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Ep 107 – Emma Hale Elect Lady
On this episode, we take a time warp back to episode 2 to revisit an aspect of Mormon history largely ignored in our timeline to this point, Emma Hale Smith. Little of her own writings survive the years and she left no journal or diary. We’re forced to construct an image of Emma to live in our minds through other peripheral mentions in the hand of her closest friends and associates. We rediscover her timeline with the help of Mormon Enigma and catch up on her story leading up to the formation of the Nauvoo Female Relief Society.
Mormon Enigma by Newell and Avery
Emma Hale Smith Bidamon biography
Lucy Mack Smith biography
Timeline of Joseph Smith
Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris
Children of Emma and Joseph Smith
God Awful Movies, Joseph Smith Prophet of the Restoration
Music by Jason Comeau http://aloststateofmind.com/
Show Artwork http://weirdmormonshit.com/
Legal Counsel http://patorrez.com/
Blushing Bride, mafia wife. Episode 2 was the last episode we spent any real air time on Emma Smith and she’s only been a passing mention at best ever since. Why?
Mormonism is a total boy’s club. Everything in Mormon history was moved and influenced by men and they really only dictated their own history through their own eyes. The women of Mormon history were present, but scarcely even mentioned in the history books. Most of women’s influence on Mormonism is only learned of by reading through their own journals, of which there are far fewer than men’s own dictated history. But just saying the Mormon history was created by men therefore the men are all we talk about is a cop out on my part.
The fact of the matter is, I haven’t put enough mental resources into learning of the women’s role and impact in Mormon history. That’s a failing on my part. Just as Mormon history as it’s been created is fairly exclusive when it comes to women’s roles, so has our examination of it. When the source material of history is largely created about the men, by the men, women’s influence is inevitably understudied and passively relegated to fringe studies of Mormon history. What can we really learn about history when we don’t even consider the role of one half the population in it? This is a struggle I’ve only recently realized and have been actively trying to rectify.
With that in mind, let’s spend today talking about the Elect Lady of Mormonism and give her a proper treatment. Emma Hale Smith Bidamon was a force to be reckoned with. Through her 74 years of life, 2 marriages, 9 children born, of which only 3 survived her, 3 and a half adoptions, at least 17 moves through 5 states, never living in a single place more than 3 years during her marriage to Joseph Smith, multiple heartbreaking family deaths, and countless trials and errors, Emma was truly a remarkable human being.
The plethora of documentation we have of Joseph Smith allows historians the ability to construct complex and diverse narratives of his personality, often with motives to view him through a specific lens of being the pious prophet or a charlatan, with the truth of the matter never being sufficiently captured and likely wildly underrepresented in every biography of the man.
For historians, Emma, however, is a starkly one-dimensional helpmeet to the prophet of the restoration. This isn’t a lacking in historical analysis of her so much as a lacking of source documentation to begin with. She left almost nothing behind. 22 letters between her and Joseph survive today, and a few letters she wrote after the schism grenade are known to be extant, but she left no diary or journal, never had a personal scribe or planning-book, and much of her personality is only understood through peripheral mentions in letters and diary entries not about her whatsoever. It wasn’t until she was unanimously elected president of the Relief Society in Nauvoo that her personality begins to shine through in the minute books, kept by her close friend and secretary, Eliza R. Snow, with whom she had severe later disagreements.
The one-dimensional historical portraits of Emma have largely been clouded by her status. She was the emotional support for the prophet until his death, but later became an outspoken enemy of Brigham Young, coloring her LDS portraits to be two-faced, or out of focus in an effort to minimize her overall role in Mormonism. On the other hand, she raised the prophet of the Reorganization, and RLDS sources have painted the holy and pious narrative deserving of wife and mother of the true Mormon prophets to an extent that leaves her true humanity utterly detached.
The true Emma Hale isn’t somewhere in the middle of these narratives, for that the narratives would have to be better defined to be dichotomous. She was a fascinating and dynamic character of Mormon history and I’ve found even her best biography, Mormon Enigma, to be woefully lacking in representing who the true Emma Hale Smith was. Such is the constraint of sticking to facts and historically verifiable truth. The historical record of Emma Hale Smith Bidamon only plots a few monumental points of her life, while the rest remains speculation based on those scant few verifiable events and documents.
I’ll be relying heavily on Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery today to discuss Emma as the book, Mormon Enigma, is an incredible biography and arguably the most comprehensive and balanced in the entire field of Mormon historical studies. Please understand though, I feel like even Avery and Newell leave a lot to be desired when postulating Emma’s possible motives and true intent as the book is constrained to a format which wouldn’t ruffle feathers in the field of Mormon History, regardless of denomination. Seemingly in spite of their friendly and calculated approach, Mormon Enigma was banned in Brighamism. From the introduction of the book:
“[T]he book offended the leadership of the LDS Church in Utah. In June 1985, a month after it received the Evans award, newspaper headlines of the Los Angeles Times announced, “Mormons Forbid Female Biographers of Smith’s wife to Address Church.” We were prohibited from speaking about any aspect of religious or church history in any LDS Church-related meeting or institution. Church leaders took this action without reading the book in its entirety or informing us of their decision, and it remained in effect over ten months. In the wake of the national publicity caused by the ban, the sales of the book tripled,”
Why? It showed Emma in a light contrary to the simplistic silent and stoic helpmeet to Joseph the LDS Church had been putting forward for over a century since her death. It also exhibits a level of inner conflict within the Smith family, largely due to polygamy, that it seems the LDS Church was terrified to confront. Such a prominent individual in Mormon history, and an honest and full-throated biography about her was banned. Mormon history is nothing if not fun, coupled with equal amounts of drama and controversy.
Let’s get a refresher on Emma Hale prior to her meeting Joseph Smith. Emma grew up in a relatively wealthy household in Harmony, Pennsylvania on the banks of the Susquehanna river. The descendant of Mayflower immigrants and daughter of a Revolutionary War veteran, Emma led a charmed life. Father Isaac provided for the family’s comfortable living as an active hunter and Mother Elizabeth provided a pleasant home and education for her children, making side-income boarding strangers passing through, working jobs in the area, or until they could build their own homes in the largely uncultivated area of Harmony as it was late to become colonized.
In her earliest years, Emma was home-schooled by Elizabeth, as were the majority of the Hale children, but Elizabeth was quite well-educated and was able to teach the Hale children reading and writing at a very early age, elevating them above their peers.
