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Phoebe Whittemore Carter was born 8 March 1807 in Scarborough, Cumberland County, Maine, United States to Ezra Carter (1773-1868) and Sarah Fabyan (1775-1845) and died 10 November 1885 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States of unspecified causes. She married Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898) 13 April 1837 in Kirtland, Geauga County, Ohio, United States.


Phoebe Whittemore Carter (8 March 1807 – 10 Nov 1885), m. April 13, 1837

Woodruff met his first wife, Phoebe Carter, in Kirtland shortly after his return from his first mission through Southern Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. Woodruff came to Kirtland on November 25, 1836, along with Abraham O. Smoot. He was introduced to Phoebe by Milton Holmes on January 28, 1837. She was a native of Maine and had become a Latter Day Saint in 1834.

Woodruff and Phoebe were married on April 13, 1837, with the ceremony performed by Frederick G. Williams. Their marriage was later sealed in Nauvoo by Hyrum Smith.

In the late 1840s, Phoebe was set apart as a missionary and served with Woodruff as he presided over the Eastern States Mission. Phoebe was later numbered among the "leading ladies" who helped organize the Relief Society in Utah Territory in the 1860s through the 1880s. At the organization of the Salt Lake 14th Ward Relief Society in 1856, Phebe was chosen by Bishop Abraham Hoagland as President.


When Phebe wrote her short autobiography she included her thoughts on polygamy:

"When the principle of plural marriage was first taught, I thought it was the most wicked thing I ever heard of; consequently I opposed it to the best of my ability, until I became sick and wretched. As soon, however, as I became convinced that it originated as a revelation from God through Joseph, knowing him to be a prophet, I wrestled with my Heavenly Father in fervent prayer, to be guided aright at that all-important moment of my life. The answer came. Peace was given to my mind. I knew it was the will of God; and from that time to the present I have sought to faithfully honor the patriarchal law."

In January 1870 when Congress was considering legislation against polygamy she was among the women protesting. She spoke at a mass meeting held in Salt Lake City. The following month Phebe was named to a committee to promote women's suffrage.

In her later years as her children began families of their own, Phebe served on the Deseret Hospital Board of Directors and was an official worker in the Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society which Wilford had helped establish in 1852. She was also one of the presiding board of the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Association (the precursor of the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association now called Young Women’s or Mutual). In addition, Phebe was elected one of the Executive Board of the Deseret Hospital in 1882.

Final Days

Phebe lived to the age of 78, dying after a fall caused a serious head injury. Wilford had been in hiding, but risked arrest to visit her after her accident. On November 9, 1885, realizing her serious condition, he “blessed her and anointed her for her burial." His wife of more than 48 years died a few hours later. Under these difficult circumstances, although he watched from the office window, he wrote, “I was not permitted to attend her funeral without being arrested for my religion, and imprisoned … I saw the procession as it passed the office, I saw the hearse that carried my wife … to the grave. … Persecution is raging against the Latter Day Saints. I am perfectly willing for my wife to lie down and go to sleep and be freed from any of the persecution from the wicked. I hope I may prove true and faithful unto the end that I may meet with her and our friends in the Celestial Kingdom of God ….”

Husband's Final Poem

Wilford also wrote this poem in her honor: “Sleep on Dear Phebe, but ere long from this; The conquered tomb shall yield its captive prey; Then with thy husband, children, friends and Prophets and Apostles; Thou shall reign in bliss as wife, queen, mother, and Saint to an eternal day."[11]

Family Life

  1. Sarah Emma Woodruff (1838-1840)
  2. Wilford Woodruff (1840-1921)
    1. Lucy Emily Woodruff (1869-1937) - Wife of George Albert Smith (1870-1951), 8th President of LDS Church.
  3. Phoebe Amelia Woodruff (1842-1919) - wife of Lorenzo Snow, who succeeded Wilford as President of the LDS Church
  4. Susan Cornelia Woodruff (1843-1897)
  5. Joseph Carter Woodruff (1845-1846)
  6. Ezra Carter Woodruff (1846-1846)
  7. Sarah Carter Woodruff (1847-1848)
  8. Beulah Augusta Woodruff (1851-1905)
  9. Aphek Woodruff (1853-1853)


Offspring of Phoebe Carter Woodruff and Wilford Woodruff (1807-1898)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Sarah Emma Woodruff (1838-1840) 14 July 1838 Scarborough, Cumberland County, Maine 17 July 1840 Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois
Wilford Woodruff (1840-1921) 22 March 1840 Montrose, Lee County, Iowa, United States 6 May 1921 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah, United States Emily Jane Smith (1850-1878) Julia Spencer (1856-1895) Emily Jane Smith (1850-1878) Julia Spencer (1856-1895) Marie Louisa Erickson (1859-1937)
Phoebe Amelia Woodruff (1842-1919) 4 March 1842 Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois 15 February 1919 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Lorenzo Snow (1814-1901)
Susan Cornelia Woodruff (1843-1897) 25 July 1843 Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois 6 October 1897 Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah Robert B Scholes (1835-1891)
Joseph Carter Woodruff (1845-1846)
Ezra Carter Woodruff (1846-1846)
Sarah Carter Woodruff (1847-1848)
Beulah Augusta Woodruff (1851-1905)
Aphek Woodruff (1853-1853)


Vital Records

1870 US Federal Census

Recorded at Salt Lake City 14th Ward, Utah - 21 July 1870.

  • Wilford Woodruff - m/63 - b:CT - ocp: Quorum of the Twelve
  • Phebe Woodruff - f/63 - b:ME
  • David Woodruff - m/16 - b:UT
  • Brigham Woodruff - m/13 - b:UT
  • Arabelle Woodruff - f/11 - b:UT
  • Susan Woodruff - f/8 - b:UT
  • Newton Woodruff - m/6 - b:UT
  • Mary Woodruff - f/2 - b:UT



Footnotes (including sources)