Josephine Booth’s Mission Journal

Josephine Diantha Booth was born in Provo, Utah Territory, on 16 March 1876 to John Edge Booth and Maria J. Harvey. Her father, who had immigrated from England, was prominent in local politics, serving as a member of the Utah territorial legislature three times and as mayor of Provo from 1890 to 1891. He practiced law in Provo for many years.1

Josephine was the first of four children of her father and mother to survive to adulthood. A few weeks after her birth, her father married a second wife, Hannah Billings, who died in 1881. Maria Harvey Booth passed away in 1884, when Josephine was eight. For the next few years, Josephine and her younger siblings were cared for by grandparents and other relatives. In 1887, John Booth married Delia Winters, who helped raise and mentor Josephine.2

From age eight to age sixteen, Josephine attended Brigham Young Academy and assisted her father as a typist in his law office. Once she had completed her schooling, she was hired at age seventeen to teach school in the southern Utah town of Glendale. Then she taught for two years in Provo.

In an autobiographical sketch written shortly after her mission, Booth recounted formative experiences that led to her 1899 mission call.3 She confessed that while she had participated in the Sunday School and Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, “her spiritual nature was not developed as it should have been.” While staying with her aunt in Montana during the summer after teaching, she struggled with her faith. When she returned, she concerned her family by saying that “Mormons were no better than gentiles.”4

Her father and stepmother urged her to accept an invitation from Zina Y. Card, a daughter of Brigham Young, to spend several months at the Card home in Cardston, Alberta. “The people there were devoted to the Gospel, and lived their religion as nearly as they could,” Booth recalled. She was also impressed by the manifestation of spiritual gifts. “At one meeting,” she noted, “five people spoke in tongues, and there were at least four in the congregation who had the interpretation each time and who rose up in power and testified that it came from Almighty God.” Booth’s experience in Cardston transformed her, and she “began to seek the Lord more earnestly than ever before, in order to be guided aright in all the ways of life.”5

In early 1899, Booth expressed interest in missionary service to her stake president, Edward Partridge. He recommended her for missionary service by letter on 8 May, and the First Presidency called her to the British Mission. She accepted with the understanding that she would depart in time to attend the International Council of Women in London that summer. Booth departed from home by rail on 26 May along with prominent Latter-day Saint leader Susa Young Gates, who was also attending the council meetings. In New York, Booth was joined by her friend Jean Clara Holbrook, who had also been called to serve as a missionary in England.6

Upon arriving in England, Booth attended the council. The event brought together many national women’s organizations from around the world to discuss women’s suffrage, education, nursing, temperance, and equal pay. Latter-day Saint women had long been welcome in national and international women’s organizations, despite the misgivings of many group members about plural marriage. Booth attended many sessions of the council, hearing from speakers such as Lady Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon and Susan B. Anthony. She also attended a reception at Windsor Castle where she saw Queen Victoria.7

The participation of a large Latter-day Saint delegation at the council is only one example in Booth’s journal of the way that women’s interests and networks succeeded in transcending interreligious conflict and disagreement. In 1899, Booth was invited to speak at meetings of several local Band of Hope organizations. The band was a nondenominational youth temperance movement that had worked with over three million young people in Great Britain to take a pledge to abstain from alcohol. She also spoke on at least one occasion to the Boys’ Brigade, an organization similar to the later Boy Scout movement. Members of these Christian organizations conducted weekly meetings in Methodist, Congregationalist, or Presbyterian churches, seeking to make better Christians and better citizens of British youth. While men led the troops of the Boys’ Brigade and the Band of Hope, women officers were vital to the organizations’ growth and effectiveness. These women were the ones to reach out to Josephine Booth and other missionary sisters, inviting them to speak as a part of the groups’ weekly programming. Given the widespread negative perception of the church in England and Scotland at that moment, it is striking that a Latter-day Saint missionary would be invited to address the youth of Glasgow. Booth spoke on Bible stories and other religious themes and was once invited to offer prayer.8

The two volumes of Josephine Diantha Booth’s mission journal were donated to the Church History Library by her descendants in 2001. The first volume, which is now missing its cover, contains 150 lined pages and measures 8 × 6⅜ inches. It was purchased by Booth in Utah before she departed for England. The second volume of Booth’s journal is a blank book measuring 9 × 7 inches. It has 144 lined pages and a red, marbled cover. Booth supplied page numbers in both journals.

Booth began writing her mission journal on the train on the second day of her journey from Utah to New York. The first volume spans nine months of her mission, from 26 May 1899 to 10 February 1900. It covers her journey to England, her participation in the International Council of Women, her assignment to the Scottish Conference, and the first eight months of her missionary work. Booth deeply admired conference president David O. McKay, who appears to have returned her affection. The two corresponded for several months after his release, but by June 1900, he had turned his attention to Emma Ray Riggs, the woman he had courted before his mission. McKay and Riggs became engaged to marry the following December.9

The second volume picks up on 19 September 1900, almost seven months after the first journal leaves off. They were a busy seven months. On 27 April, Booth and Chipman traveled to Edinburgh, where they stayed for several weeks. While there, they visited other branches in eastern Scotland, including the Aberdeen Branch.10 For about one month during her mission, possibly during the summer of 1900, Booth was tasked with caring for the four-month-old child of a church member who was unable to provide support for the infant.11

In August, mission leaders gave Booth permission to take a one-month vacation to visit the Exposition Universelle Internationale (World’s Fair) in Paris. Booth also visited some relatives in Lancashire before returning to Scotland to resume her missionary labors.12 When she opened the second volume of her journal on 19 September, she simply wrote, “I am beginning with ‘forgot.’”13 It is unlikely she kept another, now missing, volume of her journal.

The second volume covers the departure of Chipman on 2 October 1900 and Booth’s service with Emily Isabel Penfold, another single “lady missionary.” Booth remained in Scotland until 28 February 1901, when she was invited to join President James L. McMurrin on a tour of the missions of Europe. She spoke at local church conference meetings in several countries as a representative Latter-day Saint woman. Her sermons and testimony resonated powerfully with many. During this tour, she met James Lloyd Woodruff, a missionary in Germany who would later become her husband. Booth departed for Utah on 6 June 1901.14

Many Latter-day Saint missionary journals chronicle day-to-day events and describe new places, foods, and other experiences. Few diaries are as reflective as Booth’s. In her journal, Booth recorded not just what she saw, heard, and experienced but how she felt about it. Her journal gives us a glimpse of what it meant to experience the triumphs and frustrations of missionary work. Booth’s education is apparent in her references to literature and popular culture. Her journal entries reveal her sense of humor, her wit, and her keen storytelling sensibilities.

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Josephine Booth’s Mission Journal, Journals of Early Sister Missionaries, accessed May 23, 2024