Emmeline Blanche Wells (1828-1921)
Image from Deseret News
Conversion: In spite of threats from local pastors and other town authorities, Emmeline Blanche Wells was baptized a member of the Church in Massachusetts when she was 15.
Marriage: While still in her teenage years, Emmeline married James Harvey Harris, who was also a recent convert to the Church. The young couple moved to be with the Saints in Nauvoo, but James left after the birth and death of their first child. Emmeline never saw him again.
She married her second husband, Newel K. Whitney, in 1845, but he passed away five years later. In 1852, Emmeline married Daniel H. Wells, and they raised three daughters together.
Church Service: For over 30 years, Emmeline served on the Relief Society general board. She organized a grain saving program in 1876, which successfully provided food for those in need during times of drought, natural disaster, and war. Over 200,000 bushels of wheat were sold to the U.S. government during World War I, and Emmeline was recognized by President Woodrow Wilson.
In 1910, Emmeline was called as the fifth general Relief Society president of the Church. She served faithfully as president for over ten years.
Influence on Women’s Rights: Emmeline became an early advocate of women’s rights and wrote several articles under the pen name “Blanch Beechwood” for the Woman’s Exponent. “I believe in women,” she wrote, “especially thinking women.” She was eventually appointed as the head editor of the Woman’s Exponent by President Brigham Young.
Emmeline served as a liaison between Mormon and non-Mormon women in the fight for suffrage and often handled conflict that arose due to criticism of polygamous practices. After women’s suffrage was restored, Emmeline ran for senator in 1896, the same year that Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon won.
►You may also like: 7 Things Emma Smith Wanted the Women of the Church to Know