempts to find Mormon connections for every U.S. president. Whether they attended a family home evening lesson with an apostle, employed an LDS member, or toured Welfare Square, many U.S. presidents had some connection to the Church.

For example, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was the 34th President of the United States, appointed Utah resident Ivy Baker Priest as the U.S. Treasurer. Priest supported Eisenhower's presidential candidacy, and after his election, he appointed her as the 30th U.S. treasurer and the second woman to ever hold the position.

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Ivy Baker Priest stands next to her signature as Treasurer of the United States. Image retrieved from walen.wordpress.org.

Previous to Eisenhower's election as president, Priest served on the Republican National Committee as the assistant chairwoman. After graduating from Bingham Canyon High School, her family's poverty took precedence over her college dreams. She sacrificed law books and learning to sell movie tickets in order to support her family, who remained supportive of her political aspirations.

Baker worked her way through night school and became deeply involved in politics. Because of her public speaking and organization skills, she was appointed to many local political offices, including the president of Utah Young Republicans, Republican national committeewoman from Utah, and president of the Utah Legislative Council.

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Part of Priest's political platform was working towards the first minimum wage law for women working in Utah. She incorporated her beliefs into her platform and believed that everyone should contribute their individual gifts and talents to society. 

As the U.S. treasurer, Priest oversaw the federal bank, organized how to issue U.S. currency, and gave an average of 10 speeches per month. For eight years, her signature appeared on all printed U.S. currency.

Because of her administration ability and talents, the Women's Newspaper Editors and Publishers Association named Priest as one of the 20 outstanding women of the 20th century. 

Baker married Roy Fletcher Priest in 1935, with whom she had four children. Following his death in 1959, Priest served two more years as treasurer before moving to California. After marrying Sidney William Stevens, she continued to stay politically involved until her health prevented her from running or serving in office. She died of cancer in 1975.

Priest wasn't the only Mormon whom Eisenhower appointed. Eisenhower also assigned an LDS apostle as a member of his cabinet, Ezra Taft Benson, who later became the prophet of the Church. Benson served as the Secretary of Agriculture, dividing his time between politics and his religious duty as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. 

Lead image from Getty Images.

Watch the Presidents and Prophets DVD, available at Deseret Book.

Mike Winder presents the story of America's presidents and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From Washington to Bush, he explores each President and their relationship with the Mormons.

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