Elizabeth’s role in the formation of Emma’s mind cannot be overstated.
“Though Isaac worked hard and steadily, Elizabeth also contributed to the family income. She opened her home to boarders, operating an inn or tavern, to provide the family with extra cash to augment produce from the garden, farm crops, and meat from the wilds. She taught her daughters to make candles from tallow, cure sausages for the winter, and dry fruit from the orchards. They learned to knit and sew, to patch and mend. Quite likely the results of their homemaking skills appeared as entries in the annual agricultural fair.”
By age nine, the town built its first schoolhouse log cabin. Emma and the Hale children began attending Caleb Barnes’ school services and furthered their education. During Emma’s late teens an interesting occurrence happened in Harmony.
“[A] distant relative of Emma’s, William Hale, had approached Isaac with a peculiar story. A woman claiming to have powers that enabled her to see underground had told William Hale that great treasures were concealed in a hill just northeast of Isaac’s house. Persons with such powers were commonly called “peepers” and many people took them seriously. William Hale began digging in the specified area. The work was slow and difficult for a man who had an aversion to hard physical labor. Not wealthy enough himself to hire help, yet sure there would be riches to share with a partner, he talked Oliver Harper into financing the dig. Harper’s untimely death suspended the operation for a time, but exciting rumors about buried treasure still swept through Harmony.”
Here enters Josiah Stowell, as we called him many moons ago, Bossman Jo. He was wealthy and believed Emma’s relative when he claimed this treasure-digging scryer had told him of the buried treasure. Josiah Stowell, a resident of Bainbridge, N.Y., knew of a visionary family well-steeped in magic rituals who could peep the treasure and break the spell which bound it underground. Stowell approached Joseph Sr. and contracted to have him and a couple of his boys come down to the banks of the Susquehanna in Harmony and locate said treasure. The Smiths took advantage of the fair pricing of the Hale tavern and boarded with the Hale family for a number of weeks while they searched for treasure.
During this time, Jo and Emma cultivated a liking for each other. It would have been a bustling home filled with treasure-seeking men looking to make a quick buck, while the Hale women provided meals, tightened bedding ropes, emptied chamber pots, and probably delighted the men with their beautiful voices for evening entertainment. Emma was noted multiple times throughout her life in other accounts as often humming or singing while she worked and must have had a beautiful voice to do so.
Her musical acumen would serve her well in the Church. Her primary task and repeatedly disputed over throughout her career as elect lady was to compile the church hymnals at various points. In fact, the only revelation in the D&C and likely the only revelation ever given to a woman in Joseph’s Mormon history was directed at Emma:
Book of Commandments 1833 ed. Ch. 26 given July 1830
“it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred Hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church: For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart: Yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me.”
Not particularly well-known or discussed in popular Mormon history circles was Isaac Hales’ tacit involvement with the treasure-digging. As Avery and Newell put it:
“Isaac Hale viewed the money-digging activities with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, his farming experience taught him that the earth rarely harbored great riches. But when his neighbor, Josiah Sowell, believed peep stones could reveal hidden treasures and invested money in the enterprise, Isaac suspected Josiah knew something he did not. Both men were comfortably well off, but neither was wealthy. If Josiah Stowell found a fortune under Isaac’s nose, the subtle social structure existing among the local farmers would be altered in Stowell’s favor. It would humiliate Isaac if his lazy relative, William Hale, found a treasure. Isaac Hale guarded both his options. He allowed the money digging to take place under his watchful eye but kept himself a respectable distance from the operation.”
When the treasure dig continued to grind on for weeks with only more dirt for results, as was often the case with scryers, the blame fell to Jo’s shoulders and Isaac probably harbored resentment or ill-feelings toward Jo from that time forward. This would taint their relationship. After the treasure digging was abandoned, Josiah Stowell hired Jo on as a farmhand, giving Emma ample opportunity to spend time with Jo and continue their courting.
Eventually, Jo proposed to Emma. Isaac Hale gave a total and absolute no to the proposal, likely due to his observations of Jo’s character during the treasure-digging expedition near his property.
Jo and Isaac’s relationship continued to sour and Isaac ended up famously hating Joseph Smith as Jo continued to steal away Emma for longer and longer periods of time. While Jo was a ranch hand for Bossman Josiah Stowell after the treasure-digging trip, Bossman Jo’s nephew-in-law filed a lawsuit which resulted in Jo’s 1826 trial where he was called “the glass-looker” by Justice Albert Neeley.
This development in the relationship between Emma’s courtship partner and her father, whom she devotedly respected must have been incredibly taxing. This conflict must have played into her decision-making process when she finally decided to elope with Jo.
After a second proposition and denial, Emma stayed home from Church while the Hale family went to the local Methodist congregation. Jo showed up with a boombox blasting ‘What is Love’ and they immediately crossed into New York to the town of South Bainbridge and were married without the consent of Isaac Hale.
Overwhelming trepidation, foreboding doom of familial kinship, consternation, who knows what it would have felt like to elope with somebody your father despised. Beyond that, Emma didn’t even return home after they married, Emma and Jo headed straight for the Smith family farm in Palmyra, leaving behind every personal effect, cattle, and furniture Emma had accrued over her entire life. She simply said goodbye to it all.
It must have been a shock to arrive in the Smith home. Joseph Sr., Lucy Mack, Hyrum and his new wife Jerusha Barden, Sophronia, who was being courted by a man to whom Jo Sr. was indebted for a land deed, Samuel, Crazy Willey, Katharine, Don Carlos, and Lucy Jr., all crammed into a cabin that was maybe 900 square feet combined with two floors. Emma went from a comfortable and educated living space with her own bed and furniture, sharing a room with possibly one sibling, to living in a house less than half the size with 11 other rough and uneducated people, all while being a newlywed and not even having said goodbye to her family and all her worldly possessions back in Harmony. We can’t know what this must have been like. We can’t possibly put ourselves in Emma’s mind.
She did cultivate a remarkable relationship with Jerusha Barden and Lucy Mack during this time as they were the eldest women in the house to provide for all the men of all ages. Lucy loved both of her daughters-in-law and Emma and Lucy would continue to be extremely close until Lucy’s death in Emma’s and Lucy Smith Millikin’s care in 1856 in Illinois.
