As the first single female missionary sent out by the LDS Church, Inez Knight was a pioneer among Mormon women. Like most pioneers, her task was not without its share of opposition.
When Inez was called as a missionary to Great Britain in 1898, anti-Mormon sentiment there was strong. (It was, in fact, precisely to counter this sentiment that Inez and other sisters were first called.) Inez's journal of her mission years contains numerous references to the anti-Mormon league in Bristol that staged street meetings to preach against the LDS Church, “challenging any one to deny their statements.”
Inez told of one day when she and her companion, Liza Chipman, listened as their antagonists “stated that Mormon Elders came here for no other purpose than to entice women to Utah. & that they were slaves to the men & if they did not do as they told them their throats were cut.”
“As we went in they hissed & shouted at us, & after we were in rocks were thrown thick & fast in the windows until not a glass remained in the house.”
The women listened in peace, Inez wrote, until the confrontation ended. But this would not be the last confrontation these sister missionaries would have with the anti-Mormon league.
Soon after, in January 1899, Inez and Liza encountered a mob in front of the local mission headquarters, where they were going to visit the family that kept the house.
Inez wrote: “As we went in they hissed & shouted at us, & after we were in rocks were thrown thick & fast in the windows until not a glass remained in the house. Rayfinally took us girls home, but the mob followed us. & threw rocks & mud & sticks at us all the way to the police station opposite Trinity Church & the conference house is on 3 Ducie Rd. near Lawrence Hill station. On our way we met Bros. James & Haddock who went back with us to the police station. We both cried but could not help it to think of being so treated in a civilized nation. The chief police went to our home with us. Soon after we were safely home Sister Clark called, then Mrs. Roll & Miss. A little later Bro. Haddock called in disguise to see if we were all right.”
Inez later recounted the experience for a historian, telling how the crowd had pursued them to the police station, “various missiles being thrown at us en route.”
“Some of the large boys would run and jostle against us, while others would hit us with their caps. Sister Chipman was heart-sick and seemed almost unable to proceed until she had some persuasion, when, taking fresh courage, she pressed bravely on. … We escaped being hurt, save in our feelings, though our clothing was badly soiled and our hats somewhat crumpled. The noise made by our pursuers drew people out of shops and buildings for some distance ahead of us, and as we at home stand to view a circus parade, so they watched us pass along, all save one man who accompanied us most of the way, endeavoring to protect us.”
Despite her encounter with the mob, Inez reported that she and Liza had “a Gospel conversation” with those in the police station, and that she “slept well” that night.
In a letter to the Young Woman's Journal printed in April 1899, Inez wrote of the persecution she encountered in Bristol but assured her friends in Utah that “many have been led to investigate the truth, through the opposition we received. … We meet all kinds of answers, but each day's round finds sunshine and shower, and without one we might not appreciate the other."
She continued: “The Lord is abundantly blessing us in our labors, and although we do not always have clear sailing and have even been forced to seek protection from mob violence in a police station, receiving the slurs of the mob and even spat upon by the enemy, together with rocks and sticks from their hands, yet we rejoice in the work. We do not find it hard to say, 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do,' for truly it is the ignorant who persecute us most. The Lord has said we must love Him with all our might, mind, and strength and to do this, means to be willing to sacrifice all things, and work faithfully for the upbuilding of His kingdom.”
Through the ups and downs of missionary service—compounded by the heightened pressure of blazing a trail for female missionaries who would follow—Inez wrote in her journal that she enjoyed her work very much. Indeed, though conceding that she did not always feel the same, she stated that she did not “care how long [she was] required to labor as an ambassador for Christ.”