Mary Alice Springall Schoenfeld (1843-1938)

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(This is a bonus chapter excerpt from the eBook Women of Faith in the Latter Days: Volume 2: 1821-1845.)


Biographical Sketch

Mary Alice Springall was born in Ealing, Middlesex, England, on June 3, 1843. The oldest daughter of James Springall, a gardener, and Sarah Sharp, manager of a laundry, Mary Alice grew up to work for several years as governess to three children in the home of a retired general. She was the first of her family to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, being baptized on her sixteenth birthday, June 3, 1859, and she took charge of her eight-year-old brother for the arduous trip across ocean and land with a company of Saints.

In Salt Lake City, through a remarkable vision of her future, she found a man of education she could admire; on April 17, 1867, six months after her arrival, she became his second wife. Edward Schoenfeld,1 a convert from Saxony, had been a teacher. He loved books, art, and grafting roses and fruit trees. Mary Alice’s practical skills meant she led out in remodeling the house, growing vegetables, and cultivating mulberry leaves for silk worms. However different they might have been in temperament, husband and wife admired and supported each other and the Church. Edward’s two wives helped him get ready for his mission to Germany in 1870, and Mary Alice sewed leather gloves for teamsters to support the household while he was away.

Edward and Mary Alice Schoenfeld had eleven children, seven of whom lived to maturity. During the persecutions for polygamy in the 1880s, Edward was arrested and sentenced to the penitentiary. After his release, he was required to live separately for a time, and so he rented a room just around the block from Mary Alice in the Salt Lake Sixteenth Ward. Their daughters would clean for him after school and carry hot meals to him from their mother.2

Mary Alice’s practical bent not only held the family together but also sustained her through a long life. She gardened, nursed new mothers in the neighborhood and their babies, and kept her frugal habits. After her husband’s death in 1914, Mary Alice stayed gainfully employed until she was eighty years old, working at the LDS Hospital and the Hotel Utah in the linen rooms. In retirement she lived with a daughter’s family, the Lymans, for thirteen years and is remembered for cheerfully helping with household tasks, making rag rugs, and reading the London News. She died November 3, 1938, age ninety-five, at the home of her son Albert E. Schoenfeld.3

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1. Edward Schoenfeld was born March 8, 1832, in Magdeborn, Leipzig, Saxony. He taught school in Dresden and married Ottilie Mieth (1831–1911), the daughter of the principal. He and fellow teachers Karl G. Maeser and Edward Martin were among the first German converts, being baptized in 1855 by apostle Franklin D. Richards. Edward and Ottilie with their baby left for England in June 1856. The next year they sailed to America and crossed the plains by ox team in 1857. Edward clerked for William Jennings in Salt Lake City, went to Germany to head the mission there in 1870, returned in charge of a company of Swiss emigrants in 1872, and took employment at ZCMI. He worked until a few weeks before his death on September 29, 1914. Hildegarde S. Lyman, “Biography of Edward Schoenfeld,” Typescript, private possession, 1–7.

2. Hildegarde Sophia Schoenfeld Lyman, “History and Reminiscences,” 1961, ed. Cherry Bushman [Silver], Typescript, private possession, 2–3.

3. Dorothy Lyman Bushman, “Personal and Family History of Dorothy Lyman Bushman written in 1975–77,” Typescript, private possession, 4; Mary Alice Springall Schoenfeld, State of Utah Death Certificate, file no. 1838.

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