Ada England Morrell

Ada Eliza England Morrell (1887–1977)

“When it comes to piety the ward records will display that religion has played a part in her life almost every day.” 

—Ada P. Morrell, sister-in-law 


Books of Remembrance

Photo albums, scrapbooks, and journals are media that allow individuals to examine and share “their past, their environments, their personal growth, and event their life choices.” Ada’s personal record keeping, however, extended beyond autobiographical forms of memory keeping. By completing extensive genealogical work and research, Ada gathered information about her family with the intention of passing her collection on to future generations. Ada Morrell’s books of remembrance represent a successful merging of “ ‘personal’ memory and memory ‘for family.’ ”[1]

Because she did not keep a regular journal, Ada did not record personal experiences that express emotion related to particular events or moments in her life. However, based on the items and stories Ada chose to preserve, her personality can be somewhat reconstructed. 

[1] Marilyn F. Motz, “Visual Autobiography: Photo Albums of Turn-of-the-Century Midwestern Women,” American Quarterly 41, no. 1 (March 1989): 63; Siân E. Lindley, “Before I Forget: From Personal Memory to Family History,” Human–Computer Interaction 27 (2012): 13–17; Elizabeth Delacruz and Sandy Bales, “Creating History, Telling Stories, and Making Special: Portfolios, Scrapbooks, and Sketchbooks,” Art Education 63, no. 1 (2010): 36.
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, COLL P0355, Box 6, Folder 12.)


Although she never conveyed it in words, Ada expressed the importance of education by keeping memorabilia and creating scrapbooks documenting her school experiences. She graduated from Woodruff School (elementary school) in 1901 and from Brigham Young College (high school) in 1905. Like most high schools at the turn of the twentieth century, Brigham Young College (BYC) was a private institution, meaning that the school charged tuition for attendance. When established on July 24, 1877, BYC, intended to be a “self supporting religious institution,” had a coeducational student body with a curriculum designed after the style of Oberlin College. Brigham Young admired how Oberlin College, “the first co-educational college in the United States,” emphasized high moral standards in its “liberal, scientific, practical,” form of education. Ada attended BYC during its “golden age” (1894–1909).[2] The school, in many ways, was quite progressive. Women participated in classes traditionally reserved for male students, such as woodworking. In “gym class,” women “wore bloomers,” although many people considered them “immodest.” The school “boasted the latest equipment” in sewing and other fields. Long after her graduation, Ada remained actively involved in BYC events. She attended plays, graduations, and helped organize alumni reunions.[3] By creating scrapbooks and photo albums that documented the history of BYC, Ada creatively marked the importance of education in her life.

[2] Arnold K. Garr, “A History of Brigham Young College, Logan, Utah” (MA thesis, Utah State University, 1973), 5–6.
[3] Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections and Archives, Brigham Young College records, 1877–1926, USU P0008, Box 2.
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, COLL P0355, Box 6, Folder 2.)
[Click image to enlarge.]
(Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Library, Special Collections & Archives, COLL P0355, Box 6, Folder 6.)

The Daughters of Utah Pioneers & the Relief Society

Established in 1901, the Daughters of Utah Pioneers (DUP) is an international service-based and history-focused organization made up of women who had ancestors that entered the Salt Lake Valley prior to May 10, 1869.[7] This organization has an objective to “perpetuate the names and achievements of the men, women, and children who were pioneers in founding the commonwealth” by documenting and preserving landmarks, artifacts, histories, and other historical materials in order to perfect “a record of the Utah pioneers.”[8] Within this organization, Ada found a sorority focused on topics of particular interest to her.

By the mid-twentieth century, the Relief Society no longer concerned itself with polygamy and suffrage rights. The Church stopped practicing polygamy in 1890 and women across the country gained the right to vote in 1920, so the Relief Society focused on other areas of concern. During years of war and economic depression, the Relief Society saw to the financial, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of members of the Church. During the Depression, under the direction of general Relief Society president Louise Y. Robinson, the organization encouraged the development of self-reliance, charity, and personal righteousness.[9] It was during this period that Ada became a presiding officer in her stake Relief Society in 1933. Her work with the Relief Society spanned more than thirty years. As she embraced the traditional LDS concepts of womanhood and motherhood, Ada demonstrated for other LDS women how to live a pious and service-oriented life. At a time when women began to once again question definitions of womanhood, Ada Morrell pushed back by embracing established perceptions of women’s roles and responsibilities.

[7] “Organizational Structure of Daughters of the Utah Pioneers,” International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, accessed May 8, 2017, http://www.dupinternational.org/subpage_DUPOrganization.php.
[8] “Constitution and Bylaws,” International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, approved 2013, 2.
[9] Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society (Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2001, 2017), 65–75.