After receiving a letter from her father and the translation coming to a halt, Emma and Jo resigned to face the music and move to Harmony. Jo received the greatest chastisement of his life witnessed by a Smith family friend when Isaac told Jo that he’d stolen his daughter and he’d much rather have followed her to the grave than have them married. Isaac contracted with Jo to sell him and Emma her older brother’s home on the Hale family farm. Emma finally had her own home. Part of the agreement was that Jo would give up the magick and money-digging business and work as a farmer to provide a sustainable home for Emma.
Jo may have, for a very short time, worked on the Hale farm doing manual labor. But soon, his clever wit combined with profound laziness overpowered his desire to placate his father-in-law, and work on the authorship of the Book of Mormon began in earnest with Martin Harris. Financially supported by Not-So-Smarty-Marty Harris, Jo and the pregnant Emma had great hopes for their future. Translation was progressing, Jo and Emma’s first son, little Alvin, was growing inside Emma.
Then, tragedy struck. NSSM lost the 116 pages, completely obliterating the financial prospects for Emma to have a secure home and family life. Then, Alvin was born completely deformed, living a mere few hours before perishing. The labor nearly killed Emma. She was laid up in bed for weeks while Jo buried their first infant son and stayed by his wife’s bedside, attending to her every need, probably scared as she was that she wouldn’t recover for the first week of bedridden nightmare fuel.
It was good Emma was near her family at this time. They provided the emotional support necessary to grind through this very hard time.
Eventually, Oliver Cowdery came to live with the Smiths to get the translation rolling. Emma was now feeding two hungry young men from any food they could possibly get their hands on. Because of Isaac’s iron-fisted opposition to their marriage and the Book of Mormon, the Hales weren’t providing any financial support for Emma and Jo. Eventually, Jo and Ollie went the few miles to Colesville New York to petition Smith family friend, Joseph Knight Sr. for supplies. They arrived to find him gone. When Ollie and Jo returned, they found Joseph Knight Sr. and Emma unloading supplies, beans, bushels of corn and potatoes, and plenty of other food stuffs from the sleigh. This got Emma, Jo, and Ollie through the winter of 1828-29. When supplies once again ran low, Ollie sent a letter to his good friend, D-Day David Whitmer, asking if they could come finish the translation up there.
David Whitmer’s reply was affirmative as he wanted to see this marvelous work and a wonder come forth under his family’s roof. Thus, Emma was once again uprooted from her family farm to accommodate Jo’s whims.
There’s no telling what the Hale family relationship was like at this time. Undoubtedly Isaac and Elizabeth Hale loved their daughter and wanted the best for her, but they simply couldn’t agree with the life Joseph Smith was leading. Emma loved her husband and must have been completely torn apart by the conflict between Jo and her family.
In June of 1829, David Whitmer showed up with a wagon to move Ollie and Jo, along with some of the Smith’s possessions to Fayette, New York. For a brief time, Jo just left Emma in Harmony. Just left her. No reasoning why she didn’t immediately join Jo and Ollie in Fayette, she was just stuck in Harmony for a little while. Eventually she made her way up to Fayette for the very final stages of the translation process.
The copyright for the Book of Mormon was filed on 11 June 1829, and authorship of the Original Manuscript was completed two and a half weeks later about. Emma and Jo moved back to Harmony bearing good news that the manuscript was completed. Ollie and others in Fayette toiled with creating the printer’s manuscript. The good news didn’t smooth ruffled Hale feathers and Isaac still refused to support Emma and Jo.
Desperate for money with supplies running extremely low, Jo caught wind of a rumor that Canada was buying copyrights for history books. He sent missionaries on two separate occasions to find a purchaser for the Book of Mormon copyright as it was being printed. Desperation to provide for a wife and fulfill an overdue $200 contract on the home in which the Smiths lived extended Jo to extremes. Undoubtedly this would have been a challenging time for Emma and extremely strenuous on their relationship.
A challenging aspect of Jo and Emma’s history cropped up, which we covered in Episode 21 – 1 Prophet, 2 Trials… 3-some anybody? Jo was arrested and tried for being a disorderly person. When it was found that the court didn’t have jurisdiction, he was released and arrested again on the steps of the courthouse to be taken to the proper courthouse. During this second trial, Bossman Josiah Stowell’s daughters were called to testify against Jo. They were asked explicitly if Jo had ever acted inappropriately towards them, likely based on rumors only, but for every false rumor surrounding the prophet, the truth was usually even more salacious.
“Between Joseph’s trials, his lawyer, John S. Reid, rode up to see Emma. He said Emma’s face was “wet with tears . . . [and] her very heartstrings [were] broken with grief.” The local judicial systems were unable to convict him, but nevertheless Joseph had received rough and contemptuous treatment and had been persecuted for what he believed and taught. Dismayed and shaken by the ordeal, Emma and Joseph went quietly back to Harmony.” Mormon Enigma p. 33
Not evidenced in the historical record is how Emma’s interactions played out with her family at this time. Everything from major fights tearing at the fabric of the familial ties, to the microaggressions evidenced in subtle daily interactions, her relationship with her family degraded. None of the Hales would ever convert to the Church.
Further evidence of the chasm between Emma and her family is exhibited by developments after the Church was founded. Hingepin Sidney Rigdon and Edward Party-boy Partridge made their way first to New York, then to Harmony to meet the young prophet in late summer 1830. Jo agreed to moving the Church to fertile religious soil in Kirtland, Ohio, delivered a revelation inciting the first Mormon mass-exodus, and Emma was forever bound to a life as the Elect Lady of Mormonism.
“Emma, my daughter in Zion, a revelation I give unto you, concerning my will: Behold thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou art an elect lady, whom I have called. Murmur not because of the things which thou hast not seen, for they are withheld from thee, and from the world, which is wisdom in me in a time to come. (Gold plates)…
4 And the office of thy calling shall be for a comfort unto my servant Joseph, thy husband, in his afflictions with consoling words, in the spirit of meekness. 5And thou shalt go with him at the time of his going, and be unto him for a scribe, that I may send Oliver Cowdery whithersoever I will. 6 And thou shalt be ordained under his hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the church, according as it shall be given thee by my Spirit: 7 For he shall lay his hands upon thee, and thou shalt receive the Holy Ghost, and thy time shall be given to writing, and to learning much. 8 And thou needest not fear, for thy husband shall support thee from the church: 9 For unto them is his calling, that all things might be revealed unto them, whatsoever I will according to their faith.”
