Rachel Ivins Grant
She was born on March 7, 1821, in Hornerstown, New Jersey, and she and her seven siblings were orphaned when she was ten years old. They went to live with their paternal grandfather. He was a successful Quaker businessman, and the children had an easy life with servants to do most of the work. Rachel lived with her grandfather for two years and then moved to Trenton, New Jersey, to live with two cousins who required her to learn the practical skills of caring for a home. Although her grandfather welcomed her return, she opted to stay in her cousins’ home because she appreciated her structured life and the skills she was mastering. Those skills brought her work as a housekeeper with her uncle, Richard Ridgeway, and later served her well as a single parent.
At the age of sixteen, Rachel left her Quaker life of no music and joined the Baptist church. At the age of eighteen, she joined Mormon Church. She said, “The Bible I could understand as never before—its truths were made plain to me, and the plan of salvation lay clear before me. . . . I could sing all the day long, and rejoice in the glorious promises of the Gospel.”
Some of her cousins had also joined the Church, and in 1842, they joined the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. Rachel was 21 years old. During her second year in Nauvoo, which led up to the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith, she contracted malaria, but despite her illness, she stood firm in her loyalty to the Prophet and the Church. Her cousins, however, did not. When the Saints left Nauvoo for Winter Quarters, she went back home to her family in New Jersey, where she gained strength and continued her devotion to the Church. She lived for a time with her sister Anna, and her husband, Israel Ivins, who were also devoted members of the Church. When they immigrated to Utah in 1953, Rachel went with them.
On November 29, 1855, Rachel became a plural wife to Jedediah M. Grant, who was the first missionary to teach her the gospel in New Jersey. Their marriage lasted only a year—he died of typhoid and pneumonia nine days after Rachel gave birth to her only child. She and the other widows married Jedediah’s older brother George, but Rachel obtained a divorce shortly after the marriage and rarely spoke of her experience in his household. She bought a small adobe home in Salt Lake. She made a meager living for years as a seamstress, and then took in boarders, which made life easier for her and Heber. Heber later built his mother a nicer home.
She continued to serve in the Church, including serving as a ward Relief Society president for thirty-five years. During those years, she oversaw the completion of carpets for the Salt Lake Temple. She supported women’s suffrage and retrenchment and encouraged her son in his endeavors.
In 1868, she became deaf from abscessed tonsils. She could only watch her son as he served as an apostle for the last twenty-six years of her life. She died on January 27, 1909.
Leonard Arrington, Susan Arrington Madsen, and Emily Madsen Jones, Mothers of the Prophets, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2009).