Eliza R. Snow, 1804-1887

Happy Women’s History Month!

Eliza R. Snow is well known as one of “Mormonisms Founding Mothers.” She was a spiritual giant whose influence is felt today.

Dr. Jenny Reeder says: “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.”

Because she kept a ledger and the minutes as secretary of the Relief Society, Eliza became intimately familiar with the work of women. She carried the minutes book from Nauvoo Illinois, to Winter Quarters, Nebraska when members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were driven out of Illinois. She carried it further while walking across the plains and arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.

A lesser-known piece of Eliza’s history (and only recently discovered through another woman’s journal) is that she was sexually assaulted by eight Missourians during 19th-century tensions between LDS settlers and their Midwestern enemies, leaving her infertile. Typical of the time, it was not openly discussed. Typical of Eliza’s indomitable spirit, she carried on; it did not define her.

“It is uphill, and if you continue you will attain to something much higher than those who go downhill.”

Eliza was a poet and would compile over 500 poems, many of which became songs in the hymnal (Oh My Father being one of my favorite). She became a leading voice for women as she traveled around Utah as General Relief Society President speaking, training Relief Society presidencies, working with bishops and congregations, and helping Utah women secure the right to vote.

In the 1850’s, Eliza was dismissive of women’s rights, but twenty years later she appeared to have had a change of heart, becoming quite the suffragette. On a cold January in 1870, Eliza, Sarah Kimball, and Martha Hughes Cannon planned an “Indignation Meeting,” using the Relief Society to band women together.

“It is our duty to vote, sisters! Let no trifling thing keep you at home.”

Always interested in education, Snow encouraged women to care for the poor, to “expand their priorities beyond domestic routines to also include…social reform, home manufacture, intellectual, and spiritual discussion.” I took note that in 1872, Eliza announced the formation of a physiology class!

Tell the sisters to go forth and discharge their duties, in humility and faithfulness and the Spirit of God will rest upon them and they will be blest in their labors. Let them seek for wisdom instead of power and they will have all the power they have wisdom to exercise.”

Eliza’s history is so much richer than this small excerpt. Below are some sources of reading that will no doubt leave you inspired.

Thank you, Eliza!

Sources: utahwomenshistory.org, Zion’s Suffragists, sltrib, At the Pulpit by Reeder and Holbrook

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