When Emma and Jo arrived in Kirtland, she was pregnant with twins Thaddeus and Louisa Smith. The final migration to Fayette a few months before Kirtland was hard for multiple reasons. First off, from everything that had happened with Jo, the plates and Book of Mormon, his trials for disorderly conduct, the foundation of the Mormon Church, the relationship between Emma and her family was on the rocks. When they departed for New York, Emma said goodbye to her parents for the final time. She would never see them again before their deaths. She may have seen siblings after that time, but there’s no historical record of it. It would be rational to conclude that this goodbye at the beginning of 1831 was her final goodbye to her family and any semblance of her previous life. Other reasons for what made this move so hard are further discussed by Avery and Newell on page 35.
“Emma bade farewell to her parents. It was a difficult parting for her. She loved the peaceful Susquehanna, the lore of Ichabod Swamp, and the hardwood forests. She had come back nearly two years earlier anticipating much. The baby who had stirred inside her then lay buried near the house. Hope for a reconciliation between her father and her husband had evaporated. Emma would never see Harmony, her mother, or her father again…
Emma was pregnant again, and ill. Her mother-in-law kept watch over her and noted that ‘Emma’s health at this time was quite delicate, yet she did not favor herself on this account, but whatever her hands found to do, she did with her might, until she went so far beyond her strength that she brought upon herself a heavy fit of sickness, which lasted for weeks. And, although her strength was exhausted, still her spirits were the same, which, in fact, was always the case with her, even under the most trying circumstances.’”
If Emma hadn’t been the emotional support to Joseph she was, who knows how far Jo would have gotten in life. During all their trials and tribulations, this description by her mother-in-law, Lucy Mack Smith, seems consistent among multiple accounts. She was unflappable, never made her own inconveniences an object of complaint, and always rendered help to others, even when it endangered her own health or well-being.
Whatever it was she did at this time, it likely didn’t do well for the twins she was carrying. 2 months after her and Jo’s arrival to Ohio, she had delivered the twins prematurely. Thaddeus and Louisa lived for a mere hour or two in agony and perished due to malformity. Once again, the delivery nearly killed Emma. But her physical illness was nothing compared to her compromised emotional well-being. She’d now given birth to three children who didn’t survive even a single day. For a couple trying to become parents, this must have been absolutely devastating for both Emma and Jo.
Jo and Emma had a close personal friend in the Murdock couple. The Murdocks had just given birth to twins which unfortunately killed their mother during the delivery process. Twins Joseph and Julia Murdock’s survival depended on a nursing mother. Emma had just lost her own twins but her body was biologically ready to nurse upon her recovery. 3 weeks after Thaddeus and Louisa were delivered and passed away, Emma and Jo took in Joseph and Julia Murdock to be raised as their own children. This was a great secret in Kirtland. Jo and Emma never planned on telling Joseph and Julia that they were adopted, instead opting to raise them truly as their own.
During a bout of the measles when Joseph and Julia were less than a year old, Joseph was dragged out and tarred and feathered. When the mob dispersed and Jo returned covered in tar, Emma thought it was blood and Jo was sure to die. She fainted while the Johnson family dragged Jo into the house. It should be understood that one of the possible explanations for this violent mob attack could have been due to Jo fooling around with Marinda Nancy Johnson, which explains why the mob attempted to poison and castrate Jo until the doctor in the mob lost his nerve and didn’t perform the mutilation.
For some reason, little Joseph Murdock Smith, 11 months old at the time, was exposed to the cold winter air. He suffered for another few days as his symptoms worsened and eventually perished as well. That’s three total births and one adoption in Emma and Joseph’s guardianship who died before maturing. We can’t even fathom what this must have done to poor Emma, especially if we consider that the mobbing and resulting death of Joseph Murdock were due to Joseph’s infidelity with a 16-year-old they were living with at the time. Emma had some incredible emotional fortitude to withstand all these severe buffetings resulting from Jo’s own actions.
Fast forward another 2 years and we arrive to Zion’s camp. In the interim period, Emma birthed her first child which didn’t die soon after childbirth, Joseph Smith III. He would eventually go on to lead the Reorganized church starting in April of 1860, 16 years after Joseph Smith’s death. The actions which led to the formation of Zion’s camp were wildly complex, but suffice it to say, the Mormons had been removed from Jackson County in Missouri due to far too many issues we can’t get into here. You’ll have to go back to episodes 28-33 to get the details. Essentially, the Mormons threatened the way of life of the Missourians and the Missourians didn’t take kindly to it. The Missourians mobbed the Mormon’s property in Jackson county, burned their printing press, and violently removed them from the county.
In answer to this violence, Jo organized a Mormon militia of 205 armed soldiers and 11 women and a few children to help cook and clean during the journey. They marched the 800 miles from Kirtland to Missouri to redeem Zion by any means necessary. The whole debacle ended with no real violence but a couple of armed standoffs. Jo delivered his fishing-river revelation basically disbanding the militia, paying each soldier $1.14 for their trouble, and he told them that they’d have to find their own way back home to Ohio.
However, the rumors and headlines being printed incited much confusion. The Mormon militia was struck with cholera, eventually resulting in 68 people becoming sick, Joseph included, and 14 people in total dying. The unsubstantiated rumors filtering their way back to Kirtland during the march must have caused chaos and discord among the remaining Mormons in Ohio.
“What little news reached Emma in Kirtland was erroneous and slow arriving. On July 12 the Chardon Spectator announced that “a body of well-armed Mormons, lead on by their great prophet, Joe Smith, lately attempted to cross the river into Jackson county… a battle ensued, in which, Joe Smith was wounded in the leg, and the Mormons obliged to retreat;… Joe Smith’s limb was amputated, but he died three days after the operation.” Until word filtered back, or Joseph arrived in Kirtland two weeks later, Emma may have believed him dead.” Mormon Enigma p. 52
With little Julia Murdock being 2 years old, and young Joseph III being just over a year old, a church of hundreds of members, financial affairs in Kirtland in complete and utter chaos, and Emma with no professional training to provide for her family should Jo experience an untimely death, what thoughts must have plagued her mind? Her husband, by whose side she’d stuck for the past 7 years through so much tribulation, was dead from his first Mormon military campaign, perished as a result of religious persecution, how would she go on? Needless to say, the pain and suffering, physical and emotional, that Jo put Emma through was something we could never wrap our minds around today. All we can do is look at the sequence of events and try to sympathize with what it must have been like to live through them without the historical hindsight we have today.
Emma was one of the family. We can’t forget that she’d forsaken the Hale family and become a member of the Smith family when she said goodbye to her past life and joined the Smiths, first in Fayette, then in Ohio.
