Ruth May Fox

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Ruth May Fox
Photo of Ruth May Fox
3rd general president of the Young Women
1929 – 1937
Called by Heber J. Grant
Predecessor Martha H. Tingey
Successor Lucy Grant Cannon
First Counselor in the general presidency of the Young Women
1905 – 1929
Called by Martha H. Tingey
Predecessor Maria Young Dougall
Successor Lucy Grant Cannon
Personal details
Born Ruth May
(1853-11-16)November 16, 1853
Westbury, England
Died April 12, 1958(1958-04-12) (aged 104)
Salt Lake City, Utah
Resting place Salt Lake City Cemetery
40°46′37″N 111°51′29″W / 40.777°N 111.858°W / 40.777; -111.858 (Salt Lake City Cemetery)
Spouse(s) Jesse William Fox
Children 12
Parents James May
Mary A. Harding
Website Ruth May Fox

Ruth May Fox (November 16, 1853 – April 12, 1958) was a nineteenth-century English-born women's rights activist in the Territory of Utah. Fox was a poet, hymn writer, and a leader of youth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).

Early life[edit]

Ruth May was born in Westbury, Wiltshire, England to James May and Mary Ann Harding. When Ruth was five months old, her parents converted to Mormonism. Her mother died in childbirth when Ruth was 18 months old. Ruth was sent to live with various relatives and Mormon families while her father was a traveling missionary, and her final stay was with a Mrs. Saxton and her daughter Clara. In 1865 James May emigrated to the United States and shortly thereafter sent for Ruth, Mrs. Saxton, and Clara. On their arrival in Philadelphia, James May married Mrs. Saxton and he and the two girls found work in a textile mill to save money to go to Utah Territory. In 1867 the family traveled by covered wagon and on foot to Salt Lake City.


On May 8, 1873, Ruth married Jesse W. Fox, Jr. In 1888, Jesse Fox married Rosemary Johnson as a plural wife. Around the same time, a nationwide economic depression wiped out the family's wealth and Jesse fell into debt. The Foxes ultimately lost their home. Ruth had to find paid work in order to support her children.

Ruth eventually became the mother of twelve children, of whom ten lived to adulthood. At the time of her 100th birthday in 1953, she had 256 living direct descendants.

Women's suffrage movement[edit]

Fox was active in promoting the women's suffrage movement in Utah and did so largely through her involvement in the Republican Party. She was president of the Utah Woman's Press Club, chair of the Second Precinct Ladies' Republican Club, treasurer of the Utah Woman Suffrage Association, and was a member of the Reaper's Club, the Salt Lake County Republican Committee, the Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society, and the Traveler's Aid Society. In the late 19th-century she worked for the inclusion of woman suffrage in the Utah state constitution and helped draft the suffrage memorial presented and accepted by the 1895 Utah constitutional convention. Fox and Emmeline B. Wells met with Susan B. Anthony and Anna Howard Shaw when they visited Salt Lake City on May 12, 1895.

Church leadership[edit]

In 1905, Fox was asked to be the first counselor to Martha Horne Tingey in the general presidency of the LDS Church's Young Ladies' Mutual Improvement Association. Fox served in this capacity until 1929, when church president Heber J. Grant asked Fox to become the third general president of the YLMIA.

During her tenure as president, Fox changed the name of the organization to the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Association and replaced the organization's slogans with scriptural themes. In 1930, Fox wrote the hymn "Carry On", a song that is now associated with the Young Women and Young Men Organizations of the LDS Church;[1] in 1995, "Carry On" was adopted by Gordon B. Hinckley as the theme of his tenure as President of the Church.[2]

Fox served until 1937, when she was succeeded by her own first counselor, Lucy Grant Cannon.

Later life and death[edit]

Fox's 85th, 90th, 95th, and 100th birthday parties were held in the Beehive House and were attended by members of the First Presidency, the Council of the Twelve Apostles, other Church leaders, and city and state officials. She was 103 when she flew on an airplane to celebrate the golden wedding anniversary of one her sons. Fox died at Salt Lake City at the age of 104.



External links[edit]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints titles
Preceded by
Martha H. Tingey
General President of the Young Women
December 6, 1904 – 1929
Succeeded by
Lucy Grant Cannon
Preceded by
Maria Young Dougall
First Counselor in the
general presidency of the Young Women

1905 - 1929