Susa Young Gates

LDS writer, publisher, educator, and activist Susa Young Gates was born on March 18, 1856 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her mother, Lucy Bigelow, was the twenty-second wife of LDS Church president Brigham Young, and Gates would write prolifically in celebration and defense of Brigham Young throughout her life.

After moving from Salt Lake City to St. George with her family at age 14, Gates married dentist Alma Dunford at age 16, and the couple had two children before their rocky marriage led to Gates divorcing Dunford in 1878, a traumatic step that led her to lose guardianship of the two children. Two years later, a marriage to Jacob F. Gates proved much happier and more successful. From a four-year mission to the Sandwich Islands, and then to temple work and many other forms of Church service, the Gateses continued to work together for the remainder of their married lives. 

Gates established herself as an author during the 1880s. Her favored pen-name, "Homespun," appeared in many local and Church publications as Gates contributed short stories, reports, and nonfiction articles on a variety of subjects. Gates saw writing as her means of contributing to important causes such as education, women's rights, and morality. To this end, she balanced authorship with the demands of raising her own children, traveling to lecture at women's congresses, and engaging in both Church service and public works. Following a nervous breakdown that caused her next mission to be cut short and led to an illness that lasted three years, Gates refocused some of her energy on genealogies and temple work, though she would also continue writing, publishing, and teaching in various forms for the remainder of her life. 

Gates' activity in the fields of literature, public works, and politics was extensive. Prior to her second marriage, she organized the first music department at Brigham State University, and later in life, she served on BYU's Board of Trustees as well as teaching domestic science classes. Regarding literature, she corresponded with authors such as Leo Tolstoy and William Dean Howells; regarding women's advancement, she entertained and collaborated with activists including Clara Barton, Susan B. Anthony May Wright Sewall, and Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Her newfound interest in genealogy also led her to produce the first LDS genealogical treatises, devise a systematic index of names for the Church, present at the International Genealogy Conference, and become head of the Genealogical Society of Utah's Research Department and Library. She also held important positions in the National Council of Women and the National Household Economics Organization, and organized Utah chapters of organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution and the National Woman's Press Club. During her tenure as the fourth president of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Gates continued to work promoting suffrage and women's rights. 

In addition to her exemplary record of service, activism, and public works, Gates also accomplished many ground-breaking firsts in writing and publishing. Here, some of her many prominent achievements included writing the first LDS novel by a member of the LDS Church (the 1909 John Stevens' Courtship), authoring a major biography of Brigham Young, and founding College Lantern (believed to be the first college paper in the American West). Gates also founded both The Young Woman's Journal, a publication of the LDS Church for its young women members, and The Relief Society Magazine, a periodical intended for members of the philanthropic and educational women's organization The Relief Society. Both publications would become important venues for many other women's writing. Gates also wrote for publications such as the North American Review, the Pacific Bureau Service, and the Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine.

Gates died in Salt Lake City on May 27, 1933. 


  • The Prince of Ur, Bookcraft, 1945 (posthumous publication) 
  • The Life Story of Brigham Young: Mormon leader, Founder of Salt Lake City, and Builder of an Empire in the Uncharted Wastes of Western America, Ayer Co. Pub., 1930
  • Women of the "Mormon" Church(with Leah D. Widtsoe), Zion's Printing and Publishing Company, 1928
  • John Stevens' Courtship: A Romance of the Echo Canyon War, Kessinger Publishing, 1909
  • "F. Marion Crawford: His Visit to Utah," Young Women's Journal, 1898
  • "Brigham Young As Husband and Father," Young Women's Journal, 1897
  • "Two Christmas Eves," The Contributor Co., 1884
  • "A Remarkable Life," Heroines of Mormondom, Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1884
  • "Lydia Knight's History," Noble Women's Lives, Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1883
  • Various poems, biographical sketches, and other nonfiction writings, 1883-1933



Mormon Literature and Creative Arts Profile and Works

Susa Young Gates Papers, Utah Department of Heritage and Arts