“Do you know of any place on the face of the earth, where woman has more liberty, and where she enjoys such high and glorious privileges as she does here, as a Latter-day Saint?” Eliza R. Snow asked some five or six thousand women gathered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in January 1870 to protest against antipolygamy legislation. Zion’s poetess and Female Relief Society president would never complain of usurped rights or a confined sphere of activity, and she promised her sisters that no woman in Zion would need to mourn because her sphere was too narrow. Eliza Snow’s assertions were not mere rhetoric.
For more than twenty years she was “presidentess” of all Latter-day Saint organizations for women. Designated by her sisters an “elect lady,” she was said to have precedence “in almost everything pertaining to woman’s advancement among her people.” Not only was she an able administrator, she was an eloquent enunciator who proclaimed Church doctrine to her sisters in poetry, prose, and oratory that would fill volumes. Add to these distinctions the eminence of being a wife, consecutively, of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and the aura of spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues and healing, and it is not difficult to understand why this poetess-presidentess-priestess-prophetess was probably the most widely heard and widely heeded woman in nineteenth century Mormondom. What is woman’s position? What are her rights? What is her sphere? Eliza R. Snow certainly influenced (if not sometimes dictated) both practical and theoretical responses of Mormon women to the woman question.