Thanks to LDS Women of God and LDS.org for researching these women!
On April 21, 1898, Lucy Jane “Jennie” Brimhall and Amanda Inez Knight (pictured above) arrived in Liverpool England to start their missions for the Mormon Church. While this may not seem like something spectacular today, it was at the time. In fact, Inez and Jennie were the first single women formally set-apart as full-time, proselyting missionaries. Childhood friends, the two served as companions in England. Their story, though centuries old, will resonate with modern day sisters and continue to inspire future generations.
Growing Up Friends
Jennie and Inez both grew up in Utah territory and were brought together by the love their families had for education. Jennie was born in Spanish Fork and was the daughter of George Brimhall, who would eventually serve as the President of Brigham Young University from 1904 to 1921. Inez’s father, Jesse Knight, had a great desire for his children to be educated through the Church’s school. He moved them from the Payson area where Inez was born so they could enroll.
In the spring of 1898, at the ages of 23 and 22, the friends were planning an excursion to Europe. Little did they know what was to come.
The Call to Serve
President George Q. Cannon, inspired by the many wives of missionaries who accompanied their husbands overseas and taught the gospel, determined the time had come for the women to enter the mission field on their own. Jennie recorded the following thoughts about the night they learned they were being asked to serve as missionaries:
“I had accepted an invitation to accompany Inez on a trip of two or three months to Europe; one day while at home making preparations for our journey, Bishop Keeler called and asked me if I would accept a call to go on a mission. I told him that I would. Later, I received word to be present at Brother Jesse Knight’s home and there be set apart as a missionary to Great Britain. We met according to appointment, and found the bishop of our ward, and the presidency of our stake, Presidents Partridge, John, and Smoot. A letter was read from the first presidency of the Church authorizing the Brethren to set us apart as missionaries. We were then set apart, President David John being mouth in my own case. I was also given a certificate, and am thus numbered among the full-fledged missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Missionary Life in England
The struggles Jennie and Inez faced are similar to the ones modern-day missionaries faced. Inez, who anticipated tracting to be easier than public speaking, was accosted by a woman who had been offended by a Mormon. She followed Inez and Jennie door to door and told everyone not to let them inside.
“I went home and cried,” Inez wrote in her diary. They also endured people hurling stones and trash at them, soiling their clothes and bruising their spirits.
The sisters regularly spoke in meetings, being something of a novelty as women preachers for the Church. Inez noted, “We attended Priesthood meeting at which I was the only girl. I felt more conspicuous by the elders beginning their remarks; ‘My brethren and sister.'”
After just six months, Jennie had to return to the United States because of her health. Inez was given a new companion for six months, Liza Chipman. Inez would go on to serve for a total of two years and a month. For much of the time she served alone.
Jennie, upon her return home, married Inez’s brother William Knight. They would have two children. She then went on establish an LDS settlement with her husband in Canada. After returning to Utah in the 1920s, she was called as the first counselor in the General Relief Society Presidency, serving faithfully for 7 years. She lived a long life, passing away at age 81 in 1957.
Inez was active in the Relief Society and politics after her mission. She served on the Relief Society general board from 1927 until her death in 1937. She also served as the Dean of Women for Brigham Young Academy and as a Utah delegate to the Democratic Nation Convention in Ohio. She even ran as a Democratic candidate for the Utah State Senate. She married Robert Eugene Allen and had five sons.
Both women have buildings named after their families on the Brigham Young University campus.
These two sisters, so ready to serve faithfully in a calling that had never before been filled in such a capacity, helped pave the way for sisters to serve today. Their efforts did not go unnoticed. In a magazine describe Jennie’s power as a missionary many years later, it was written:
“So effective was her testimony that after twenty years an unbeliever who listened to her speak wrote, saying he could never forget her sincere, guileless expression and was led further to investigate and receive the blessings of membership.”