When it comes to appreciating the women in our lives, late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley offered this advice in a 2003 general conference address: "Be kind to the women. They constitute half of the population and are mothers to the other half."
In honor of mothers and women everywhere, here is a look at 11 remarkable women in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The list includes women of different cultures who endured difficult challenges. They are mothers, wives, activists, physicians, missionaries, professors, writers and politicians. Each one is distinguished in her own way.
"These women leave behind a legacy upon which we can draw inspiration and strength," said Brittany A. Chapman, a historian in the Church History Department. “When we remember their stories, they become part of our own and help us to live better lives.”
Note: Information for this list was taken from Volumes 1-3 of the series "Women of Faith in the Latter Days."
Mary Fielding Smith is numbered among the great pioneer women in early church history.
She married Hyrum Smith after his first wife died. Her son, Joseph F. Smith, who became the sixth president of the church, was born while Hyrum and other church leaders were in Liberty Jail.
After Hyrum and Joseph Smith were killed, she led her family to Utah despite many hardships.
She was a woman of meager means, but remained stalwart and faithful until her death in 1852.
Jane Manning James was among the first of African descent to join the church, according to a profile written by Margaret Blair Young in “Women of Faith in Latter Days, Vol. 2.”.
She was baptized in Connecticut in 1842. When denied passage on a ship, James and other family members walked more than 800 miles to Nauvoo.
Jane was invited to live with the Prophet Joseph and Emma Smith for a time before crossing the plains and settling in Utah.
Over the next several decades, James endured tremendous adversity in terms of divorce, poverty, and the deaths of several children and grandchildren.
Young wrote that when James died in 1908, the Deseret News published this tribute: “Few persons were more noted for faith and faithfulness than was Jane Manning James, and though of the humble of earth numbered friends and acquaintances by the hundreds.”
Elmina Shepard Taylor joined the LDS Church as a teenager and married another convert, George Hamilton Taylor, and they moved from Omaha, Nebraska, to Salt Lake City.
The couple had seven children, three of whom died in infancy or early childhood.
Taylor served in several church callings over the years, highlighted by her call as the first Young Women general president in 1880. She held this position until she died in 1904 at age 74. During those years, Taylor oversaw the publication of the first issue of the monthly Young Women’s Journal, the organization of the first general young women conference and the designation of Tuesday as mutual night, according to her profile on LDS.org.
Emily S. and her husband, Franklin S. Richards, were leaders in Utah's Suffrage Movement.
In addition to serving for more than 30 years on the Relief Society General Board, Emily Richards proposed that Utah organize a woman suffrage group to be affiliated with the National Woman Suffrage Association. She formed friendships with such leaders as Susan B. Anthony, Anna Howard Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt.
According to a profile written by Andrea G. Radke-Moss in "Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Vol. 3," one highlight of Richards' efforts on behalf of Utah women was her participation in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Richards was also involved in social and peace activism.
Raised in Utah and Nevada, Elizabeth C. McCune married her childhood sweetheart and successful businessman Alfred W. McCune.
While on a tour of Europe, McCune was invited to speak about Utah and the church with members of the European mission presidency. She was instrumental in helping church leaders realize the power of sister missionaries.
Tsune Nachie joined the church after she was hired to be a cook and housekeeper for the Japanese LDS mission in 1905.
For the next 18 years she became like a second mother to the missionaries.
She eventually moved to Hawaii to attend the temple and assist in missionary efforts among the Japanese people there.
Susa was a prominent Utah woman, author and a daughter of Brigham Young.
Among other things, she was a writer, publisher, advocate for women’s achievements, educator, missionary, genealogist, temple worker, wife and mother of 13, according to a profile written by Lisa Olsen Tait in Women of Faith in the Latter Days, Vol. 3."
After serving a mission with her husband to the Sandwich Islands in 1889, she founded the Young Woman’s Journal, which was adopted as the official magazine of the Young Ladies Mutual Improvement Association in 1897.
She founded the Utah Women’s Press Club and was named chairman of the National Council of Women. She also founded the Relief Society magazine. She authored novels and biographies, including one of her father, Brigham Young.
Martha Hughes Cannon was the first woman elected to a state senate in the United States. She was a Democrat and defeated her husband, a Republican.
She was also a pioneer in medicine and women's suffrage.
Maud May Babcock was a petite woman with a resounding voice.
Babcock authored several books in the fields of speech and elocution, founded the University of Utah departments of speech and physical education, produced more than 300 plays and earned the title “the first lady of Utah drama.”
In addition to her university and theatrical contributions, Babcock served for two decades on the board of the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, including 12 as president. She had a hand in the planning and building of the Deseret Gym. She was the first woman to hold the position of chaplain of the Utah Senate.
In church-related activity, Babcock was an avid genealogist. She served for many years on the general board of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association and enjoyed attending the temple.
Mary Elizabeth Woolley Chamberlain became the first woman in the U.S. to be elected as president of a town board or mayor, accompanied by an all-woman board that served for two years.
Chamberlain also served as the first female clerk of Kane County and was the mother of two sons.
Amanda Inez Knight and her friend Jennie Brimhall were called as the first young, single female missionaries called by the LDS Church anywhere in the world.
According to an article on LDS.org, Knight and her companion were called to Great Britain in 1898, at a time when anti-Mormon sentiment there was strong. They encountered several anti-Mormon individuals and even a mob, but were protected and able to perform their missionary labors and find those seeking truth, the article said.