Emma Anderson Liljenquist, Reminiscences of 1887, in “The Story of My Life,” circa 1948 (Excerpt)

Emma Anderson Liljenquist, “The Story of My Life,” ca. 1948, pp. [1], 14–18 (excerpt); typescript; International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City.

See images of the original document, courtesy of International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City.

Latter-day Saints in Utah Territory often relied on midwives to treat health problems and deliver babies. As early as the 1850s, church leaders had noted the need for medical training for local midwives; by the 1870s, Brigham Young, Eliza R. Snow, and other church leaders were routinely emphasizing this need and encouraging Latter-day Saint women to obtain medical training.1 In response, several Utah women attended medical colleges in the eastern United States and then returned to Utah to practice medicine. Many of these newly trained doctors taught courses in Salt Lake City for the benefit of women throughout the territory. Dr. Romania B. Pratt, for example, taught courses “in her office in the Old Constitution Building. The lectures will be given twice a week and the term will continue six months.” Dr. Ellis R. Shipp advertised that she was “prepared to give instructions in the art of Midwifery and other branches connected therewith.”2 Midwifery classes were also offered in other settlements.3

Emma Anderson Liljenquist, a resident of Hyrum, a town eight miles south of Logan in Cache County, Utah, was in her mid-twenties when her bishop appointed her to study obstetrics and nursing in 1887. She accepted, leaving her husband and three children for six months while she studied in Salt Lake City with Dr. Margaret C. Shipp,4 a graduate from the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia. In spring 1885 the Deseret News had announced, “Dr. Maggie C. Shipp Will commence a class [in midwifery] on May 11th, at her office. Two lectures will be given every day, Saturdays excepted.” Tuition and books were advertised at ten and thirteen dollars, respectively.5 By the fall of 1888 Shipp had trained nearly forty women, including Emma Liljenquist, to work as nurses and obstetricians.6 Liljenquist was expecting her fourth child when she graduated.7

Sometime in or after December 1948, Liljenquist completed an autobiography titled “The Story of My Life.” The following excerpts from the autobiography give a glimpse into Liljenquist’s activities as a Latter-day Saint mother and midwife. These excerpts are taken from a twenty-three-page typed version of the autobiography; little information is available about the creation or provenance of this typescript, but it appears to have been produced in or after 1952 from some earlier version.8



Emma Anderson Liljenquist … [p. [1]] …9

During the period of my 14th, 15th, and the beginning of my 16th years I kept quite steady company with [Olaf] Oscar Liljenquist, son of our Mayor and Bishop, O. [Ola] N. Liljenquist of Hyrum. At the age of 16, on December 25, I consented to be married but, of course, a girl of that age didn’t sense the responsibility of married life as I never thought life was anything but a pleasure and so I entered into marriage at an early age never realizing what was ahead of me. … [p. 14]

We had been married two years without having any children and we were very concerned over this and decided to make it a thing of prayer and our prayers were answered with a fine son whom we called Oscar Eugene, born September 15, 1880. He was a very good baby and never cried and learned to sing before he could hardly talk. He would sing in all entertainments and was so little they had to stand him on a chair so he could be seen.

We lived and were happy with what little we had. …

Emma Anderson Liljenquist

Emma Anderson Liljenquist. Church leaders often set apart midwives for this occupation. Trained and set apart as a midwife, Emma Liljenquist tended to numerous sick patients and estimated she had delivered over a thousand babies in Hyrum, Utah. (Courtesy International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City.)

