January 25, 2023

Emmeline B. Wells a champion of Women

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

The life of Emmaline B. Wells is full of accomplishments, heartache and more than anything, faith. She is a powerful example of a strong women, doing the Lords work. Emmaline was the voice for Utah women during the years when polygamy was practiced. Emmeline and others in the Church worked with world renowned feminists to help change the world for the rights of women. Her voice and knowledge were powerful in expanding those rights. These women were instrumental in changing the laws, and allowing all women throughout the United States the right to vote. Emmeline held many important callings and offices throughout her life she was the fifth General Relief Society President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

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 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 made the difficult decision to be baptized, and it changed her life.

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 already been widowed twice. Later Emmeline proposed to, and married Daniel H. Wells who later he became counselor in the First Presidency to Brigham Young. Emmeline became a plural wife to Daniel.

As mentioned in the beginning 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 in defense of polygamy, especially how it would hurt Utah women, to abolish the practice quickly. The president asked her to write down her request for him to look at it later, but the President still went forward with his polygamy abolishment all the same.

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. This is where the wheat on the Relief Society logo comes from.

In 1919 Emmeline 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 to the 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.

Emmeline wanted the women of the Church to know of their importance in God's work, and how if united the women of the Church could change the world for good. She encouraged the women of Utah to speak up, and recognize their strength. Emmeline knew God had a great mission for her and did an outstanding job fulfilling it!

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