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Home > From Servitude to Sisterhood: The Evolution of Joseph Smith’s Female Followers

From Servitude to Sisterhood: The Evolution of Joseph Smith’s Female Followers

Founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith has been praised as a religious leader as well as attacked for his polygamous marriages during lifetime. Scholars, historians, and church members still find great discussion around this divisive topic. But closely examining Joseph Smith’s wives’ life throws fresh insight on the complicated realities underlying their interactions with him. The women who married Joseph Smith will be discussed on this page together with their histories, reasons for marriage, and contributions to the early Mormon society.

Emma Smith.

Emma Hale was the first wife Joseph Smith married at 22. Emma came from a well-known family and had great intellectual capacity as well as a good education. Joseph’s charm and spiritual talents drew her in; she knew they were inspired by heaven. Their marriage started at Nauvoo, Illinois, where Joseph founded his own city and temple gathering thousands of adherents nearby. Emma was vital in helping Joseph during good times and bad; she supervised housework while her husband was away, usually facing financial difficulties and bore six children. Until Joseph’s murder in Carthage Jail in 1844, her unflinching allegiance never changed.

Fanc Alger

First woman Joseph openly acknowledged as his wife was Fanny Alger. Living with the Smith family, adolescent house servant Fanny captured Joseph’s eye. Fanny first resisted his suggestion, but under persuasion from Joseph’s close friends she finally accepted. Not long afterward, Fanny left the Smith residence and relocated to Kirtland, Ohio, where she delivered twins fathered by Joseph. Fanny went back to her village after divorcing Joseph and remarried, thereafter bearing eight more children. Given the differences in the narratives offered by several sources, Fanny’s relationship with Joseph is historically still hotly debatable.

Ann Whitmer, Elizabeth “Lizzie”.

Devout believer of the Mormon faith, Elizabeth Ann Whitmer was cousin of another significant person in Mormon history, David Whitmer. Originally helping Joseph to record the Book of Mormon, Elizabeth first acted as a scribe. Elizabeth asked to be married to Joseph to deepen their relationship when she found out he had prophetic calling. Joseph granted her request, therefore securing their marriage at Nauvoo. Before Elizabeth passed suddenly after childbirth, together they had four children.

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Mary Beaman

Growing up with Brigham Young, who subsequently replaced Joseph as church president, Louisa Beaman was also At eighteen Louisa married fellow Mormon convert James Adams. James sadly died not too long ago, leaving Louisa vulnerable and alone. Seeking comfort, Louisa told Brigham Young she dreamed of seeing her dead partner in heaven. Hearing this, Brigham suggested she wed Joseph Smith, thinking it would help her realise her goals. Eventually Louisa agreed, joining Joseph as his twelfth wife. Louisa visited Joseph often throughout his incarceration, packing food and things to help him last.

Sarah Ann Whitney

Born in Vermont, Sarah Ann Whitney moved her family to New York after she joined the Mormon faith. After hearing Joseph’s lessons, Sarah developed intense love for him and proposed marriage herself. Joyful with her offer, Joseph gladly accepted. Sarah and Joseph had a close emotional relationship; Sarah was a confidante and trusted adviser. Sarah travelled westward to Utah Territory when Joseph passed, where she raised her children and kept up her religious practice.

Jane Climpson McNaught

Born in Scotland, Jane moved to Canada aged fourteen. Jane changed to Mormonism soon after arriving and moved south to join the church congregation at Nauvoo. There, Jane attracted Joseph’s attention and he asked her to be his seventeenth bride. Jane first hesitated, then agreed, having three children with Joseph. Sadly, all three of the newborns passed away from disease throughout childhood, leaving Jane and her surviving relatives much in grief and misery.

Lightner, Mary Elizabeth Rollins

Mary Elizabeth Rollins hailed from a powerful and rich family. Mary joined the Mormon church when still a teenager after becoming somewhat interested in spiritual concerns as a small child. Mary was immediately smitten when she met Joseph during one of his public speeches and asked him to wed her not too long after. Joseph easily agreed and let Mary join his fold. Mary delivered two sons while married to Joseph, but she sadly lost both within months of childbirth. Mary moved to Salt Lake City after Joseph’s detention and later execution, spending most of her time advocating women’s rights.

Ultimately, reading about these women’s life stories helps one to better understand the complex circumstances around Joseph Smith’s polygamy policies. Every lady offered different backgrounds and viewpoints to their interactions with Joseph, therefore helping the young Mormon movement to flourish. Their narratives also draw attention to some of the difficulties women in that age period experienced: limited access to resources and decision-making authority, society expectations on gender roles, and less educational possibilities. These elements surely affected how these women saw and interacted with Joseph’s propositions, therefore reflecting larger cultural standards and values that still shape our view of historical events today.