Women’s History Month is a time to remember women that have made history by making the world a better place to live. Here are three women that made history in the world and the Church by establishing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in their communities.
1. Tsune Ishida Nachie (1856-1938)
Tsune Ishida Nachie was the first native Japanese convert of the Church to enter the Laie Hawaii Temple and was beloved for her service to the missionaries in Japan, as well as her own missionary service.
Nachie was hired as a cook and housekeeper in the Japanese mission home in 1902 by Alma O. Taylor, the president of the Japan Mission. Unbeknownst to President Taylor and the missionaries, Nachie — who had spent the last 20 years as a Christian attending an episcopal church — was investigating the Church at the time she was hired. She asked to be baptized a month after she began working in the mission home and was baptized on Sept. 25, 1905, by Elder Frederick A. Caine.
Nachie quickly became involved in missionary work after her baptism. She frequently shared the gospel with friends and deeply cared for the missionaries in her care. Missionaries would refer to her as Obaasan, meaning Grandmother, as she served as a kind of surrogate mother to the young men far from home.
After 18 years of service and caretaking in the Japanese mission home, Nachie moved to Hawaii in 1923 after being funded by charitable contributions so she could begin work for the dead in the Laie Hawaii Temple.
According to a profile of her life written by Ardis E. Parshall in “Women of Faith in The Latter Days, Vol. 3,” Nachie “was the first Japanese convert to enter the temple, which she did on June 5, 1923, both for her own endowment and to be sealed to her deceased husband.”
Nachie continued her missionary efforts among the Japanese people in Hawaii as well. In April 1934, the first Japanese branch of the Church in Hawaii was created and in 1937 the Japanese Mission in Hawaii was organized. Nachie was credited “as a powerful influence in bringing about that organization.”
She continued to work in the temple and teach the gospel to the people of Hawaii until she passed away in 1938 after over 30 years of service.
2. Emmeline B. Wells (1828-1921)
Emmeline B. Wells was a well-known women’s rights advocate and journalist in the early days of the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Wells was baptized as a member of the Church at 14 years old after her mother encouraged her to meet with the missionaries. From a young age, it was said that she showed a promising future in writing. She was the only one of her nine siblings that received a private education and later earned a teaching certificate.
As a young adult, Wells endured the death of her infant son, the abandonment of her first husband and the death of her second husband. In 1852, she became a plural wife to Daniel H. Wells and had three daughters, who she raised in a home that “encouraged education and literary expression in the friends of her daughters who gathered there,” according to a profile about her life on the Church website.
In 1873, Wells began writing for the Woman’s Exponent, a feminist newspaper operated by women of the Relief Society. By 1877 she became editor of the paper, where she continued to be a voice for women until it was terminated over 30 years later in 1914. Wells was also called the fifth general Relief Society president in 1910 and served in this calling for 11 years until her death in 1921 at 93 years old.
Amongst her other achievements and occupations, Wells was best known for her work as a suffragist and advocate of women’s rights. She was a member of the National Council of Women (NCW), the International Council of Women (ICW) and the National Woman’s Press Association.
As a writer and editor for the Woman’s Exponent, Wells was able to attend The Women’s Delegates Trip to D.C. in 1879. There she met with the President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, his wife Lucy, and other congressional leaders as she advocated for the right to plural marriage against an anti-polygamy campaign happening at the time. It was also there that she connected with well-known women’s suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
Before her passing away in 1921, Wells lived to see the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting voting rights to all women in 1920.
In various diary entries, she wrote of her motivation for the work she performed for women’s suffrage and in her church callings.
“I have desired with all my heart to do those things that would advance women in moral and spiritual as well as educational work and tend to the rolling on of the work of God upon the earth,” Wells said.
To learn more about her life, read the digitized diaries of Emmeline B. Wells on the Church History website.
3. Amanda Inez Knight (1876-1937)
Amanda Inez Knight was one of the first female missionaries to be called to serve a mission unaccompanied by a husband. Knight was called, along with her companion Jennie Brimhall, to serve in the British Isles in 1898.
Knight and Brimhall served as examples of exemplary women of the Church as missionaries because — after the end of the era of plural marriage in the church — women in the Church were generally considered to be weak and oppressed by their husbands.
A few days after arriving in England, Knight and Brimhall had already begun proselyting and speaking in street meetings. Knight recorded in her journal how anxious she felt to be speaking in these meetings, according to an article on the Church History website.
“Attended and spoke in street meeting,” wrote Knight. “Regular cottage meeting we took part in. Still, it seemed to me I was worse frightened every time I was called upon to talk. Oh, those fearful trembling feelings I shall never forget, if I ever am free from them.”
Knight also detailed the opposition the sisters faced by mobs of those who were a part of the anti-Mormon league. On one occasion, they were chased by a mob wielding sticks, mud and rocks until they reached a police station where they stayed until a police officer escorted them home. Notwithstanding the persecution, she faced, in 1899 Knight shared in a letter to the Young Woman’s Journal how she felt the Lord had blessed her and her companion in their efforts of building up the kingdom of God.
“The Lord is abundantly blessing us in our labors,” Knight wrote. “And although we do not always have clear sailing and have even been forced to seek protection from mob violence in a police station, receiving the slurs of the mob and even spat upon by the enemy, together with rocks and sticks from their hands, yet we rejoice in the work. We do not find it hard to say, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do,’ for truly it is the ignorant who persecute us most. The Lord has said we must love Him with all our might, mind, and strength and to do this, means to be willing to sacrifice all things, and work faithfully for the upbuilding of His kingdom.”
Knight returned home from the mission field in 1900, she became dean of women at BYU for two years and continued her service in the Church by holding many callings. She was called to be in the Relief Society presidency at different times over the years and eventually served on the General Relief Society board.
Knight also became involved in political service after her mission. In 1924, she became the Utah delegate to the Democratic Convention in New York and later the Democratic Convention in Houston in 1928. She also served as a county chairman of the Women’s Liberty Loan Committee and the Women’s Council of Defense, as well as being the vice-chairman of the Utah County Red Cross.