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Latter-day Saint History

You Can Now See the Journals of Two Early Sister Missionaries

Eliza Chipman and Josephine Booth were two of the first Latter-day Saint sister missionaries. Their journals are now available online.

The Church Historian’s Press announced the digital publication of the journals of two early sister missionaries at an event in Salt Lake City today. The journals of Eliza Chipman and Josephine Booth represent two of the earliest women to serve as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints anywhere in the world. Similar to the publication of the Eliza R. Snow discourses, these new volumes make substantial contributions to our understanding of the lives of early Latter-day Saint women.


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Press Release: Journals of Early Sister Missionaries

March 19, 2024
SALT LAKE CITY—The Church Historian’s Press is pleased to announce the digital publication of the diaries of Eliza Chipman and Josephine Booth, two of the first young women to serve as full-time missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The journals and accompanying materials are available online at churchhistorianspress.org/early-sister-missionaries.

In 2012, the church’s First Presidency lowered the age of eligibility for sister missionaries to nineteen years. Since then, women have stepped forward in greater numbers to preach the gospel in every corner of the world. More than ten thousand young Latter-day Saint women are now serving full-time missions.

Chipman and Booth were pioneering figures who served as missionary companions 125 years ago in Scotland. Chipman was the second companion of Inez Knight. In 1898, Knight and her friend Jennie Brimhall became the first young single women ever called to serve as missionaries for the church. Booth was Chipman’s second companion. This first cohort of sister missionaries paved the way for the tens of thousands of women who would follow.

Eliza Chipman was an early sister missionary born in 1874 and called to serve in 1898. Her journal is now available online from The Church Historian’s Press. Credit: Church History Library.

These two significant journals provide a detailed view of the Latter-day Saint missionary experience at the turn of the twentieth century. Modern-day missionaries will quickly recognize just how much that experience has changed in the intervening century. For example, missionaries no longer work independently of their companions, take brief personal trips, teach in mixed-gender pairs, or participate in secular entertainment. Today’s missionaries also use a more uniform teaching approach than their predecessors. On the other hand, many aspects of Chipman’s and Booth’s experience will resonate with today’s readers: frequent rejection, tension between companions with different personalities, anxiety about speaking frequently in public, the excitement of experiencing a new place and culture, and the joy of helping others draw closer to God.

The publication of Journals of Early Sister Missionaries is part of a larger effort to add depth and diversity to the Church Historian’s Press website. “Our hope is to make the website a premier destination for research on Latter-day Saint history,” said Matthew McBride, director of publications for the Church History Department.

“One way we do this is making important primary sources available, accessible, and searchable.” The website already features significant diaries such as those of Emmeline B. Wells and George Q. Cannon. “We are also working on improvements to the website, including an updated search that will make it more useful to scholars and others,” McBride added.

Lisa Tait, a manager and women’s history specialist with the Church History Department, observed, “Publishing the Booth and Chipman journals is also a reflection of the Church History Department’s ongoing commitment to highlighting the voices and experiences of Latter-day Saint women.” Significant publications about women’s history already featured on the site include The First Fifty Years of Relief Society, At the Pulpit, and the Discourses of Eliza R. Snow.


Observations: Journals of Early Sister Missionaries

The press event was held this morning at the Church History Library. It was easy to see the passion of those involved in the project, including Hannah Lenning and McKinsey Kemeny. Each of them knew the stories of Eliza and Josie like the back of their hands, and they both talked excitedly about how real the two early sister missionaries come across in their journals. It was also a special treat to see some of the artifacts that were displayed for the occasion.

You’ll want to thumb through the journals online, but these are some of the highlights from the press event:

  • Some things change. Missionaries today have rigid schedules, clear rules, and helpful teaching materials. Early sister missionaries like Eliza Chipman and Josephine Booth didn’t have any of these things. They learned on the fly. It was entertaining to hear stories about occasionally sleeping in until the afternoon or dancing with elders, and inspirational to think about how Eliza and Josephine pioneered paths for teaching the gospel.
Josephine Booth was one of the earliest sister missionaries. She served from 1899–1901, and traveled with Susa Young Gates when departing Salt Lake City. Credit: Church History Library.
  • Others stay the same. One of the presenters commented about how the journals of these early sister missionaries often included feelings of inadequacy,—something that likely resonates with missionaries today.
  • Personalities shine through. It’s a joy to find humorous stories in anyone’s journal, but there’s something about finding them in early histories that makes our generations feel closer together. Barely a page into her journal, Eliza Chapman talks about arriving in Salt Lake to receive her endowment, only to realize she had forgotten her “temple pass.” She quickly chastizes herself for her being flighty, and then makes one observation after another with a candor that characterizes her entries. If it weren’t for frequent references to historical events and pioneer royalty, you’d be tempted to think you were reading a contemporary account.
  • Sparking a change in mission calls. Shout-out to Ardis Parshall of keepapitchinin.org for this observation. Eliza Chipman’s mission call (called a “Letter of Appointment”) uses a template designed for elders, and crosses out the word “Brother” to indicate “Sister.” Less than a year later, Josephine “Josie” Booth’s call included “Sister” in templated print. Ardis wondered if the women recognized their impact on this change.
Eliza Chipman’s missionary “Letter of Appointment” (right) crosses out the word “Brother” and writes in “Sister.” Less than a year later, Joseph Booth’s letter (left) included “sister” in templated text, indicating the growing importance of early sister missionaries. Credit: Kurt Manwaring.
  • Family history matters. The family donor for one of the journals was in attendance. It was interesting to think how none of this would be possible if she hadn’t shared her history.
  • “Box B.” It’s common to hear of pioneer Latter-day Saint men receiving mission calls from “Box B” in Salt Lake. Similarly, it was a treat to see the famous mailbox referenced by an early sister missionary. Eliza Chipman wrote, “On the 12th day of August . . . I received a letter from Box B., which stated that my name had been suggested to take on a mission, to become an embassador of Christ, to leave my home on the seventeenth for Great Britain.”
  • There’s more to come. It sounds like there are near-term plans to add the journals of two more women, including Josephine Cluff, the stepmother of President Spencer W. Kimball.

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Further reading

Journals of early sister missionaries resources

  • Journals of Early Sister Missionaries (Link)
  • Images of Early Sister Missionaries (Link)
  • Eliza Chipman’s Journal, 1898–1900 (Link)
  • Josephine Booth’s Journal, 1899–1901 (Link)
  • People Mentioned in the Early Sister Missionary Journals (Link)

By Kurt Manwaring

Writer. History nerd. Latter-day Saint.

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