Emma was the youngest child of seven; her father died four months before she was born. She was raised in England by a single mother, Rebecca, who ran the family shop. As a former servant who eloped with the rich son of her aristocratic employer, Rebecca had learned her lesson and always advised her children not to marry above their station in life. Emma remembered her mother pointing out her father’s people as they would sometimes ride by in fine carriages. Emma had educational opportunities, clerked in the family store with her brothers, and learned to cook traditional English Yorkshire puddings and pork sausage meats. Her granddaughter recalled the large wooden chopping bowl, curved-blade knives, and spicy flour drawer used for that purpose.
She and her family joined the Church and emigrated as they could afford it; as a teenager Emma sailed across the Atlantic with her older sister Ann. Emma brought a plate with her across the plains, which now hangs in descendant Jack Welch’s dining room. In Utah, Emma worked as a store clerk in Salt Lake City, where she met and married a widower, James Gillespie. He unfortunately died only months after the wedding.
She then became reacquainted with Harry Shaw, a friend from England, and married him as his second wife. Harry’s two young wives met for the first time at the sealing, and happily set up housekeeping together. Emma taught school alongside her husband, clerked in the Paradise Co-op store, served as the Relief Society secretary for a decade, and Relief Society president for six years after that. Harry’s first wife, Elizabeth, supervised all fifteen joint children as Emma returned to work just weeks after a birth, where she would sometimes keep an infant on a bed behind the store counter.
Emma’s three oldest children outlived her, but she grieved the deaths of her three younger children during her lifetime. In the 1880s, the Shaw family suffered as Emma's youngest son George died at age four, and Elizabeth’s son Thomas died that same year, then Harry became ill and died of dropsy (kidney failure), followed two years later by teenage daughter Emma’s death.
After being widowed when Harry died at fifty-one, the two wives continued keeping house together. Emma was an expert checkers player, and had a beautiful rich red Brussels carpet in the sitting room and lace curtains that hung to the floor. She was capable, efficient, and enjoyed public speaking.
Nearly sixty-year-old Emma had a serious accident at work when a trap door was left open and she fell down the staircase to the basement. She could never walk without assistance again. This was a terrible trial for her, as she was not a “stay at home type of woman.” Emma liked to be out and meeting people. Her granddaughter recalled watching Emma be lifted into a buggy or sleigh for a visit, or walking slowly with help. But mostly, she remembered Emma sitting in her chair, with a clean starched apron and neatly combed hair.
I would give her a wheelchair!