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Newly Published Diaries Highlight Public and Personal Sides of Emmeline B. Wells

SALT LAKE CITY—The Church Historian’s Press today announced the online publication of four additional volumes of the diaries of Latter-day Saint leader and women’s rights activist Emmeline B. Wells, covering 1905 to 1908. For the first time, an annotated transcript of these volumes is available for free to the public at churchhistorianspress.org/emmeline-b-wells.

Emmeline B. Wells began the year 1905 with activities in the public sphere by attending the inauguration of the new governor of the state of Utah, John C. Cutler. The next day she joined in the dedication of the new L.D.S. Hospital in Salt Lake City. Training local women to be nurses in their home communities was an important project for the Relief Society board. Wells maintained connections with prominent women leaders like May Wright Sewall, former president of the International Council of Women, who appointed Wells in 1908 to serve on the Susan B. Anthony Memorial Committee. On the other hand, Wells was disappointed in not being named a Relief Society delegate to an international event, the ICW’s quinquennial meeting in Toronto, Canada. Locally, in one of the last political efforts of her career, Wells organized a crew of women to distribute campaign literature for Utah’s fall election of 1908.

As energetic general secretary of the Relief Society organization, Wells consulted with President Bathsheba W. Smith almost every day while also maintaining the history and the correspondence of the society. Her journal for 1907 is a notebook recording the assignments of twenty-three board members to visit women’s conferences in fifty-five church stakes in the western United States, Canada, and Mexico. Some entries contain notes on the complexities of travel by railroad and wagon and suggest the fidelity of leaders in serving these congregations. In February 1908, a reception in the Lion House in honor of Wells’s eightieth birthday attracted six hundred well-wishers. In April, she began publishing a series of biographies of outstanding women of the church in the Woman’s Exponent. Still the editor of the Woman’s Exponent after more than three decades in that position, Wells displayed self-discipline and fortitude in maintaining her brisk pace of life. “Working all day long using every particle of energy and brain power but succeeded in getting some copy ready,” she recorded with satisfaction in her August 1908 diary.

Highlights of Wells’s devotional life appear in volume 32 of the diary, which records the monthly fast and testimony meetings she attended in a room of the Salt Lake Temple in 1905 and 1906. She jotted down the titles of the hymns sung, names of the leaders presiding, and thoughts from men and women who bore witness to their faith. In the year 1905, church members commemorated the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Joseph Smith. Wells herself spoke in ward meetings, often mentioning her experiences with Joseph Smith as a young woman in Nauvoo. In the family sphere, she heralded twin boys arriving in the family of her granddaughter Louise Cannon Andrew in August 1908, “such little beauties.” Three months later her grandson Daniel H. Cannon departed on a church proselytizing mission to the Netherlands. She expressed a tenderness often felt in missionary families: “Many thoughts come to us in hours of parting with dear ones, he is a very good boy and surely the holy angels will watch over him.”

About the Church Historian’s Press

The Church Historian’s Press was announced in 2008 by the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Joseph Smith Papers was the first publication to bear the imprint. The press publishes works of Latter-day Saint history that meet high standards of scholarship. For more information, visit the Church Historian’s Press website.