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Women of Conviction

Aunt Zina

The Life of Zina Young Williams Card

Zina Young Card

Zina Young Card was born in Salt Lake City on April 3, 1850, daughter of Brigham Young and Zina Diantha Huntington Young. She was the couple's only child, though she had many half-siblings. She was born in “the old log row,” the first home built by Brigham Young in the Salt Lake Valley, on the corner of State Street and 1st Avenue.1 On the same site, Brigham Young later constructed a room eighteen feet square where Zina lived with her mother.2

When Zina was nearly seven years old, she and her mother moved into the newly constructed Lion House, and for the first time she lived in the presence of her father, several of his other wives, and many of her half-siblings. In her teens, Zina was one of Brigham’s “Big Ten”—a name he coined for ten of his older daughters who were all near the same age.3 Zina was quite close to several of her half-siblings, particularly Susa Young Gates.

Zina penned this intimate description of life in the Lion House: “President Young was so just, so tender, so noble, and his children were taught by their mothers to obey him implicitly. But his rules were few. The time for instruction and association with him was found when evening came and he would ring the old prayer bell that would bring the whole family together for prayers in the spacious parlor. Oh, those prayers! It seemed as if he talked face to face with God. They have been a tie that bound the family with sacredness and devotion that is rarely found. … He used to have his children sing and dance for him. They had a music teacher, dancing master, and a governess, for he appreciated an education and did all in his power to give everyone in his family an opportunity for knowledge and improvement and culture.”4

Zina had a flare for drama and acting that her father encouraged. When she was 13, she began appearing in productions at the Salt Lake Theatre.5 It was there that Zina met her first husband, Thomas Williams. Williams already had a wife, and Zina became his second on October 12, 1868.6

In 1869, Brigham Young organized the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association, initially called the Retrenchment Society. He gathered all his daughters together, including those who were married, and appointed one of them, Ella Empey,  president. Zina Williams was appointed secretary.7

In September 1870, when Zina was 20 years old, she gave birth to her first child, a son she named Sterling. When Sterling was 3, Zina had another son, Thomas Edgar, born July 21, 1873. Thomas Edgar was three days short of his first birthday when his father, Thomas Williams, died very suddenly on July 17, 1874.8 At the age of 24, Zina was left a widow with two small sons.

To help and comfort her daughter, Zina Diantha Young moved in with Zina Young Williams. The younger Zina, in an effort to support her small children, learned how to produce silk, raising the silkworms and reeling the silk into fabric. She also learned how to make wax fruit and flowers that were very popular at the time, and her skills enabled her to earn the money necessary for her family.

On August 29, 1877, Zina’s father, Brigham Young, passed away. Most of his children were married and had homes of their own, but his loss was keenly felt. Ever the loving and protective parent, he had carefully designed his will to provide equal shares for each child and for each of his wives.9 This gave Zina her own independent income, which she drew upon heavily later in life.

In January 1879, Church President John Taylor asked Zina and Emmeline B. Wells to go to Washington, D.C., as delegates to the first women’s Congress. There, Zina met powerful women including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others. Zina spoke zealously in defense of polygamy before “the highest tribunals of the land,”10 testifying before the court as it tried a test case for unlawful cohabitation against George Reynolds.11 She also met with Senator George F. Edmunds of Vermont, sponsor of the Edmunds-Tucker bill.12

When she returned from Washington, Zina moved to Provo to attend school at Brigham Young Academy, where her half-sister Susa Young Gates was a teacher. After attending school for a year, Karl G. Maeser asked her to accept a position as matron of young ladies at the academy and teacher of a homemaking class. She also served as president of the Primary in the Utah Stake.

On April 21, 1881, Zina lost her youngest son, Thomas Edgar Williams. He was 8 years old. To deal with her grief, she “gave her whole soul to the work of teaching and helping the daughters of Zion to become wise women and understand their future duties as helpful, industrious, qualified mothers.”13 She also found consolation in Susa's close companionship.

