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Eliza Chipman’s Mission Journal


Eliza Chipman was born on 5 December 1874 into one of the pioneering families of Utah County. Her grandfather Stephen Chipman was an early settler of the town of American Fork.1 Her father, William Henry Chipman, practiced plural marriage, and Eliza was the second-youngest child of his wife Eliza Filcher. Her mother died when Eliza was only three years old, and her father died when she was sixteen.2

Eliza came of age in the still-rural town of American Fork, attended school, and was an active participant in the church’s programs for youth, including the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association. Like her future mission companion Josephine Booth, she worked as a schoolteacher before her mission.3

At the time of her mission call in 1898, Chipman was twenty-three years old. In addition to her journal, she meticulously preserved her call letter, missionary instructions, setting-apart blessing, ministerial certificate, and certificates of transfer and release. These documents give a glimpse into the administrative transition from an all-male to a mixed-gender missionary force. For example, her letter of acceptance included a question: should she receive her temple endowment prior to serving, as all male missionaries did?4 At the time, few women were endowed except in preparation for marriage. Her instruction letters clarified that she should indeed receive her endowment.5

When he set her apart, Elder John W. Taylor of the Quorum of the Twelve blessed her that she would be “filled with the convincing power of the Holy Ghost when you stand up before the people” and have every blessing needed to “qualify you as a minister among the children of men.”6

When she arrived in England, the mission office did not have printed forms for a women’s ministerial certificate. Mission leaders instead repurposed a form used for men, scratching out “brother” and handwriting “sister” above, along with other modifications. By the time she was transferred to her second assigned area, the mission had printed forms designed specifically for women.7

Chipman asked authorities if she could time her departure so as to make the long trip to England in company with John Robinson Hindley, a member of her ward who was married to Eliza’s half sister Annie, a daughter of her father’s third wife.8 They departed from American Fork on 17 September 1898, traveled across the country by train, and set out from New York for Southampton on the S.S. Belgenland on 24 September.9

Chipman was the first single woman to serve a mission after the initial companionship of Inez Knight and Lucy Jane “Jennie” Brimhall. Brimhall was released after serving for about seven months and left for home on 17 November 1898, coinciding with the release of her fiancé, Will Knight, Inez’s brother. For a few weeks, Inez Knight worked with elders, including her other missionary brother, Ray, in London. Then, on 2 December 1898, Ray accompanied her to Forest Gate in East London, where they met up with the recently arrived Chipman at an apartment the mission had rented for them and the elders in the area.10

During her eight-month stint as Inez Knight’s companion, Chipman worked mostly in East London. The two made short trips to other branches in the south of England. These included an ill-fated trip to Bristol in January 1899, during which they experienced a violent mob attack at a public conference meeting and were escorted to safety by Ray Knight, several policemen, and a few compassionate citizens.11

In July 1899, Chipman was assigned to travel to Glasgow, Scotland, with newly arrived Josephine Booth. Inez Knight was paired with a third companion, Jean Clara Holbrook, who had traveled to England around the same time as Booth. During their first few months in Glasgow, Chipman and Booth served under the direction of conference president David O. McKay until he departed for home on 26 August 1899.12

Eliza Chipman appears to have been somewhat more serious minded than her second companion. Their differences of personality led to occasional tension between the two, typical of so many missionary companionships then and now. But her journal also shows evidence of the care and support they frequently showed for each other.

In several instances, Chipman wrote detailed accounts of her conversations with the people she taught, giving insight into the lines of reasoning, key topics, and scriptures missionaries used in their work. She had clearly mastered church teachings.

Among other things, her descriptions of missionary work at the time give a sense of just how much of a challenge the rapidly receding practice of plural marriage posed to missionary work.13 Her journal contains several newspaper clippings featuring her responses to critiques of plural marriage and other concerns. In one instance, she served as a ghostwriter for two elders involved in an exchange in a newspaper. As an astute student of the gospel and an experienced missionary, she was well positioned to respond to these critiques of the church in the press.14

Eliza Chipman’s 1898–1900 mission journal spans three volumes. The first is a notebook with 112 lined pages and a blue-green marbled cover measuring 8 × 6½ inches. Chipman appears to have purchased it before leaving Utah and to have written a brief entry when she attended President Wilford Woodruff’s funeral. Her entries became more consistent at the time she boarded her ship in New York harbor to embark for England. She completed the volume on 19 March 1899. She supplied page numbers at the top of most of the pages.

The other two volumes of Chipman’s journal have black covers and were likely purchased in England. The second volume is a blank book, 8⅞ × 7 inches, with 156 lined pages, hand-numbered by Chipman. The third and final volume contains 174 lined pages and measures 7¾ × 6⅜ inches. Chipman numbered approximately half of the pages. The volume ends in May 1899, four months before the end of her mission.

Chipman’s descendants donated the volumes, along with many of her other papers, to the Church History Library in 2017. The collection represents the most complete grouping of papers belonging to a member of the first cohort of single sister missionaries.

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Eliza Chipman’s Mission Journal, Journals of Early Sister Missionaries, accessed July 21, 2024 https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/early-sister-missionaries/eliza-chipman/introduction