Smith, Bathsheba W.


Born on 3 May 1822 in Shinnston, West Virginia, Bathsheba W. Bigler was raised “in a genteel, upper South culture” (Ludlow, 1320). Her parents, Mark and Susannah (Ogden) Bigler, raised nine children on their 300-acre plantation. After joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1837, fifteen-year-old Bathsheba and her family moved to Missouri.

Soon after their arrival, the Biglers were driven out of Missouri by anti-Mormon mobs. By the spring of 1840 the family had fled to Nauvoo, Illinois, where Bathsheba married George A. Smith in 1841. George was a cousin to the prophet Joseph Smith and the youngest member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Bathsheba supported the Church’s doctrine of plural marriage and welcomed George’s plural wives into the family.

George served three missions for the Church while Bathsheba remained in Nauvoo with their two children. The family immigrated to the Salt Lake Valley in 1849 in the George A. Smith Company. As at Nauvoo, George was often called away on Church business. Bathsheba accompanied him on several of these trips during the early 1870s before his death in 1875.

Bathsheba helped secure women’s suffrage in the Territory of Utah, sat on the Deseret Hospital Board of Directors, and was matron of the Salt Lake Temple. One of the twenty founding members of the Relief Society at Nauvoo, Bathsheba was called in 1901 as the fourth General Relief Society President, which position she held until her death on 20 September 1910. During her nine years as president, Bathsheba oversaw publication of the first Relief Society handbook and helped gather funding for the Women’s Building in Salt Lake City.


Arrington, Harriet Horne. “Smith, Bathsheba Bigler,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow. New York: Macmillan, 1992.

Beecher, Maureen Ursenbach. “The ‘Leading Sisters’: A Female Hierarchy in Nineteenth Century Mormon Society.” Journal of Mormon History 9 (1982): 25–39.

Godfrey, Kenneth W., Audrey M. Godfrey and Jull Mulvay Derr, eds. Women’s Voices: An Untold History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1982.

Horne, Alice M., ed. Autobiography of Bathsheba Smith. Salt Lake City, 1901.

Jenson, Andrew. Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia.Vol. 1. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Memorial Association, 1901.

Swinton, Heidi S. “ ‘I Gently Closed the Door’: Bathsheba W. Smith, 1822–1910.” Chap. in Heroines of the Restoration, eds. Barbara B. Smith and Blythe Darlyn Thatcher, 128–139. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997.

Watt, Barbara Fluckiger. “Bathsheba Bigler Smith: Woman of Faith and Courage.” In Sister Saints, ed. Vicky Burgess-Olson, 201–221. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1978.