As a leader of women, Eliza Roxcy Snow
’s influence was unparalleled. She was present at the organization of the Nauvoo Female Relief Society on March 17, 1842, and as its first secretary carefully preserved and transported the organization’s minutes across the plains to Utah. She instructed the women from these minutes when Brigham Young called her in 1867 to travel to individual wards and stakes to reestablish the society Churchwide. She led the Relief Society in enterprises such as grain storage, silk culture, medical training, home industry, and political activism. She chaired the governing board of Deseret Hospital and presided over women’s temple ordinance work in Salt Lake City and St. George. Proclaimed “Zion’s poetess” by the Prophet Joseph Smith, she left a legacy of nearly five hundred poems on historical, occasional, doctrinal, and sometimes personal themes. Eliza’s gift for versifying became apparent as a schoolgirl when she surprised her teachers by submitting her assignments in rhyme. Beginning in 1825 her poems appeared in more than a dozen different publications, including the Messenger and Advocate, The Wasp, Times and Seasons, Nauvoo Neighbor, Deseret News, Millennial Star, Juvenile Instructor, The Mormon,
and Woman’s Exponent.
Early work appeared under pen names such as Angerona, Narcissa, Tullia, and Ironica. Her first volume of poetry, Poems, Religious, Historical and Political,
was published in 1856 with volume two following in 1877. A promise made in her patriarchal blessing that many songs that “were dictated by [her] pen” would be heard by future generations has seen fulfillment as Latter-day Saint hymnbooks from 1835 to the present have included her compositions. In a fitting tribute, the annual poetry contest sponsored by the Relief Society bears her name. [from Discoveries: Two Centuries of Poems from Mormon Women,
Included in 75 Significant Mormon Poets