About this time, Zina began to consider marriage once again. She even became engaged to a man for a year, but “[h]is mother persuaded him to get another to be sealed to him first before taking one sealed to another man. He wrote [Zina] asking her to allow him to do so. She immediately wrote releasing him from his engagement, and this was just after burying her little son and she was still mourning for him. This decision prostrated her for seven weeks.”14

When Zina rallied, she attended the dedication of the Logan Temple. There, she met Charles Ora Card, who owned a house near the temple. Zina bought the house with the expectation of moving her mother and her aunt, Prescindia, into it, and with them raising Sterling and working in the temple for the rest of their days. She returned to Provo to collect her things and while there received a letter from Charles proposing marriage. “She had a dream that convinced her that he was the right man,” and they married on June 17, 1884.15

The following autumn, Zina and Sterling moved to Logan. “Her mother and Sister Eliza R. Snow lived with her much of the time she was in Logan where they were engaged in temple work.”16 Her life there was anything but dull; federal marshals were constantly on the alert for polygamists, and Charles was one of the most sought-after. On June 28, 1885, Charles and Zina's son Joseph Young Card was born.17

In 1886, Charles went to Canada to seek refuge from prosecution for polygamy outside the borders of the United States. He eventually found a suitable place at Lee’s Creek in southern Alberta. Zina was selected to accompany him (she said she was chosen because she had a 16-year-old son who could help with the settlement) and made her preparations to go. Zina, Sterling, and Joseph arrived at Lee’s Creek on June 3, 1887, where a tiny tent city had been erected.18

By September, Charles had completed the first stage of the still-standing log cabin where he, Zina, and the children would live for the next thirteen years. Long before they moved into the cabin, however, they had turned their attention to their religious responsibilities. Sunday meetings were held, with every member of the community participating, and the auxiliary organizations of the Church (Sunday School, the Mutual Improvement Association) were organized. Zina was called as president of the Mutual. And the Card family was still growing: On June 12, 1888, Zina gave birth to her only daughter, Zina Young Card Brown. Three years later, Charles and Zina’s third and last child, Orson Rega Card, was born in Cardston.

Among Zina's many responsibilities were establishing a drama society, leading the Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association, raising her own children and sometimes the children of other wives, entertaining literally hundreds of visiting dignitaries, and acting as a surrogate mother to much of the western Canadian province. Aunt Zina, as she was known throughout the territory, also served as a midwife.19

Sometimes Zina’s home was almost a hotel. In 1898, President Lorenzo Snow suggested that she and Charles build a larger home. “Bro. Card gave Aunt Zina some land across the creek and she built a large house of nine rooms, with modern conveniences, bath room water system etc. and furnished it all with her own money.”20 The new home was indeed a relatively imposing structure compared to the modest log cabin. They moved into the home in 1900, but the family had little time to enjoy it. Charles’s health began to fail about a year before the new house was begun.

In August 1901, Zina’s beloved mother, Zina Diantha Huntington Young, passed away in Salt Lake City. The two women had been very close (Zina Card was Zina Young’s only daughter), especially after the death of Brigham Young. It was a keen loss for Zina.

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Zina Young Card

By 1903, Charles was so ill that it was clear he could no longer keep up the pace of his Canadian activities, and the family moved out of the new house and back to Logan, Utah. They rented their brick home to H. M. Brown,21 father of Hugh B. Brown and future father-in-law of the Cards' daughter, Zina Card Brown, who married Hugh in 1908.

Charles died 9 September 1906, in Logan, and Zina Young Card moved back to Salt Lake City that same year. “Again a widow, Sister Card moved with her children to Salt Lake City, where she became matron of the LDS University, and continued with other church activities. She served as a member of the General Board of the Primary for fifteen years and was set apart as a temple worker by President Anthon H. Lund. She was given charge of the brides to whom she gave beautiful and inspiring talks. She was also active in the organizations of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers and the Daughters of the Grand Army of the Republic, serving a term as president of each.”22

As Zina grew old, she had the pleasure of watching her family increase and prosper. Joseph Young Card married Leona Ballyntyne on June 14, 1905, in Logan, and Zina Young Card married Hugh B. Brown on June 17, 1908, in Salt Lake City. Zina’s youngest child and last son, Orson Rega Card, married Lucina Richards on October 13, 1913, in Salt Lake City.23 The following years were filled with Zina’s interest and involvement with her grandchildren, often represented in personal letters and visits.

