Last week, the Church History Department published online the missionary journals from two of the very first single sister missionaries ever to be called. The two women, Eliza Chipman and Josephine Booth, served in Scotland as companions 125 years ago. Being able to contrast the two journals gives a fuller picture of the lives they led and the struggles they endured. It adds an interesting layer of insight into their service that we would not receive from two unconnected sisters.

Eliza’s journals are more practical and serious, at times giving brief statements, while at others giving an unusually detailed account of her mission that those interested in history will enjoy. At times, she recounts entire conversations with investigators, and it’s clear that the recent end of the plural marriage practice was a major topic of concern. Josephine, on the other hand, was more funny and emotional, telling us how their experiences made her feel. Both women are witty and insightful, and their support and affection for one another shine through in their writing.

Josephine Booth, Scottish Latter-day Saint Lizzie Nelson, Eliza Chipman

Because they were among the very first few female missionaries, they were often lumped in with the “brethren” during conferences and meetings. In fact, on Eliza’s ministerial certificate, the mission leaders had to use a form for the elders and simply crossed out “brother” to handwrite “sister.” After some initial awkwardness while they adjusted to having “lady missionaries” around, however, the elders they served with became a strong support system for the sisters. They often teased the sisters and did their best to raise their spirits when they were feeling down. The journals have frequent mentions of gatherings at “#53,” where the elders lived, for meals and scripture study.

To juxtapose the writing styles of the two women, I selected a random day, October 9th, 1899.

Eliza Chipman

Eliza’s entry is brief and to-the-point:

9th. Monday.— Another nice day. Went tracting. Gave out 70 [missionary tracts]. Attended street meeting in the evening.

Josephine, meanwhile, focuses mainly on a teasing note she sent the elders:

Monday 9. Recieved a funny letter from the boys and answered it as soon as I got up. Sister C. took it over. I wanted a letter from home but did not get one and am quite disappointed. The following is a copy of the letter. 

Dear MEN:—

Your masterpiece arrived O.K. This morning and it has taken us so long to comprehend its hidden depths that at 10 oclock your Female Bretherns shoes are still empty but thanks to you their heads are full. This latter is a very radical change. In our application to stay longer we brought up as our argument—How much a dunce that has been sent to roam Excels a dunce that has been kept a home, and Bro Mc Murrin [James L. McMurrin] stated that we would not need to roam any more to make “perfect Dunces” of us so that an extension of girls time would be unnecessary, but he thought the boys would have to stay much longer than thier alloted time to. come to our standard of perfection?? In answer to your question How you are? Will state your eating abilities are excellent and as your hearts are in close connection with your stomachs (the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach, your hearts are alright too.) I do not know which part of the bible this last quotation is taken from perhaps you can find it by looking at your compendium. Your feet are alright but from a useful and ornamental stand point but your heads are not quite far enough away from them. When you are remodled [remodeled] please have them put up another foot. Your brains—pardon me if I make no reference to them as they are too vast for my understanding. I will not write any more at present Give my love to Mrs Office and the children I remain very “respectably” yours


Josephine Booth

One of the true born Sons of Zion according to the relief society.

I need not add that when the boys read this they were at first dismayed and then very much amused. It come almost upsetting “53” in general but all have recovered.

Monday afternoon went tracting and in the evening went out to street meeting.

There’s a wealth of supplemental material included with the journals, from biographies of many of the people mentioned to additional journals of other sister missionaries that aren’t yet on the Church Historian’s Press website. There’s a chronology of events, photographs, a brief history of the calling and service of sister missionaries, and some very cool interactive maps that show the difference between what the cities look like today compared to how they looked at the turn of the 20th Century. All of the information is fully searchable, and can be located at the Church Historian’s Press website:




Sarah Allen is a senior researcher with FAIR, and the 2022 recipient of the John Taylor: Defender of the Faith Award. She works at Scripture Central on their research team. An avid reader, she loves studying the Gospel and the history of the restored Church. After watching some of her friends lose their testimonies, she became interested in helping others through their faith crises. That’s when she began sharing what she’d learned through her studies. She is a co-moderator the LDS subreddit on Reddit and the author of a multi-part series rebutting the CES Letter. She is also the co-host of FAIR’s “Me, My Shelf, & I” podcast. She’s grateful to those at FAIR who have given her the opportunity to share her testimony with a wider audience.

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