Remembering Emmeline Wells

While Emmeline Wells lived over 100 years ago, her example of faithful living demonstrates how our faith can drive us to do good works.

Tucked among the Church History Topics in the Church’s digital library is an entry dedicated to a woman named Emmeline Wells (1828–1921). I stumbled upon this entry while searching for a different topic, but I began reading about Emmeline Wells instead, curious to know what her role was in Church history. As I read about her life, I was shocked I had never heard her name before. I asked around and found that many of my family, friends, and peers had not heard of her either. Those who had heard Emmeline’s name knew little about her and her life.

"I desire to do all in my power to help elevate the condition of my own people, especially women." --Emmeline B. Wells

Image by Lee Greene Richards

But I don’t think Emmeline Wells would mind. In one volume of her forty-seven diaries that the Church has recently digitized, she wrote, “I feel I must do this work whether my efforts are recognized or not.”

The specific work she was referring to was a history of women’s suffrage efforts in Utah, but Emmeline Wells approached all of her work with a similar level of conviction. Emmeline Wells was the fifth General Relief Society President, founder and president of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association, and manager of the Women’s Exponent, a periodical dedicated to women’s issues. In her life, she met with two US presidents to advocate for women’s suffrage. She strongly believed in educating women and wrote literature in her spare time, publishing a book of poetry titled Musings and Memories in 1896. 

Emmeline Wells saw it as her calling to “do all in [her] power to help elevate the condition of [her] own people, especially women.” She did this despite her own life not being easy. By the age of 16, Emmeline had experienced the death of her first child, and her husband had left for St. Louis never to return. She then traveled to the Salt Lake Valley as a plural wife of Newel K. Whitney, who died two years later. In Utah, she again grieved the deaths of multiple children. 

Given the number of personal trials Emmeline Wells faced, it would have been easy for her to ignore the greater purposes God had for her life, but her faith was an integral part of the role she played in empowering women.

As we each strive to find and fulfill God’s purpose for our lives, we might do well to remember the faith and courage of Emmeline Wells and the way she turned her faith into a powerful force for good. 

You can read more about the life and insights of Emmeline Wells in her diaries found at

Source: Church Historian’s Press

—Katie Greene, Latter-day Saint Insights


Find more insights 

Learn more about Emmeline B. Wells by reading “Emmeline B. Wells: Women’s Rights Pioneer” by Courtney Johansson.

Discover more about influential women in early Church history in “Thoughts on Reclaiming the History of Relief Society” by Rachel Cope.

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  1. I helped source check the Emmeline Wells journals when I worked at the Church History Library. She is such a fascinating character and a great example to us all of endless perseverance!

  2. This is such a great attribution to Emmeline B. Wells. I’ve loved reading a little about her

  3. I knew a little bit about her before, but after reading this article, I want to learn more about her life and especially her role in advocating for women’s suffrage.

  4. Thank you for sharing Katie! I had never heard of Emmeline Wells before reading. What an incredible woman!

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