Hannah Tapfield King
Hannah Tapfield King was a prolific writer of poetry, essays, and biographies, and she found it hard to associate with pioneer women who were not intellectually inclined. She found a kinship and friendship with Eliza R. Snow and despite her harsh frontier life, she stayed true to her commitment to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hannah was born on March 16, 1808, in Cambridgeshire, England. Her childhood in Cambridge influenced her already keen mind and her father encouraged her to write him profound letters whenever he was away from home. Her father, a land steward and the second son of the fifth Duke of Leeds, also encouraged her to write a thought-provoking journal, which she did faithfully. She also wrote short essays and prose, which she submitted to local newspapers.
She was sixteen when she married Thomas Owen King and she bore ten children, four of whom lived to adulthood. As a farmer and proprietor, Thomas provided a comfortable life for her and she was able to continue pursuing her literary interests. Three years after her marriage, she published her first two books: The Toilet and Three Eras.
In 1849, Hannah’s dressmaker introduced her to the message of Mormonism, which she herself had embraced. Hannah and her daughter Georgiana were baptized, but Hannah’s husband declined. However, he supported Hannah in her newfound religion, and immigrated with her to Iowa then on to Utah in 1853. Her parents, devout members of the Church of England, did not support Hannah in her decision to join the Church and join the Saints in America.
The comfort Hannah enjoyed in Cambridge was not her lot in Utah. Her husband spent the last of their money to pay the Perpetual Emigration Fund and to build a house. He provided for his family as a farmer, but not on the comfortable scale he enjoyed in England.
In Utah, Hannah regularly contributed to the Woman’s Exponent. She published an epic poem (1,800 lines) in remembrance of the Prophet Joseph Smith. She sought “culture, refinement, and expansion of the mind” and through her writings encouraged women to live up to their God-given potential. She joined an LDS intellectual society called the Polysophical Society that met in Lorenzo Snow’s home. Attendance at the society diminished after Jedediah M. Grant, who was serving in the First Presidency made a disparaging remark about it.
Hannah’s husband died in 1875, and Hannah died on September 25, 1886, at the home of her daughter Louisa. Several articles were published in the Woman’s Exponent in her remembrance.
Susan Easton Black and Mary Jane Woodger, Women of Character (American Fork, Utah: Covenant, 2011)