“After dinner Emma went to a High Council meeting with Joseph. The matter of business was the trial of a couple charged with whipping their daughter unreasonably. Lucy Mack Smith began to testify about matters that Joseph believed had long since been settled in the church, and he objected to his mother’s comments. William Smith rose and charged Joseph with invalidating her testimony. Joseph told William he was out of order and asked him to sit her down. Joseph threatened to walk out of the meeting, but Father Smith intervened and they returned to the issue at hand. The erring parents were finally reprimanded for raising a daughter who required the whip at fifteen years.
The Smith family fight did not diminish with the end of the meeting. Two days later Joseph, William, and Hyrum met at Emma’s house to settle their differences. William said Joseph always tried to carry out his own plans whether they were right or wrong—a charge Joseph regarded as an insult. When Hyrum attempted to make peace William rushed outdoors, bent upon vengeance. The argument upset Emma and the other Smiths two full months. Though the disagreement had begun over a relatively minor matter, the fury that sustained it came from a deeper source and would continue to disrupt the two brothers’ relationship.
A week after the argument with William, Joseph came home from Sunday services and scolded Emma for leaving the meeting before the Sacrament was passed. His words brought Emma to tears. “She made no reply,” his history stated, “but manifested contrition by weeping.” But he apparently attempted to ease some strain for Emma. On October 17, 1835, he called his family together, “arranged domestic concerns,” and dismissed his boarders.” Mormon Enigma p. 55-6
Everything that happened with the Smiths happened to Emma too. It was the only family she had. Her only sense of sisterhood came from the wives of the other Mormon elites and the younger women the Smiths took into their house for Emma to teach homemaking skills. You may wonder, why would Emma need help around the house and take in so many young women? Well, the truth of the matter is that Jo and Emma rarely ever lived in a home as just their own little nuclear family. The vast majority of their living conditions usually involved other families in the same home as them. Whether it was them living with other families like the Whitneys, Johnsons, the elder Smiths, the Morelys, or Jo and Emma living in their own home and boarding other Mormon families who were refugees at various times and didn’t have their own roof to live under. Whatever the case, Jo and Emma rarely had the privacy of their own home. Emma took these younger women into the Smith home, gave them room and board, and taught them homemaking skills they would need when they eventually married and had their own home to make.
Emma was always a giver and lover of nearly everybody with whom she came into contact. The community reflected her love. The Mormons loved Emma. She wasn’t just the elect lady, she was mother Emma to hundreds, then thousands of people who needed to see a powerful nuclear family at the head of their religion to feel secure. When turmoil and so-called religious persecution gripped the Mormon population, whether in Ohio, Missouri, New York, or Illinois, Emma and Jo were always the picture-perfect couple leading by example.
At least that’s how it looked to the public. Their marriage was filled with conflict like any other marriage. Arguably, Jo’s conduct brought about conflict Emma had to suffer through and deal with that most other marriages are insulated from.
We’ll get back to Emma after a quick word from our sponsor this week, 49dollarsites.com:
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Fanny Alger moved into the Smith home, likely in 1834 or 35 to learn from Emma homemaking skills. Jo took a liking to the young woman, there’s no way Emma couldn’t notice this. Jo had a track record by this point. Rumors of Eliza Winters, one of Emma’s friends, a few weeks after Jo and Emma had eloped, public rumors about the Stowell sisters which Jo stood on trial for, Jo being dragged out of the Johnson house in Hiram, Ohio because of funny business with Marinda Nancy Johnson. Wherever Jo went, rumors of adultery followed. What happened between Jo and Fanny couldn’t have been a mystery, or really even a surprise to Emma.
According to William E. McLellin in an 1872 letter to Emma’s eldest son, Joseph III, he explained what happened in explicit detail, recalling an 1847 conversation he held with Emma:
“[Emma] missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!!! She told me this story too was verily true.” http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/plural-wives-overview/fanny-alger/
Public rumors about the Fanny Alger affair, among other pressures, like Jo stealing thousands of dollars from the Mormons through the KSS company, overwhelming debt as a result of the Kirtland Temple construction and dedication, rumors of Jo’s commanding Mormons to assassinate a wealthy creditor in Kirtland by the name of Grandison Newell, and countless other reasons Jo had enemies, Kirtland became too hostile for Emma and Jo to remain. They fled in the middle of the night in January 1838, headed for Missouri with almost no possessions and the three-story printing office in flames behind them on the horizon.
Prior to their flight from Kirtland, Emma had taken control of Jo’s terrible financial record. He’d woven such a tangled mess already and needed some real help. Emma began to become more autonomous and powerful in organizing church affairs out of sheer necessity.
“People who were convinced that Joseph had intended a swindle at the outset attacked him verbally and threatened him physically. This disruption forced Joseph to leave the city frequently. As a consequence, Emma again took in boarders. Whether they paid in cash or kind, the results benefited the family. IN Joseph’s absence Emma earned their income and decided how to spend it. She bought, sold, bartered, and traded. Her letters to Joseph reveal that she wrote as a business partner, clearly expecting that he would consider what she had to say. She negotiated with men in solving her financial difficulties, and though she did not always succeed, she became a person to be dealt with, not ignored.”
While Jo was in hiding, he and Emma shared a brief letter exchange which seems to exhibit thinly-veiled frustration at his lack of personal wealth management and his need to leave abruptly without even saying good bye.
“I cannot tell you my feelings when I found I could not see you before you left, yet I expect you can realize them, the children feel very anxious about you because they don’t know where you have gone. I have got all the money that I have had any chance to, and as many goods as I could… I verily feel that if I had no more confidence in God than some I could name, I should be in a sad case indeed but I still believe that if we humble ourselves, and are as faithful as we can be we shall be delivered from every snare that may be laid for our feet, and our lives and property will be saved and we redeemed from all unrenderable encumbrances.”
Her next letter exhibits her feelings even more explicitly, written a mere 8 days later:
“I do not know what to tell you, not having but a few minutes to write, the situation of your business is such as is very difficult for me to do anything of any consequence, partnership matters give everybody such an unaccountable right to every particle of property or money they can lay their hands on, that there is no prospect of my getting one dollar of current money or even get the grain you left for our bread, as I sent to the French place for that wheat and brother Strong says that he shall let us only have ten bushel, he has sold the hay and keeps the money… Dr. Cowdery tells me he can’t get money to pay the postage of the office… Brother Parish has been very anxious for some time past to get the little mare, and I do not know but it would be your will to have him have her, but I have been so treated that I have come to the determination not to let any man or woman have anything whatever without being well assured, that it goes to your own advantage… It is impossible for me to do anything, as long as ever body has so much better right to all that is called yours than I have.”
