Ada Bitner Hinckley
Ada Bitner Hinckley was born June 30, 1880, on a farm in Salt Lake County, Utah. She was born to Sarah Ann Osguthorpe Bitner, the third wife of Breneman Barr Bitner. She was one of nineteen children born to her father and she developed a deep love of learning from him. She also learned to work hard on the family farm. She lived on the farm until her mother moved her family to Salt Lake City to be closer to the schools.
After attending high school and college, Ada went to Chicago with two of her sisters to learn the Gregg Shorthand Method. She became the first teacher of the Gregg Method in Utah and taught it as well as typing and English at the LDS Business College. She was only nineteen when she started this career (1899). Bryant S. Hinckley became principal at the college about one year later. On July 11, 1908, about eight years after he took the position, his wife died of appendicitis, leaving him with eight children. His professional relationship with Ada began to change into a more personal relationship and they were married on August 5, 1909.
Two of his youngest children had gone to live with their maternal grandparents soon after their mother’s passing, so Ada shouldered the responsibility of raising Bryant’s other six children. She eventually gave birth to five children, the first being Gordon B. Hinckley, who would one day become fifteenth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of Gordon’s poor health as a young child, Bryant built a summer home on five acres in the East Millcreek area of Salt Lake, and the family spent four months of the year there.
Ada was a woman of accomplishment and industry. She brought her grand piano with her to her new home and worked hard to manage the family income and save for their needs. She painted dishes and sewed clothing for her children. She was a talented cook. She taught her children to speak and behave with refinement. She spent untold hours helping her husband with his many Church manuals and teaching materials. She served in the Church in the Young Women’s organization.
In 1927, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a radical mastectomy. She was healthy for over two years until the cancer returned and she then underwent radium treatments.
In 1930, despite her failing health, she traveled to France with the widow of Bryant’s son Stanford, who had died in Bordeaux during World War I. The Improvement Era published a summary in December 1930 of their trip as part of the federal “Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimage.” Upon her return, Bryant sent her to Los Angeles, California, for a special cancer treatment. Her sister Mary went with to care for her and Mary soon sent for Bryant when Ada seemed close to death. He was with her to care for her in her last days and she passed away on November 9, 1930, at the age of fifty.
Leonard Arrington, Susan Arrington Madsen, and Emily Madsen Jones, Mothers of the Prophets, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2009).