The Church Historian's Press

Introduction 1919


EVENTS IN EMMELINE B. WELLS’S DIARY FOR 1919

8 January

Members of the Relief Society general presidency made a courtesy call on the new First Presidency of the church. They talked about Relief Society bylaws, activities, and accounting practices.

18 February

EBW, along with representatives of the Primary and YLMIA, carried bound tribute books to the wives of deceased church president Joseph F. Smith.

21–22 February

Eva Perry Moore, president of the National Council of Women, visited Utah to speak at a peace conference. EBW and YLMIA president Martha Horne Tingey and their organizations helped entertain Moore at a luncheon at the Hotel Utah.

1 March

The Relief Society general board hosted a public reception marking EBW’s ninety-first birthday and the seventy-seventh anniversary of her baptism.

4 June

The influenza epidemic delayed church spring conferences until June. EBW opened meetings of the Relief Society on 4 June by testifying of the magnetic personality of Joseph Smith as she knew him in Nauvoo. She also told the story of the prophetic mantle of Joseph Smith falling upon Brigham Young in August 1844.

23 September

United States president Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Edith Bolling Wilson, called on EBW in her room in the Hotel Utah, where she was recovering from an illness. The Wilsons thanked her for her leadership in women’s work and for making Relief Society wheat available to the government in a time of scarcity.

16–18 November

When national suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt spent three days in Salt Lake City, EBW, along with Clarissa S. Williams and Emily S. Richards, accompanied Catt and her group to the Church Administration Building to talk with President Charles W. Penrose.

Although there is no EBW diary extant for the year 1919, the Relief Society general board minutes highlight EBW’s church activities, and newspaper articles give insights into her public life. Following the death of church president Joseph F. Smith in November 1918, Relief Society board members composed tributes to his life and achievements. In February 1919, the three women’s organizations printed and bound their memorials together. Representatives of the Relief Society, Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, and Primary Association carried bound copies to each of the wives of President Smith. EBW was the delegate chosen by her board to make this historic visit. In early January, the Relief Society presidency made a courtesy call to the offices of the new First Presidency—Heber J. Grant, Anthon H. Lund, and Charles W. Penrose. While there, the women welcomed advice on a range of topics, and their priesthood leaders particularly emphasized the need for sound accounting practices. Through the year the Relief Society board worked with Rudger Clawson, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve, to regularize their books. This was also a year when priesthood leaders advised the Relief Society to “quietly withdraw from Red Cross activities.” With the war over, church leaders believed funds would be better used for local needs.

EBW presided at most board meetings and spoke to women attending the Relief Society general sessions. Because of the influenza epidemic, the church postponed its spring general conference until early June. The Relief Society likewise held its two-day conference in June instead of April. In October 1919, the leaders limited their gathering to a one-day meeting with stake Relief Society officers only. When EBW had occasion to address the women of the Relief Society this year, she focused on her own church experiences. In a February board meeting, for instance, she mentioned that she “was the first Sunday School teacher in the Church in Nauvoo” and that she “taught in President Joseph Young’s house.” At the June Relief Society conference, she recalled that she had been baptized seventy-seven years as of 1 March. She bore witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet whose great magnetism had touched the hearts of the people. She said that she was among those in August 1844 who “saw the mantle of the Prophet Joseph Smith fall upon Brigham Young.”

Throughout the year, EBW helped welcome notable national figures to Utah. In February, the president of the National Council of Women, Eva Perry Moore, spoke at a peace conference in Salt Lake City. While in town, Moore joined leaders of women’s groups, including the Relief Society and the YLMIA, at a luncheon in her honor in the Hotel Utah. In September, Woodrow Wilson, president of the United States, and his wife, Edith Bolling Wilson, made a point of visiting EBW in her room in the Hotel Utah, where she was recuperating from an illness. President Wilson thanked her and her associates for storing wheat and then making it available to the government to meet shortages at the end of the world war. Mrs. Wilson commended EBW’s contributions to improving the lives of women. EBW in turn told them of early days in the Salt Lake Valley when she lived in a wagon box on this same block of land, opposite Temple Square. In November, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and associates arrived in Salt Lake City to organize a Utah chapter of the League of Women Voters. EBW, along with Clarissa S. Williams and Emily S. Richards, accompanied Catt and her group to the Church Administration Building, where they had a chance to talk with President Charles W. Penrose.

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Introduction 1919, The Diaries of Emmeline B. Wells, accessed June 14, 2024 https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/emmeline-b-wells/1910s/1919/1919-01