Zina's only daughter, Zina Card Brown, wrote, “During the influenza epidemic, when there was a call for volunteer nurses, Aunt Zina responded and took care of fifty-two people with that dreadful sickness, none of whom died. She took it herself and nearly passed away, was stricken with blindness for two years due to that.”24

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Zina Young Card pictured with two young children.

When her vision was “partially restored, she continued her mission in Church and civic work, giving unstintingly of her life and means to further the work of God. When life seemed sweetest to her, with most of her children and grandchildren about her, she was cut down again. She knew many years of extreme suffering before the end of earth-life came. Though her frail body was confined to its bed, her faculties and faith were as keen as ever. She continued to minister her love and cheer to literally hundreds who flocked to her bedside. Her sense of humor never failed.”25

In 1931, at the age of 81, Zina Young Card passed away. Honored throughout the Church, especially by the Canadian Saints, Zina was most mourned by her family. Her daughter wrote: “After a prolonged illness she passed from this life on January 31st 1931 on her adored mother’s Natal Day. Thus closed the life of one of the noble women of the church. She is still remembered throughout both her native land and her adopted country for her devoted and selfless service to family, church, and state. Her fluent and forceful speaking, her inspired words to the youth of Zion, her courage born of faith, all mark her as worthy of the noble heritage that was hers.”26

Footnotes

[1] “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card. Salt Lake City, Utah, March 26, 1930. Written one year prior to her death and read at her last birthday party – her 80th, April 3, 1930 – Zina Card Brown.” Church History Library, Zina Card Brown collection, MS 4780, Box 5, Fd. 14, It. 1, p. 1.

[2] “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card. Salt Lake City, Utah, March 26, 1930. Written one year prior to her death and read at her last birthday party – her 80th, April 3, 1930 – Zina Card Brown.” Church History Library, Zina Card Brown collection, MS 4780, Box 5, Fd. 14, It. 1, p. 1.

[3] Several photos of the Big Ten exist. One is in the Zina Card Brown family collection, Church History Library, MS 4780.

[4] “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card. Salt Lake City, Utah, March 26, 1930. Written one year prior to her death and read at her last birthday party – her 80th, April 3, 1930 – Zina Card Brown.” Church History Library, Zina Card Brown collection, MS 4780, Box 5, Fd. 14, It. 1, pp. 2-3.

[5] “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card. Salt Lake City, Utah, March 26, 1930. Written one year prior to her death and read at her last birthday party – her 80th, April 3, 1930 – Zina Card Brown.” Church History Library, Zina Card Brown collection, MS 4780, Box 5, Fd. 14, It. 1, p 3.

[6] “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card. Salt Lake City, Utah, March 26, 1930. Written one year prior to her death and read at her last birthday party – her 80th, April 3, 1930 – Zina Card Brown.” Church History Library, Zina Card Brown collection, MS 4780, Box 5, Fd. 14, It. 1, p 3.

[7] “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card. Salt Lake City, Utah, March 26, 1930. Written one year prior to her death and read at her last birthday party – her 80th, April 3, 1930 – Zina Card Brown.” Church History Library, Zina Card Brown collection, MS 4780, Box 5, Fd. 14, It. 1, p 5.

[8] “Life Histories of the Wives of Charles Ora Card,” compiled by Brigham Young Card. Church History Library Pq M270 L 7225, family group record form preceding section on Zina Young Card.

[9] “Life Histories of the Wives of Charles Ora Card,” compiled by Brigham Young Card. Church History Library Pq M270 L 7225, family group record form preceding section on Zina Young Card, p. 8.

