Patty Bartlett Sessions
Patty Bartlett Sessions is best known for one seemingly insignificant activity: she started keeping a journal in a little notebook in which she chronicled her life and bore her testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Her first entry read: “I am now fifty-one years, six days old. February 10, 1846, City of Joseph, Hancock County, Illinois.”
Patty was born on February 4, 1795, in Bethel, Maine. She married David Sessions at age seventeen. Only three of the eight children born to them lived to adulthood. She joined the Church in 1834 and gathered with the Saints to Far West, Missouri, then Nauvoo, Illinois, before she made the trek to the Salt Lake Valley. Brigham Young appointed her to travel with the first company to care for the sick and afflicted and to act as a midwife. She selflessly gave medical attention to many on the trek West and to thousands when she arrived in Salt Lake on September 24, 1847. She recorded assisting in the birth of 3,977 infants. For more than twenty years, she daily recorded her medical service and other experiences and thoughts. She kept writing regularly in her journal until the age of 92.
She founded the Patty Sessions Academy and taught children at no cost. She also read the Deseret News, the Juvenile Instructor, and the Woman’s Exponent. She also read from her notebooks and reflected on her experiences and testimony: “I have been reading my journal and I feel to thank the Lord that I have passed through what I have. I have gained an experience I could not have gained no other way.”
She died on December 18, 1892, having achieved her dream: “O my Father, help me to live my religion, this is my greatest desire.”
Her journals document the physical, social, and religious circumstances of the pioneers, especially of the women, and historians frequently cite them. Her journals are also a primary source of birth records in the Latter-day Saint community during her lifetime of service.
- Claire Augusta Wilcox Noall, Guardians of the Hearth: Utah’s Pioneer Midwives and Women Doctors (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1974), 22.
- Susan Easton Black and Mary Jane Woodger, Women of Character (American Fork, Utah: Covenant, 2011), 271
- Susan Easton Black and Mary Jane Woodger, Women of Character (American Fork, Utah: Covenant, 2011), 270