This was the Panic of 1837 and the collapse of the KSS company. Capital had completely evaporated and creditors were waxing urgent on getting their dues collected. Where was Jo during all of this? In Boston looking for buried treasure. Hiding out from everybody in Kirtland is a better explanation, but he’d been approached by his brother who told him about a guy who knew where some buried treasure could be found in MA, so Jo took the opportunity to jump right on that bandwagon out of town. On his return trip, Bloody Brigham Young met Jo a day’s ride out of Kirtland and told him of an assassination plot by the Quorum of Apostles waiting for him upon his return.
Jo thwarted the attempt by simply having advanced word of it happening, but Warren Parrish did burst into a meeting at the Kirtland temple with an entourage of disaffected Mormons, holding the leadership at gunpoint and claiming the Church was in apostasy. These are the circumstances Jo was dragging Emma through.
You have to wonder how often she was left at home while letters for Jo were piling up, people were knocking on the door every few minutes wanting to have a word with the prophet, 3 kids crying because the scary men at the door were yelling, all while Jo was in hiding, how often did she reminisce on her charmed life in Harmony before meeting Joseph Smith and yearn for a simpler time? To the public she exhibited a stoic first lady of the highest regard, never voicing her personal wants, never engaging with the speculative dribble of gossip constantly circulating; who was she in private? Who was Emma behind closed doors when it was just her and her children? What were conversations like between her and the prophet?
Their midnight flight to Missouri resulted in them living with the Harris family. Not Martin Harris, Jo had sucked that money fountain dry and he remained in Kirtland part of the Mormon congregation which had excommunicated Jo. This was the Harris family of George W. and Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris. Joseph’s diary recounts the situation as Jo, Emma, and the Smith children Julia Murdock, Young Joseph III and Frederick Granger entered Far West, Missouri.
“On the 14th of March , as we were about entering Far West, many of the brethren came out to meet us, who also with open arms welcomed us to their bosoms. We were immediately received under the hospitable roof of Brother George W. Harris, who treated us with all possible kindness, and we refreshed ourselves with much satisfaction, after our long and tedious journey.” http://josephsmithspolygamy.org/plural-wives-overview/lucinda-pendleton-harris/
Lucinda Pendleton was the widow of the infamous William Morgan who’d published his expose of Masonry in 1826 and went missing soon afterwards in the custody of Masons. During the two months Jo and Emma lived with the Harrises, Jo courted Lucinda and took her to wife. Even in a time of a dire situation like their lives being threatened, forcing the Smiths to abruptly flee to Missouri, Jo found time to court a new wife in the same household as he, Emma, and the kids were living in. The historical record can’t prove whether or not Emma was aware of this relationship. Biographers claim she was completely oblivious to the majority of Jo’s wives and there’s no way to unequivocally prove otherwise. We do know, however, that she was aware of at least 7 of his more than 33 wives and tacitly granted her approval of his taking those women. The majority of those 7 historians know she was aware of were younger women who were living in the Smith home as she was teaching them homemaking skills.
The year of 1838 in Missouri resulted in the Mormon war. Jo, Sidney Rigdon, Hyrum Smith, and a couple dozen other Mormons ended up in Liberty or Richmond jail while the Mormon exodus from Missouri to Quincy, Illinois was being organized by the remaining Quorum of Twelve who weren’t incarcerated. Brigham Young was at the forefront of this organization effort, elevating his status in the community and garnering due respect for his tireless efforts in moving thousands of Mormon war refugees hundreds of miles with minimal casualties.
While Jo was interred in the deplorable conditions of Liberty Jail, Emma made a number of visits to see her husband. Sometimes with Joseph III, other times alone. Some times staying a day, other times staying 2 days. Jo was in Liberty Jail awaiting a jury trial on charges of arson, robbery, and high treason against the Union for inciting the Mormon war and aggressively attacking a state militia. Should his conviction go through, Jo and friends faced the gallows. This ultimatum must have been a dark cloud over Emma’s visits. What do you say to your spouse when there’s nothing you can do to help him and he’s facing the death penalty? Did they talk about the cold weather? Did they talk about how fast the kids are growing up?
A few letters passed between Jo and Emma during his time in Liberty Jail are extant today and they reveal a profound heartache of Jo to return to his family and an overwhelming sense of worry on Emma’s part. During one of these visits, with the gallows awaiting Joseph Smith, Young Joseph III was brought in and Jo pronounced a blessing on his head that he would inherit all the keys and blessings bestowed on his father. In later years, Young Jo didn’t remember the details of the blessing, just that it happened, and it was never recorded, but historians know it happened from accounts of the other men in the jail when the blessing occurred.
Eventually it came time for Emma to pick up what little possessions she could along with the kids and move from Far West to Quincy, Illinois. She and others took great pains to preserve information for our benefit today.
“While Joseph was imprisoned, his scribe, James Mulholland, had stayed in Emma’s home and kept Joseph’s papers. When the local men became unruly, Mulholland gave the papers to his sister-in-law, thinking a woman might escape search. “Immediately on taking possession of the papers,” Ann Scott related, “I made two cotton bags of sufficient size to contain them ,sewing a band around the top ends of sufficient length to button around my waist; and I carried those papers on my person in the day-time, when the mob was round, and slept with them under my pillow at night… I gave them to sister Emma Smith… on the evening of her departure for Commerce.”…
The Mississippi had frozen over before Emma arrived. Fearful of the thin ice, she separated the two horses, put Charlie on her wagon and trailed Jim behind, then walked apart with two-and-a-half-year-old Frederick, and eight-month-old Alexander in her arms. She had Julia hold tightly to her skirt on one side, positioned young Joseph on the other, and, with the heavy bags of Joseph’s papers fastened securely to her waist, Emma walked across the frozen river to safety. Of this trek she later wrote, ‘No one but God knows the reflections of my mind and the feelings of my heart when I left our house and home, and almost all of everything that we possessed excepting our little children, and took my journey out of the State of Missouri, leaving [Joseph] shut up in that lonesome prison. But the reflection is more than human nature ought to bear, and if God does not record our sufferings and avenge our wrongs on them that are guilty, I shall be sadly mistaken.’” Mormon Enigma p. 79
What an amazing human being. 4 children, a couple of horses and a wagon with a few small provisions, none of their furniture or creature comforts, and two heavy bags around her waist of Jo’s papers which would have proved him guilty of treason and fully deserving of the gallows, thus the close guarding of them, all of that for hundreds of miles in the dead of winter to get her and her family to safety in Quincy, Illinois.
