Emmeline B. Wells

Emmeline B. Wells dedicated her life to advocating for women’s rights in Utah and the nation. She was a successful newspaper editor, journalist, and poet who strongly defended polygamy. 

She brought leadership talents, knowledge of politics, and dedication to women’s rights to the table. Wells played a large part in getting voting rights for women in Utah’s state constitution. 

More of the Story

Emmeline Wells

Emmeline B. Wells was born in Massachusetts in 1828 to David and Diadama Hare Woodward.  She enjoyed writing poetry and short stories and graduated from the New Salem Academy at fourteen years old. Wells joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1842 and faced discrimination because of her religious beliefs. She moved several times, including to Nauvoo, Illinois, in 1844 and to the Salt Lake Valley in 1848. Wells taught school, edited a newspaper, advocated for women’s rights, participated in and led many groups and political organizations, held many positions for the LDS church, and published several articles and books. She was a determined and dedicated woman!


Emmeline B. Wells married three times during her life.  She had a daughter with her first husband, James Harris, who passed away in infancy.  Harris died while working in the Indian Ocean as a sailor. Wells also practiced polygamy, or the practice of one man marrying more than one wife. On February 24, 1845, Wells became one of Newel K. Whitney’s wives. They had two daughters before Whitney died in 1850. She became Daniel Wells’s seventh wife in 1852, and they had three daughters together. 

Advocating for Women’s Rights

Emmeline B. Wells Monument at the Utah State Capitol Building

Wells dedicated her life to women’s rights movements. She was a suffragist, or someone who campaigned for women’s voting rights, and wrote many things explaining the importance of women getting the right to vote. Wells believed in women’s equality because of her mother’s many experiences trying to support a family without a husband.

Wells pushed for women’s suffrage in several ways. One way was to write articles about women’s voting rights using the name Blanche Beechwood instead of her own. She also worked with the Republican Party to gain political support for women’s voting rights. In 1879, she served as the Utah representative at a suffrage convention in Washington, D.C. She was also a delegate at the Utah State Constitutional Convention and joined the National Council of Women of the United States. She was one of the first women to vote when Utah territory granted suffrage to women in 1870. Wells didn’t just talk about women getting the vote or equality. She knew that sometimes people did not listen to women’s perspectives and ideas, so she found numerous ways to make her voice heard.

Emmeline B. Wells and fellow members of the 13th Ward Relief Society, 1875

Her Religious Leadership

Wells was an active member of the Relief Society, which is a women’s organization of the LDS church. She was the secretary and the president of the General Relief Society. She also helped to preserve wheat to help feed people during World War I. In fact, Wells received an award from President Woodrow Wilson, a medal for her work in helping people during the war. 

Wells Legacy

Emmeline B. Wells lived a life of courage and advocacy. She dedicated her life to supporting equality efforts; she helped to start the Utah State Historical Society and even served on the board of directors for the Deseret Hospital. She worked hard to advocate for others and draw attention to important issues. Today, you can visit a statue of Wells at the Utah State Capitol Building.

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