Mormon Inquiry

Mormon Inquiry

Emma Smith and her biographers

The Mormon Times reports on one of the more interesting MHA sessions in “Reflections of an Emma Hale Smith biographer.” Both stories make interesting reading: the story of Emma Smith, Joseph’s first wife; and the story of Linda King Newell, the surviving author of Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, which won the MHA best book award in 1985. Co-author Valeen Tippetts Avery passed away in 2006.

I have put up several posts on the book before, such as this one. The article focuses more on the adventure of actually writing the book.

Newell, along with co-author Valeen Tippetts Avery (who passed away in 2006), came together to write the book in 1976 after they realized there were not any major biographies dedicated to Joseph Smith’s wife. What followed were years of research, writing and frustration as they struggled both raise their young families in tandem with compiling a complete portrayal of Emma Smith.


Newell remembered that they divided up the labor. Since Newel lived in Utah, she would be in charge of researching the primary sources at the Church Archives, BYU, Utah State University, the University of Utah and other archives while Tippetts would concentrate on the secondary sources relating to Emma Smith and the beginnings of Mormonism. Newell lined up a babysitter “one day a week for my preschoolers and began researching in the various archives.” One source led to another and the research grew along with Avery’s children. Soon she was able to devote more time to researching in the archives and was then there “several days of the week.”

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