… [M]y second child was born on the 3rd of November 1882 at 12:00 o’clock noon. It was a lovely girl and we named her Mary Agnes. I was all alone when Agnes was born, grandma having taken Eugene and gone to visit the neighbors. Fortunately, my husband came home and he ran for the neighbor lady. Agnes, too, was a very good baby and Aunt Annie [Anna Anderson], father’s second wife, would come down and tend the children. She would knit and rock the babies all the time and would make it possible for me to go to choir practice, theater rehearsals, etc. I had a neighbor lady who was such a comfort to me. Her name was Karen Christensen. She would help me make soap, milk the cow, and set the hens, and when it thundered and stormed she would come or I would go to her place. One day in the fall the little boy set fire to the straw stack and it burned it down along with the stable. We salvaged a setting hen and her eggs and all that day little chickens hatched. [p. 15]

On January 1, 1885, New Years Day, on grandma [Anna Christine] Liljenquist and grandma [Maren] Anderson’s birthdays, my third child, Hyrum Royal, was born and he weighed 12 pounds. It was during the January thaw and it rained for two weeks. We lived in a log house with a dirt roof and the plaster fell down and made a deep bank of wet mud and plaster. …

[Approximately two years pass.]

It was during this period that I was called by the Church to take a course in obstetrics and nursing. I lived in Salt Lake for six months. Dr. Maggie C. Shipp, later married to B. [Brigham] H. Roberts, was the instructor. She lived just [p. 16] east of the Salt Lake Theater10 on the corner and I lived with a Mrs. [Amelia] Jorgensen on 7th West and every day I walked to the doctor’s office, except part time I lived with her. I never once took the street car. I enjoyed the course very much and after being set apart by apostles John Henry Smith and several of the others, I returned home to do my work and being promised by the apostles that if I lived right I should always know what to do in case of any difficulties.

That promise has been fulfilled to the very letter. Many times when one of my patients were seriously ill I have asked my Heavenly Father for assistance and in every case it was given to me. One in particular was a lady who had just given birth to a baby and hemorrhage set in. The husband called the doctor but he did not realize that it was so serious. I placed my hands upon her head and asked the Lord to help us.11 The hemorrhage ceased and I did the necessary things for her. When the doctor arrived he said he could hardly believe what had happened but said I had done exactly what he would have done. I was so tired and worn out from so many nights out and loss of sleep and trying to maintain my own home. So I went up to Idaho to have a rest and stayed at my son Eugene’s home. One day Eugene asked if I would like to ride with him to see his farm. While we were looking over the beautiful fields we saw a man coming toward us on a horse. My son said, “Mother, he is probably coming for you”. And sure enough, he was. I went with him to his home where his wife gave birth to twin girls.

I wish that I could tell all of my wonderful experiences during my years as a midwife. Some of them are very touching and others humorous. But I have brought over one thousand babies to Hyrum. Once again I give thanks to my Heavenly Father for His help and the strength the Lord has given me, for without it I could not have rendered this service to my sisters of our community. One of the most touching things about a birth is that the mother’s first concern is about her baby; not herself. … [p. 17] …

It made my heart ache when I had to leave my babies and very often I could hear them crying as I walked down the street, but I had to go with a smile on my face and bring happiness into the sick room for I have never refused anyone who needed my assistance. But my husband and my oldest daughter, Agnes, were very gentle and good to the children. You might ask why I left them, but I had been called by the Church to perform this service and I felt that it was a special calling. …

My family was growing12 but I was still going out taking care of the sick. It was not always maternity cases which I attended. Sometimes an anxious mother called to see if I could treat one of her children, or someone else might have a nervous spell and would ask me if I would just come and sit by their bed and assure them that they were alright and all was well. One blustery January night one of our neighbors, Jonas Nielsen, knocked at our door and asked if I could come and attend to his wife, Augusta, my cousin. She gave birth to a baby boy (Gordon) and after spending the night and part of the next day with her, I came home and gave birth to my fourth little girl and sixth child. She had pretty brown hair and, like the rest, she was very sweet and good. We named her Anna Lillian after one of grandfather’s wives [Anna Anderson] who had always been such a great help to me in caring for my children. She had had no children so she loved mine as though they were her own. … [p. 18] …

Cite this page

Emma Anderson Liljenquist, Reminiscences of 1887, in “The Story of My Life,” circa 1948 (Excerpt), The First Fifty Years of Relief Society, accessed May 27, 2024 https://www.churchhistorianspress.org/the-first-fifty-years-of-relief-society/part-4/4-17