From being a delicate milliner in England to an ox-team driver across the American plains, Ann Agatha Walker Pratt exemplified a pioneer woman of faith. Born in Leek, Staffordshire, England, on June 11, 1829, and known by her middle name, Agatha was the eldest child of William Gibson Walker, a schoolteacher and bookkeeper, and Mary Godwin Walker, a milliner. Agatha’s parents taught their daughters and son to honor and worship God. At age fourteen, Agatha, along with her family, was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Three years later, in January 1847, seventeen-year-old Agatha was the first member of her family to emigrate, departing from Liverpool and journeying to America with a group of Saints led by apostles Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor. After Agatha arrived at Winter Quarters, she married Parley and prepared to go west. Agatha drove her own wagon the entire distance to the Salt Lake Valley, arriving in late September 1847.
In the inhospitable valley, she planted her first crops and bore her first child in 1848. The next year, she helped her husband lay out the first road through Parley’s Canyon. She was endowed on February 26, 1851, and was sealed to Parley the same day. During their ten-year marriage, they had five children, one of whom died in infancy.1 Agatha became Salt Lake City’s first milliner: she learned the trade from her mother and taught it to her daughters. She made hats and even shoes for President Brigham Young and other general authorities and their wives. Because Parley frequently traveled on missions, Agatha supported the family with her millinery work.
At age twenty-eight, Agatha became a widow when Parley was murdered in 1857 while traveling through Arkansas. Three years after his death, she married Joseph Harris Ridges on March 4, 1860, and together they had two children.2 Joseph and Agatha lived as husband and wife for six years before separating. Throughout her adult life, Agatha was known primarily as a wife of Parley P. Pratt.
Agatha participated in the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Association3 and sang in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She served as Relief Society president in the Salt Lake City Nineteenth Ward and sixteen years as Relief Society secretary in the Ogden First Ward.4 She attended the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple on April 6, 1893, and was sealed to her deceased parents there the next year. Agatha died on June 25, 1908, in Ogden, Utah, at age seventy-nine.
A valiant Latter-day Saint, Agatha persevered through many of life’s trials. At age fourteen, she lost her twelve-year-old sister to typhoid fever. At twenty-two, she lost her mother, who died while journeying to Zion. A year later, Agatha lost her third child (her first son) before his first birthday. At twenty-eight, she lost her husband to murder. Widowed and with four children, she worked alone to support her family. A second marriage did not last. During middle age, she cared for her aged father until his death. As a grandmother, she loved and taught her large and faithful posterity, inviting her grandchildren to live in her Ogden home while they attended school. She embodied her favorite scripture: a “virtuous woman” whose “price [was] far above rubies.”5
1. Parley and Agatha’s children were Agatha Pratt Ridges (1848–1914), Malona Pratt Eldredge (1850–1913), Marion Pratt (1851–1852), Moroni Walker Pratt (1853–1911), Evelyn Pratt Woods (1856–1917).
2. Louise Pratt Ridges (1861–1865) and Wilford Owen Ridges (1866–1935).
3. “Minutes of Ladies Co-operative Retrenchment Meeting,” February 25, 1870, Typescript, Ann Agatha Walker Pratt Collection, 1847–1870, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, hereafter cited as Church History Library. The Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Association—not to be confused with the Young Ladies’ Department of the Ladies’ Cooperative Retrenchment Association (now Young Women)—was a single organization in Salt Lake City. It was later called the Senior and Junior Cooperative Retrenchment Association or General Retrenchment, and gatherings were ultimately known as Ladies’ Semi-Monthly Meetings. The group dissolved in 1904 largely due to the mortal illness of its president, Mary Isabella Horne. See Brittany A. Chapman, comp., “Minutes of the Senior and Junior Co-operative Retrenchment Association, 1870–1880,” Church History Library.
4. “Mrs. Ann A. Pratt Dies,” Salt Lake Herald, June 26, 1908.
5. Proverbs 31:10.