Thousands of Mormon refugees pouring into Quincy and the surrounding areas. Living out of wagons and makeshift shacks haphazardly constructed from a few felled trees, these people became ravaged by sickness and malnourishment.
Emma took on the role of medicine woman, administering to the sick and waiting by their bedside at the cost of her own health and sanity.
Jo and Emma continued to exchange letters while he languished in jail prior to his escape. He sent an epistle to the church on March 21. What’s particularly remarkable about this epistle is that Jo asked Emma read it to the congregation. Not Brigham Young who was essentially second in command in the area. Not Sidney Rigdon who’d been released on a writ of Habeas Corpus and was acting president of the Church in Jo’s absence… It was Emma who read the epistle to the Saints commanding them to compiles bills for what they’d lost which Jo would eventually present to the President of the United States, Martin Van Buren.
Once Jo finally escaped, the situation is absolutely incredible.
“A disheveled traveler leaned against the side rail [of the ferry] with his head turned away. Ragged pants were tucked inside old boots full of holes. He wore a blue cloak with the collar turned up to hide his face, and a wide-brimmed black hat drooped down over his unkempt beard. His skin was pale and his body wasted. Dimick approached the ferry as the man guardedly raised his head. “My God!” Huntington exclaimed. “Brother Joseph, is that you?”
Alarmed, joseph hushed Dimick and immediately asked about Emma and the children. Huntington explained that they were several miles away and asked if he did not want to find his parents first. Impatient at any delay, Joseph insisted, “Take me to my family as quick as you can.” Dimick located a second horse and Joseph slouched in the saddle to avoid detection as they negotiated the back streets of tow. Joseph did not realize that Mormons could hold their heads up in Quincy.
As they approached the Cleveland house Dimick hung back, suspecting that a reunion worth observing might be at hand. Emma glanced through the door at the stranger stopping at the yard and recognized him before he had time to dismount. She ran through the door and was in Joseph’s arms before he was halfway to the front gate.”
After a year-long war and so many trials, 5 months of internment in a horrible jail with deplorable conditions, Jo suspecting he’d been poisoned and fed human flesh, Emma moving the family and their few possessions hundreds of miles through the dead of Midwest winter, sickness ravaging every camp of Mormons, thousands of people destitute with nowhere to turn, Emma and Jo were finally reunited. What a reunion it must have been for Dimick Huntington to watch. Emma and the children were living with the Clevelands in Quincy and Jo was glad that his family was cared for by a few trusted Mormon elites.
The Clevelands would eventually have a plot in the city of Nauvoo adjacent to the Smith homestead before Jo and Emma moved into the Nauvoo Mansion. Jo would also eventually court Sarah Cleveland to be one of his wives, the relationship was likely cultivated during this time when Jo and Emma lived with them.
That was a recurring theme from day one with Jo and Emma. They would move into a Mormon’s home, and it wasn’t long before Jo was sleeping with one of the women there. 1832 with Marinda Nancy Johnson, Fanny Alger living with the Smiths in 1835-6, Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris in 1838, Sarah Cleveland in 1839-40, and the list continues. All of these relationships cultivated right under Emma’s nose…. She had to have known.
We can’t know what it was like, but if historians are able to pick out these patterns, how could Jo’s own partner not pick them up. Regardless of the polygamous relationships Jo was cultivating throughout his career as prophet of the restoration, Emma just kept being the picture-perfect first lady of Mormonism, home-making, administering to the sick, sewing clothing, or anything else duties dictated her to fill her time with.
“When the cool fall air killed the mosquitoes, the malaria gradually decreased and Emma turned her attention to bringing some order to her house. She took in two young girls, Julia and Savilla Durfee, to work for her, Julia as seamstress and teacher, Savilla as maid. Emma’s kitchen duties were probably similar to the other women’s. They dried fruits and vegetables and cured meat. They wrapped rock-hard maple sugar loaves and hung them from rafters in the smokehouses, then hammered off small pieces as needed. Most of the milk was made into cheese which drained from cloth bags or perforated buckets hung from tree limbs or rafters. Kitchen utensils were simple homemade wooden cutting boards, rolling pins, spoons, and doughboxes. Emma might have beaten eggs with a whisk made of birch twigs tied together. A wringer and a washboard always stood nearby. For clothing to be very clean, the white things were boiled with homemade soap, making washday a daylong affair.” ME p. 86
So many things we take for granted today, homemaking was truly a full-time job. Emma continued to take in the sick and weary, often giving her own bed to the sick and needy, leaving her and Jo to sleep on the floor in front of the fireplace. She never ceased singing or humming while she worked.
William Holmes Walker: “I arrived at his [Joseph’s] house about nine o’clock, just as his family was singing, before the accustomed evening prayer. His wife Emma, leading in the singing. I thought I had never heard such sweet, heavenly music before.” ME p. 89
This book continues to surprise me with how dynamic it makes Jo and Emma. We find stories like this on page 90:
“One morning as Emma prepared breakfast the family heard a hesitant knock. Young Joseph answered the door. A black man named Jack stood waiting to see the Mormon leader. When invited in, he said he preferred to wait until the meal was over. Jack had lost one arm just below the elbow when a cannon discharged prematurely during a Fourth of July celebration. The illness and fever that followed kept the man from working, and he had used up all his savings. Now he stood before the Smiths’ door and explained that he could not get work because he looked so shabby. Joseph brought out a handsome buckskin suit that was his pride and gave it to the black man, who soon found a position on a steamer. Long before the suit wore out, he pressed payment for it on Joseph, who refused to accept it. The suit had been a gift.”
The giving and humble nature of Joseph and Emma Smith shines through in a number of pleasant stories like this that humanize Jo and Emma. They were the power couple the Mormons needed to be the standard bearers of society. But we can’t forget they were human just like you and me. They had flaws, desires, complex emotions from anger and frustration to love and tranquility. Jo’s habits also can’t be ignored here, he was always on the prowl for women who were susceptible to his status in the community. His insatiable urge to be with as many women as possible was constrained by the logistics of public scrutiny, requiring him to invent novel solutions.
