Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball (December 29, 1818 - December 1, 1898) was a founder of the Ladies' Society of Nauvoo, a suffragist, an advocate of women's rights, ward Relief Society president for forty years, and a strong presence in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for much of the nineteenth century.
Described by one of her associates as possessing "the courage to say what she thought," Sarah Kimball labored for the advancement of women, arguing that "education and agitation are our best weapons of warfare" (Woman's Exponent 20 [1 May 1892]:159 and 18 [15 Feb. 1890]:139, respectively).
Sarah was born December 29, 1818, in Phelps, New York, to Oliver and Lydia Dibble Granger. She joined the Church and moved with her family to Kirtland, Ohio, in 1833 at age fifteen. While she did not detail her own conversion, a dramatic vision of the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni 2 experienced by her father made a lasting impression on her. She was one of some twenty-three women known to have attended Joseph Smith's School of the Prophets in Kirtland.
Sarah married Hiram Kimball, a wealthy Nauvoo merchant who later converted to the Church, when she was twenty one. Newlyweds Hiram and Sarah Kimball moved into a already-existing frame home in 1840. That home has now been restored and is located Nauvoo, Illinois.
Instrumental in Formation of Women's Relief Society of Nauvoo
In the spring of 1842, Sarah and her seamstress, Margaret Cook, discussed needs of temple workers in Nauvoo. Margaret wanted to make shirts for the men but had no fabric. Sarah donated cloth to make shirts for the men working on the temple, and Margaret agreed to do the sewing. Shortly thereafter, some of Sarah's neighbors also desired to participate in the shirt making. During a meeting in the Kimball parlor, they determined to formally organize a Ladies' Society. Kimball asked Eliza R. Snow to write a constitution and by-laws for the organization for submission to Joseph Smith, Jr. for review.
When they approached Joseph Smith, Jr. for his approval of the society's Constitution, he stated that although the Constitution was excellent, the Lord wanted the women organized "under the priesthood after the pattern of the priesthood." According to Sarah Kimball's recollection, Joseph continued, "The Church was never perfectly organized until the women were thus organized".
After her 1851 move to Salt Lake City, where she taught school to support her family while her husband recovered from some serious financial losses, she was called in 1857 as president of the Fifteenth Ward Relief Society. She served in that position until her death in 1898. She also was general secretary of the Relief Society under President Eliza R. Snow during twelve of her years as Relief Society president. She was a vice-president of the organization after its incorporation in 1892.
Sarah Kimball directed the efforts of the women in her ward to fund the first Relief Society hall, which functioned both as a store in which the women sold their items of home manufacture and as a meeting house devoted to secular and sacred education.
Sarah was a widow for thirty-five years following her husband's death in a steamship explosion while en route to a mission in the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).
Sarah Kimball was also a major force in the suffrage fight as president of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association. She argued not only for suffrage but for equal esteem of women with men. Further, many of her sermons spoke of the ultimate and divine equality of "the Father and Mother God".
Sarah Kimball died in Salt Lake City on December 1, 1898.
Sarah Granger Kimball Home
Because of her contribution to the women of the Church, Sarah Kimball's home, one of the earliest existing structures in Nauvoo, was restored and dedicated on March 17, 1982, one hundred and forty years after the Relief Society was organized. The parlor of this home is where the seeds of the Relief Society were planted.
At the dedication, Barbara B. Smith, General President of the Relief Society said, "We hope women will understand that within their own homes, things can happen that can have great significance in the Church and in the world."
The home is open Memorial Day to Labor Day on Monday through Saturday 9:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. and Sunday 12:30 P.M. to 6:00 P.M. In winter (September - April) the home is open Monday through Saturday 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and Sunday 12:30 P.M. to 5:00 P.M. Admission is free of charge.