In Behalf of the Ladies: Eliza R. Snow (1804–1887)

"Find time for social duties. . . . You will be astonished at what you can accomplish." [1]

By Jennifer Reeder

Eliza Roxcy Snow, one of Utah’s earliest settlers, worked to empower women. She encouraged women to act independently, speak publicly, participate in civic activity, and defend religious freedom.

In February 1870, one week after territorial governor Stephen A. Mann signed the territorial bill that legalized female suffrage in Utah, Snow wrote Mann “in behalf of the ladies of this Territory,” thanking him for “the honor you have conferred on our Honorable Legislature and on the ladies of Utah.”[2]

Snow was born in Becket, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Her family moved to the Ohio Western Reserve, where Eliza grew up and was educated. Her father served as justice of the peace and county commissioner, and Eliza worked as his secretary. Her mother taught her daughters domestic skills; Eliza later supported herself with prize-winning needle work.

After joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1835, Eliza lived in Mormon settlements in Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, and Utah. In Illinois in 1842, she was appointed secretary of the newly created Nauvoo Female Relief Society. Twenty-five years later, LDS Church President Brigham Young assigned her to organize local Relief Societies throughout Utah Territory. She served as general president of the church-wide Relief Society from 1880 until her death in 1887.

 The Deseret Hospital Board

The Deseret Hospital Board

Snow led the Relief Society in raising funds to open Salt Lake City’s Deseret Hospital in 1882, and served as chair of its Board of Directors. The hospital’s staff included well-trained physicians Ellen Ferguson, Romania Pratt, and Ellis Shipp. The ideological predecessor of LDS Hospital, the Deseret Hospital served as an emergency hospital, a maternity home, and a women's medical school.

 The Deseret Hospital, located at 130 North 200 West

The Deseret Hospital, located at 130 North 200 West

Snow was hailed as “Zion’s Poetess.” Her 500-plus poems chronicled the history and theology of her people, commemorating individuals, events, and ideas. Her poetry revealed high ambitions for women’s advancement, emphasizing female worth and calling for equality.

As a leader of LDS women, Snow influenced the organization of the Cooperative Retrenchment Association (which empowered women to participate in civic activity and religious discourse and to develop intelligence inside and outside the domestic sphere); the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association (which encouraged girls and young women to become educated both secularly and religiously, and to prepare for public service); and the children’s Primary Association (which taught children good behavior and religious doctrine). She developed policy and procedure, demonstrated leadership and trained other women leaders, and taught and influenced the development of LDS gospel principles.

 

Jennifer Reeder, Ph.D., is the nineteenth-century women’s history specialist at the LDS Church History Library, in Salt Lake City.

 

Sources

Maureen Beecher, ed. The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow. Salt Lake City: Utah State University Press, 1995.

Jill Mulvay Derr and Karen Lynn Davidson, eds., Eliza R. Snow: The Complete Poetry. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2009.

Jill Mulvay Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Kate Holbrook, and Matthew J. Grow, eds. The First Fifty Years of Relief Society: Key Documents in Latter-day Saint Women’s History. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016.

Jennifer Reeder and Kate Holbrook, eds. At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-Day Saint Women. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2017.

 

[1] Eliza R. Snow, “An Address. By Miss Eliza R. Snow. Delivered in the Tabernacle, Ogden, at a Relief Society Meeting, Thursday Afternoon, August 14th, 1873,” Woman’s Exponent 2, no. 8 (Sept. 15, 1873): 62­-63.

[2] Eliza R. Snow, Bathsheba W. Smith, Sarah M. Kimball, Margaret T. Smoot, Harriet C. Young, Zina D. H. Young, Mary Isabella Horne, Marinda N. Hyde, Phebe C. Woodruff, Elizabeth H. Cannon, Rachel I. Grant, Amanda Barnes Smith, Harriet Amelia F. Young, and Presendia H. Kimball, “To His Excellency, the Acting Governor of the Territory of Utah, S. A. Mann,” Feb. 19, 1870.

 

 

 

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