Emmeline B. Wells was one of those rare people you had to admire and love. She was full of life, her voice was strong and persistent, and she was faithful to the very end. Her rarity also figured around her birth date—February 29th, 1828—a Leap Year.
Who was Emmeline?
She was the fifth General Relief Society President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Read about her extraordinary life here.
What is Emmeline best known for?
Through her energy, devotion, and faithfulness, she performed the greatest accomplishment ever performed by a Relief Society sister. She was asked to organize the Relief Society Wheat Project (read about this project here and here). This project was so amazing I wrote twice about it! I think you’ll enjoy learning interesting things from both short articles.
Emmeline was also one of the first female editors of a newspaper in the nation, a position she held for almost forty years. Have you ever heard of the publication Woman’s Exponent? This newspaper was used to share news of all the doings and workings of Relief Society sisters throughout the territory of Deseret, before Utah became a state. Within its pages can be found hundreds of life histories of well-known sisters; thousands of births, marriages, and deaths; announcements of Relief Society activity, which included how to take care of the wheat you were storing, advertisements for nursing classes (including a list of graduating classes), as well as the minutes to Retrenchment meetings, Suffrage meetings, and council meetings. Because of her involvement in Relief Society, and the news being so closely associated with Relief Society activities, Emmeline gave the newspaper the subtitle “The Organ of the Relief Society,” although technically, the newspaper was never an official voice of the Mormon Church.
Known for her strong and distinctive voice in the defense of woman’s role as caretaker of her family, she believed women were just as capable as men in all things, and because of this, women’s voices needed to be heard. Along this same line, she absolutely had a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and defended the Church many times at national and international conferences held advocating the rights of women. She had shaken hands with the prophet Joseph Smith and understood the power the gospel brings into every life. She said, “Let [woman] have the same opportunities for an education, observation and experience in public and private for succession of years, and then see if she is not equally endowed with man and prepared to bear her part on all general questions socially, politically, industrially and educationally as well as spiritually.”
She believed that men and women should work together as “co-worker and help-meet in all that relates to the well-being and advancement of both, and mutual promoting of the best interests of the community at large.”
As a polygamist wife, she defended this gospel principle. “The world says polygamy makes women inferior to men — we think differently. Polygamy gives women more time for thought, for mental culture, more freedom of action, a broader field of labor… and leads women more directly to God, the fountain of all truth.”
And above all, she loved being a woman, and being a part of the Relief Society organization of the Church. She said, “We are getting too far away from the spiritual side of our great work, and from the thought that inspired the first organization of the Relief Society. The Society stands first for spirituality, and then for charity and mercy.”
Please read the attached articles to learn about this woman of God who believed so strongly about women and what we are all capable, and expected, to do to honor our Savior Jesus Christ.