“During the spring Joseph constructed a large room on the back of the Homestead. A great fireplace in the north end allowed the extension to be used as a kitchen and the two original rooms became sleeping quarters. A special retreat lay hidden under the house. Part way down the steps leading to the cellar, Joseph cut the timbers bearing the steps, then hinged the stairs so a couple of them could be lifted forward. This gave entry to a small vaulted room with a dry brick floor and bricked walls large enough for two people to occupy either sitting or lying down.”
Yes, Jo built a non-consensual immorality room in his house, right under Emma’s nose. Sure it was used when he was hiding from authorities, but we have to understand the primary purpose for this secret room under the stairs of the Nauvoo homestead was a damn rape cellar. Just prior to this being constructed, Emma and Jo took in the Partridge sisters after the death of Edward Partridge in May 1840. Emma would consent to Jo taking the Partridge sisters to wife while they lived in the Smith home. She knew Jo was sleeping with them, and he was probably using this little secret room to consummate the polygamous marriages while Emma and kids were on the other side of the secret entrance.
Any discussion of Emma often devolves into what her views on polygamy were. Was she okay with it? How many wives did she know about? Was she bitterly opposed but stuck in her marriage with the prophet and couldn’t control her husbands urges? As we’ll see in coming episodes discussing the Relief society, of which Emma was unanimously elected president, polygamy was constantly a rumor factory that Emma had to deal with. Rumors of adultery eventually led to the dissolution of the Relief Society and the assassination of the prophet. All of this happened with Emma in full view of what was happening, even if Jo was able to conceal the majority of his marriages from Emma.
Often absent from conversations about Emma and Mormon polygamy is the possibility that she may have been willing and consenting to some extent, but Jo just took it and ran with it. That’s a controversial stance, but maybe Emma and Jo were just free-love people and Mormonism was a bit closer to the free-love society as many anti-Mormons painted it in the day. On the surface, Mormonism was a unique restorationist Protestant Christian cult, behind closed doors, who knows what real Mormonism was like? Maybe Emma and Jo together enjoyed the company of other couples after the candles went out from time to time. Maybe Emma gave Jo a hall-pass at some point and he went on to abuse the privilege to the point that everything got out of everybody’s control, even his own.
I’ll be the first to admit that claiming Mormonism was a sex-cult among other things runs counter to the majority of the evidence available to historians, counter to the Victorian culture’s view on sexuality and reproduction, and definitely runs counter to how Mormonism and Mormon history are largely interpreted today, but we’re basing our perception on limited data. This line of conjecture is based on my own conclusions that Joseph and Emma Smith were anything but conventional. I think they were progressive in many ways and I don’t think they held to the standards of sexuality that 19th-century American society dictated, which ruffled a lot of feathers.
Emma’s involvement and consent to polygamy isn’t binary. She didn’t either completely approve or completely disapprove of it. I think she consented to some of Jo’s marriages and Jo took it a thousand steps too far. I think they were both caught up in the drama and controversy that polygamy and rumors of adultery stirred. Emma finding love letters from Eliza R. Snow, her own secretary in the Relief Society, on Jo’s person and her possibly pushing Eliza down the stairs causing her to miscarry her only pregnancy didn’t happen in a vacuum. I think she knew full well that Eliza and Jo were in love and at some point, early in their relationship, she may not have had a problem with it as she was very close friends with Eliza Snow. But, to see your primary partner growing closer to another person in a poly relationship can cause a lot of jealousy and is one of the main breakers in poly relationships.
Whatever we think was going on behind closed doors in Nauvoo, we can never actually know. The sparse record of polygamy and open relationships in Mormonism is based solely on the scant bits of evidence historians can collect about it. Whether Emma consented to many of Jo’s poly relationships or whether she herself had multiple partners, it’s impossible to know and it’s even harder to bend the available evidence to fit such a narrative. I recognize that. This is merely speculation for the purpose of adding some depth to the historical character of Emma Smith and possibly approaching the subject with some nuance.
Whatever history truly held, we can never know for sure. We also shouldn’t reduce Emma to the blushing bride mafia wife as is so often the case when she enters the sphere of historical discourse. These one-dimensional portraits painted of the historical Emma provide a lot of insight, but she’s so often reduced to a few platitudes of her character without much nuance to add personality to who the human being, Emma Hale Smith Bidamon, really was. And for what it’s worth, we’ve spent a fair amount of time in our examination of Emma today, talking about Joseph’s polygamy. She’s so often inextricably tied her husband’s sexuality which isn’t fair. We’ve tumbled into the same pitfall today. Let’s continue to add depth to Emma moving forward as the church body she was responsible for, the Relief Society, continues to develop and grow. Emma was amazing. I’ll leave you with a few more snapshots into her personality to close us out for today.
“During these months Emma faced the challenges of domestic life. Her growing children sometimes displayed a streak of independence, a rightful inheritance in that family. Once Julia watched one of Sidney Rigdon’s small daughters get what she wanted by banging her head on the floor and kicking the furniture. Julia decided to try the same approach. “Don’t you go Lacy Rigdon on me,” Emma scolded, and picked her child up from the floor.” ME p. 90
“After [John C. Bennett] had found another place to live, he still took many of his meals at Emma’s house. Young Joseph recalled that his mother would set a loaf of her bread in front of the fire until the end was toasted brown, then cut off a thin slice and replace the loaf. Thus she prepared Bennett’s supper of toasted bread and milk, “Just as he liked it.” ME p. 92
“Emma and the wives of “other distinguished officers [often] accompanied their companions on parade.” One woman later wrote of Emma’s fondness for horses and said she “could manage them well in riding or driving. Many can recall seeing her mounted on horseback beside her husband in military parade and a grander couple could nowhere be found. She always dressed becomingly, and a riding costume showed off her shapely figure to the best advantage.” ME p. 93
And one final quote of a description left behind by Emmeline B. Wells that I think offers a wonderful picture of the Elect Lady of Mormonism.
“Sister Emma was benevolent and hospitable; she drew around her a large circle of friends, who were like good comrades. She was motherly in her nature to young people, always had a houseful to entertain or be entertained. She was very high-spirited and the brethren and sisters paid her great respect. Emma was a great solace to her husband in all his persecutions and the severe ordeals through which he passed; she was always ready to encourage and comfort him, devoted to his interests, and was constantly by him whenever it was possible. She was a queen in her home, so to speak, and beloved by the people, who were many of them indebted to her for favors and kindnesses.” ME p. 118
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