January 25, 2023

Emmeline B. Wells

”I believe in Women, especially thinking women” -Emmeline B. Wells

Emmaline B. Wells became the fifth General Relief Society President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She is known as one of the greatest voices for Utah’s womens suffrage.

Emmeline was born in Petersham Massachusetts in 1828. She is the seventh child of David and Diadama Hare Woodward. Her father died when she was only four years old.

When Emmeline was 14 when her mom and two younger sisters joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Emmeline did not convert to the Church right away, she was concerned about the intense opposition to the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in her community. After a time she did chose to be baptized.

Emmeline married James Harvey Harris when they were both only 15 years old. The young couple moved with the Harris family to Nauvoo Illinois. When she stepped off the steamboat in Nauvoo the Prophet Joseph Smith was there to greet the new arrivals. Emmeline wrote: “The one thought that filled my soul was I have seen the Prophet of God.”

Her time in Nauvoo became very challenging. Joseph Smith the prophet was murdered, and her husbands family became disaffected from the Church. Emmeline’s first child died only six weeks after he was born. Her husband James went to find work and never returned again to his wife, he died as a sailor in the Indian Ocean.

Emmeline became a plural wife to Newel K. Whitney and crossed the plains with the Whitney family. She had two children with Newel before he became sick and died, by the age of twenty-two Emmeline had been widowed twice. Emmeline then proposed to and married Daniel H. Wells(later he became Brigham Young’s counselor in the First Presidency), and became a plural wife to him.

Emmeline became a powerful voice for Utah Women, and women of the world. She was appointed as a Utah Representative to a suffrage convention in Washington D.C. by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Emmeline and Zina P. Young Card spoke to the President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife Lucy Hayes about in defense of polygamy, especially how it would hurt Utah women. The president asked her to write down her request to look at it later, but the President still went forward with his polygamy abolishment.

Brigham Young asked Emmiline to be the head of the churches grain saving program. She managed the program until the beginning of World War I.

In 1919 Wells received a personal visit in her home in Salt Lake from the United States President Woodrow Wilson for her selling the wheat that was saved tot he United States government for the war effort. Under Emmeline’s leadership 200,000 bushels had been saved for this time of shortage.

At age ninety-three she suffered a stroke and then died three weeks later. A funeral was held in the tabernacle (the second woman to be so commemorated) and was later honored with a marble bust in the Utah State Capitol from the women of Utah.

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