[10] “Life Histories of the Wives of Charles Ora Card,” compiled by Brigham Young Card. Church History Library Pq M270 L 7225, family group record form preceding section on Zina Young Card, p. 7.

[11] “Life Histories of the Wives of Charles Ora Card,” compiled by Brigham Young Card. Church History Library Pq M270 L 7225, family group record form preceding section on Zina Young Card, p. 8.

[12] “Life Histories of the Wives of Charles Ora Card,” compiled by Brigham Young Card. Church History Library Pq M270 L 7225, family group record form preceding section on Zina Young Card, p. 7.

[13] “Life Histories of the Wives of Charles Ora Card,” compiled by Brigham Young Card. Church History Library Pq M270 L 7225, family group record form preceding section on Zina Young Card, p. 8.

[14] “A Life Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Card,” p. 2. Unsigned, undated, and unfinished typewritten manuscript, part of Zina Young Card collection, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, MSS 1421, Box 2, Fd 20.

[15] “A Life Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Card,” p. 2. Unsigned, undated, and unfinished typewritten manuscript, part of Zina Young Card collection, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, MSS 1421, Box 2, Fd 20, p. 3.

[16] “Zina Young Card 1949.” Addendum to “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card.” This is the only reference to Eliza R. Snow’s being an intimate part of Zina’s life.

[17] “A Life Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Card,” p. 2. Unsigned, undated, and unfinished typewritten manuscript, part of Zina Young Card collection, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, MSS 1421, Box 2, Fd 20, p. 4.

[18] “A Life Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Card,” p. 2. Unsigned, undated, and unfinished typewritten manuscript, part of Zina Young Card collection, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, MSS 1421, Box 2, Fd 20, p. 4.

[19] “A Life Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Card,” p. 2. Unsigned, undated, and unfinished typewritten manuscript, part of Zina Young Card collection, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, MSS 1421, Box 2, Fd 20, p. 4.

[20] “Zina Young Card.” Unsigned typed manuscript, p. 6. Church History Library, Zina Card Brown family collection, Box 5, Fd. 14, It. 2. Stuck on the back of one page is a name tag that says “Hello my name is ZINA YOUNG CARD BROWN.”

[21] “Passing of an Historic Landmark: Famous Card House in Cardston, Home of ‘Aunt Zina,’ to be Razed.” Copy of newspaper article by C. Frank Steele with the byline “Cardston, Alta.” Written at the top is the year 1956. Part of Zina Young Williams Card collection, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections MSS 1421, Box 3, Fd. 6. The article says the “stately old home” cost $6,000” in 1900. According to the article, “President and Mrs. Card lived in the new home for three years only but in that time many of the General Authorities on their visits to the ‘Canadian Colonies’ were guests there, ‘Aunt Zina’ being the gracious hostess always.” Copy in research file, Church History Library Special Projects, Historic Sites.

[22] “Zina Young Card 1949,” p. 3. Addendum to “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 26, 1930, Written one year prior to her death and read at her last birthday party—her 80th (April 3, 1930). Zina Card Brown.” Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Zina Young Card collection, MSS 1421, Box 2, Fd. 20.

[23] New Family Search. Accessed December 1, 2011.

[24] “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card. Salt Lake City, Utah, March 26, 1930. Written one year prior to her death and read at her last birthday party – her 80th, April 3, 1930 – Zina Card Brown.” Church History Library, Zina Card Brown collection, MS 4780, Box 5, Fd. 14, It. 1, p 17.

[25] “My Inspiration.” One-page testimonial written by Zina’s granddaughter Zola B. Hodson. Undated. Church History Library, Zina Card Brown collection, MS 4780, Box 5, Fd. 14.

[26] “Zina Young Card 1949,” p. 3. Addendum to “A Biographical Sketch of the Life of Zina Young Williams Card, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 26, 1930, Written one year prior to her death and read at her last birthday party—her 80th (April 3, 1930). Zina Card Brown.” Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Zina Young Card collection, MSS 1421, Box 2, Fd. 20.